The Huddle, Issue #28: How The 2009 Champions Did It

Posted: April 8, 2010 03:45 PM

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How The 2009 Champions Did It

Thursday, April 8th, 2010


(Note: the following issue of The Huddle is a reproduction of an article originally published on

Fury and Chain Lightning (as well as Axis Of C'Ville and Troubled Past) played incredibly well and with great Spirit in Sarasota last October, and they deserve their plaudits. It is not for the champions to tell us how they won; it is our task to try and decipher what made these teams so successful, and how it might be copied or contained at the next tournament. If that is possible, we think it is the players who saw these teams at full strength last fall that likely have the best clues.
What did the champions do very well? Did their team have a particular strength that they rode throughout the tournament?
Do the champions have any weaknesses, or are we left hoping that they somewhat regress? What might you do differently in 2010 in an attempt to beat them? What should other teams do in order to train for victory over these top teams?

If you have any questions or comments feel free to contact us at

Issue #28: Comments/Discussion Thread


  • Fury By The Numbers: Conversion & Psyche
    ArticleBlock Beatty

    • Despite Backhoe outscoring Brute Squad 9-7 in the second half after starting out the game 0-6, 2-8 at half, Brute never allowed the game to get ugly [ugly meaning a turnover-fest]. Of the 16 goals (37 possessions) scored between the teams in the second half, 12 were scored on one possession: Backhoe was 8 for 9, Brute was 4 for 7; two of the remaining four were 2nd possession goals. Regardless of our unusual second half efficiency (statistically we were strong on O2D and had a high percentage of Offense 2nd possession [O2] goals), we still walked into our match-up with Fury like a wounded animal looking to make too many corrections. And Fury exploited this quickly and easily.

      Fury: 15 points on 29 possessions. Their O received the pull 6 times giving up 1 break. 5 goals on 12 possessions. Though they had zero 1 possession goals, 4 of their 5 were 02 goals. The fifth being an O3 and left us giving up two chances to break and narrow the lead to 3-4 instead 2-5, and here they pretty much stepped on our throat, 2-8 at half.

      Fury's D scored 10 goals on 17 possessions. 7 of those goals were D1. For the other three, one was D2 for a score of 2-7; and the others were D3. These third possession points were for 12 and 14, so some allowances can be made for their lack of efficiency here — late game sloppiness perhaps. However, 7 of 10 goals were D1 and they absolutely took us out of the game. Coming into the second half, down 2 to 8, we received and scored on our second try, and then earned our only break of the game on the next point for 4-8. We got the disc again on the following point to cut the lead to 5-8, but turned it at mid-field. After scoring, Fury called time-out and then rolled off 5 breaks before we scored a meaningless fifth point. Our O touched the disc 21 times for 4 goals, and our D touched the disc 7 times for one break.

      And of course as all this was taking place there was Fury's psyche: creative, unrelenting, unending. While Fury is not in-your-face and intimidating, they are constant and it is loud. If they're not spelling something they're clapping or singing, you know they love each other and you know they mean it — they're not doing it for you. There's nothing less than deliberate or casual about anything they do. When you had the disc three times to break, the third empty possession saw them go 70 yards for the score, and they immediately start singing. There's really nowhere to hide and no ignoring it either.

      By The Numbers
      • 0 to 5 Brute Squad: 5 goals on 10 possessions.
      • 3 to 10 Brute Squad; their remaining 5 goals scored on 10 possessions. 11-15 final score.
      • 2-5 Fury: 5 goals on 9 possessions.
      • 4-10 Fury; their remaining 5 goals on 11 possessions. 5-15 final score.
      • 3 to 5 Riot: 5 goals on 11 possessions.
      • 6 to 10 Riot: their remaining 5 goals scored on 20 possessions. 10-15 final score.

      2nd half numbers: 12 points scored between the two teams on 60, yes 60, possessions; and only four O1 goals.
  • It's Teens Again
    ArticleBlock Burruss

    • I wasn't there, but as I was watching the live feed of Fury dismantling Brute Squad I was struck by a sense of déjà vu; I felt like I was watching Godiva. I'm not talking about Fury and Godiva's dominance, I'm talking about a single little cut that is the backbone of both team's offenses. It's a cut I haven't seen other teams (men's or women's) use. I remember watching Teens (Christine Dunlap) wreck people with this cut, getting wide open again and again and again, so it was a little weird to watch Fury doing the same thing.

