This post was co-written with Robyn Wiseman.
Offensive talking points:
The biggest offensive strengths for HUCK this point were the consistent attacks of the inside lane and their use of effective faking to move their defenders and to switch grips.
Attacking the inside lane: One thing that elite Japanese women’s teams, in particular, are known for is their ability to attack the inside break. They take advantage of everyone else’s “defensively position yourself on the open side” mindset. You can watch every pass in HUCK’s possession that there is always one player, sometimes two players, moving into this space the moment a thrower catches the disc. They time it so they have their momentum attacking toward the break side for a quick, easy continuation away from the defenders.
This continues until HUCK gets to the Redzone in possession 1 and we see the same sort of thing in transition immediately after they get the disc back in their second possession (0:56).
Faking when necessary: In the US, we seem to have an obsession with pump faking to “communicate” with a cutter. Robyn points out that HUCK, on the other hand, pump fakes for one of two reasons:
1.) To switch grips: Huck doesn’t bother to pump fake when someone’s defender is face guarding or the mark is facing away from the thrower as they take away a continuation (that defender is already committed to only one option). You can watch a few separate times that I know in the US someone would have faked and chose not to. Here’s an example where the thrower pump fakes to switch grip and attack the middle of the field:
2.) To make a well-positioned defender move: When a defender is pressuring more than one option and paying attention to the thrower the thrower will pump fake to make the defender choose.
Here, HUCK illustrates the importance of faking to actually move the defender. Their fakes are believable due to their incredible wrist control and relatively simple throwing motion and they reserve these types of fakes for situations when a defender involved in the play is making eye contact with the thrower.
Most of the pump fakes throughout the game follow one of these two paradigms. A few times, you can see the thrower really wanted to throw it, but a crazy wind gust came in and they had to pull back the throw (https://gph.is/2vvtfDV). Throwers in the US who do a great job of this are Angela Zhu and Claire Chastain if you’re looking for other examples to model after!
Defensive talking points:
Fortunately, this point has a lot of great defensive points from the All-Stars. On the other hand, we aren’t able to see many defensive notes from HUCK due to an unfortunate gust of wind that causes the All-Star possession to be cut short. Two players I would like to highlight this point are Mish Phillips (#17) and Carolyn Finney (#11).
Mish Phillips (#17): Phillips defensive positioning and awareness throughout this point is incredible. She nearly gets a block on the second throw with great speed from the near side of the field. The rest of this possession we see her taking frequent checks at the disc and constantly adjusting to the space on the field which culminates in an easy D on an ill-advised hammer.
We love hammers more than anyone else, but given the conditions, this space is REALLY difficult to hit. The space is available with a backhand at 0:29 (after the pump fake toward the side line). The thrower should have attacked this space with an IO or flat backhand as shown below.
Carolyn Finney (#11): Showing this next gif again because it illustrates some great defensive awareness by Finney. After the turn, as the disc goes up to pink hat Finney is already looking down field to see where the next most dangerous options are coming from. She dives hard into the lane to take away an angle on the continuation while keeping her head on a swivel to observe how the HUCK players will react.
I wasn’t in this game so it’s hard to say how I would have reacted in this moment, but given that Finney scanned downfield prior to the throw, I would have liked to see her switch with Hui (#90) to stop the continuation leading to the score instead of biting so hard to stop the inside shot.
All-Star’s Defensive strategy: Robyn and I had an interesting exchange on the All-Star defensive strategy here. From what I can hear, it sounds as if the sideline is calling ‘away’ and ‘home’ as the disc moves around the field, possibly signaling a force-middle defense. Robyn noted that a force-middle isn’t specifically geared to stop these inside shots that are so integral to the HUCK offensive strategy because FM is often used to stop continuations to the break side. What do you think? Is a FM an effective strategy here?