      The cut begins as a short in-cut from the middle of the field. (The set up differs a bit in Godiva's vert and Fury's ho.) The in-cut is angled just slightly to the inside-out lane. Then, at a point maybe eight yards off the disc, the cutter plants and goes almost horizontally to the open side. Wide open. Pretty typically, this cut is coming around 4-6 in the stall count, providing a nice secondary option up field before looking at the dump.

      This cut raises so many questions for me. I used to think it was effective only because of the physical differences between the men's and women's game. I can't imagine trying to make that cut on a Furious or Ring defender — they'd flatten you as you tried to come back across to the open side. The Condors ran a J-cut for years, but theirs was much longer and was designed to test the defenders determination. If you just gutted it out, you could shut it down. But if the effectiveness is because of the differences between men's and women's why aren't more teams using this cut? Is it athleticism? Then why hasn't Riot used it? Is it system? Why hasn't anyone copied it? Is it talent? Everyone has players talented enough to make the cut and the throw is easy, it's a 10 yard open side swing pass.

      After talking to Tully Beatty, Matty Tsang, and watching the video I think I have the answers I need about Fury, but not about Godiva.
  • How Chain Won 2009 Nationals - Offensively
    ArticleBlock Heijmen

    • I was in a unique position at the championships last season: being employed by the UPA to follow the action and write daily recaps on the website's results page for the Open Division. In this capacity I witnessed part of each game Chain was involved in, and as they progressed through the tournament I got to watch how they were able to attack so effectively against the other top teams.

      First of all, they like to huck it. Obvious right? Each team I spoke with talked about trying (and failing) to stop their hucks and force them to work the disc underneath. The players I spoke with said things like, "We're gonna make 'em play small ball," or, "We're going to look to poach deep off the weak side cutters," or, "We're going to stop hucks with our straight up marks," or, as one captain said, "We're just going to back 'em, plain and simple." The problem with all of these strategies was in the assumption that Chain would be "worse" at working it underneath.

      Teams seemed to start out forcing Chain back toward the disc, or "making them throw a lot of passes" in the beginning of the game. Chain handled this style of defense without batting an eye, and was content to take under cuts all the way up to the sideline. When you are throwing to players like Zip, Dylan, AJ, Wooten, Wilson, Cricket, etc., they are not going to be beaten back to this disc if they're being played honest (forget about it if you're backing them). Once Chain had gotten to within 10 or 15 yards of the goal line the defense would have to play honest, allowing Chain to dump, swing and score on consecutive throws just like that. I rarely witnessed them struggle on the end zone line, and Chain scored quickly with frightening efficiency.

      So the Chain offense has now shown that it can score without issue if the defense plays against the huck. This becomes demoralizing. At some point during the game the defense would have to try something different, i.e. fronting down field, or changing your mark strategy. Now all of a sudden the deep space opens up, and hucks are being launched by experienced, strong throwers to some of the best receivers in Ultimate.

      Chain's offense proved to be incredibly adaptable. They could score in a number of ways, and intelligently took advantage of teams that tried to take away the huck from the beginning. Chain played it cool at first, and proved that they could score without throwing long. Then, when the opportunity presented itself, they unleashed the beast.

      On top of this, Chain's defense was incredible after the turn. The O unit's defense shown during the weekend, consistently forcing turnovers and giving themselves more opportunities to score. Credit their grit, and refusal to give up any break.
  • Chain's Big Assist From The Weather
    ArticleBlock Husak

    • After twelve straight years as a nationals participant in the Open division (1997-2008), in 2009 as a masters player was a different experience. First, few people, and really nobody outside the division itself, care much about the Masters division. That's not to say it isn't competitive, or even that there isn't good Ultimate being played there, it's just that when you have the Open nationals to watch, why would you watch Masters? So even I couldn't focus much on the Masters division, and spent as much time as possible catching the Open games.

      If there's one thing I've learned from playing on Sunday in Sarasota (and once in San Diego), it's that few people outside the team can get an accurate read on what is going on inside the team.

      Outsiders to Jam's success would say it was a bunch of veteran players who were able to put it together at the right time. While that wouldn't be entirely wrong, I would say there was also a subtle defensive adjustment, a return of our leader and arguably best player who had missed parts of the season (including Regionals), and a new found resolve that hardened the questionably soft Jam.

      The Condors had great players who had spent years playing together at the top levels, paying their dues, and knew how to rise up when the pressure was toughest. While outsiders saw a great huck game, or individual excellence, the team always believed in a system that put people in a position to do their jobs; a system that was built on at least half a decade of experience and tweaks together.

      Anyhow, one element that can undermine, or enhance, a team's chances in Sarasota is the weather. This year was no different. The heat was the worst I can recall, and I heard that the first day saw the largest single-day consumption of water at nationals. Yes, everyone is playing in the same weather, but the teams that play in that weather consistently have developed strategies to minimize the effects. These teams are most effective at ignoring the impacts that weather has on their body and mind. In addition to the heat and humidity, there was a near-total absence of wind. This certainly helped Chain's successful deep game. While I heard that their underneath game was equally effective, I'm sure it would have taken a few turnovers to realize that the wind was affecting their hucks and those few possessions could have changed the complexion of the game.

      From what I saw, Chain played an outstanding game with strong offense and hard-nosed defense. This is very similar to the game they've brought to Florida the last few years when they've come up a bit short. Were they an improved team this year? I don't doubt it. Did they have a great season, and impressive run at nationals? Absolutely. Did they get an assist from the weather? It's the same answer I would give for my didn't hurt. Chain would have had a great chance of winning in any weather, but the weather they got gave them a boost. I'm sure the other semifinalists would have preferred cold (Boston), wet (Seattle) or brisk (Revolver) conditions.
  • Chain: The New DoG
    ArticleBlock Parinella

    • During DoG's heyday 15 years ago, our main offensive strength was that we would take what they'd give us. Our offense was efficient, not just in terms of scoring percentage, but in using energy wisely. Players created space by knowing when to get out of the way or to simply stay put and remain out of the way. We liked the long game, but were equally comfortable in taking a series of passes up the line. We relied on our O players knowing each other, and we'd give our receivers options (see above point about getting out of the way) and trust that the throwers could get it there.

      From reading the writeups of Chain's O last year and from watching the championship game video, I was dumbstruck by the similarities. Compared to the frenetic movements of Sockeye's receivers, Chain's cutters would often be stationary (though not clogging), and reset cuts were available. They hucked efficiently, but they also would take the reset. Players had specialities, but that wasn't all they did. Their receivers could throw effectively. They broke the mark when they had to and keep the disc moving.

      To continue winning, Chain needs to keep their O together and to make subtle adjustments based on players' changing skills and on defensive adjustments. If they codify the way they are doing things now as "the way," teams will adjust and their players will change and they'll spend years trying to recapture the glory.
  • Fury Knows How To Win
    ArticleBlock Roth

    • Fury, more than any other Women's team in the nation (perhaps ever, though there will be those who argue for Godiva or Maineiacs), knows what to do in Sarasota.

      Each player seems to have a very good grasp of her specific role from the top of the roster to the bottom. Everyone plays that role perfectly when push comes to shove. They don't mess around against teams they know they will beat, and they bring it hard to teams that might have entertained thoughts of having a chance.

      In the end, I think that the former is more important than the latter — anyone can decide to bring it in a big game, but the question is how much do they have left to bring? This became glaringly obvious in the heat, sun, and humidity of Florida this year, not to mention the wind of years previous. This year when other teams (mine included) bled points to teams they had beaten all season long, Fury was done with each game early and was already resting in the shade when others were playing into the cap. Over a 4-day tournament time is ridiculously important. I think the particular skills they showed were less on the field (though those, as always, were impeccable) and more off the field — preparation, role definition and mental toughness.

      Congratulations, yet again!
  • Chain: Building A Core
    ArticleBlock Sigelman

    • Good club teams often have a core of stars who have played with each other for a while. Looking at Chain Lightning's roster last year, I was struck by how little turnover the team experienced. With a few notable exceptions, last year's Chain team was the same team that lost in the semifinals in 2008, bolstered by the addition of five rookies, all of whom Chain used in key defensive roles (e.g. Robert Runner and Patrick Dempsey). Chain's O line, with the exception of Asa, was the same O line that lost in the semifinals in 2006, only with a few more years of experience under its collective belt. And these guys are far from being beyond their athletic prime — the average age of the O-line was 27.

      Contrast Chain's roster with that of my team, Ironside. The average "tenure" of Chain's roster is 4.3 years. That's almost 1.5 more years than Ironside has existed. The average tenure of Chain's O line, where on-field chemistry is arguably much more important than on the D line, is a whopping 6.3 years. On Ironside, that number is 2.0. Even if you look at how long Ironside's O-line has played Open Ultimate in the city of Boston (either for DoG, Metal, or Boss Hogg), the tenure only increases to 3.7.

      Watching Chain play in Sarasota, I saw a team that played with great chemistry. Throwers seemed to know exactly where cutters were going. Cutters saw space and cleared effectively. I didn't see as much trouble resetting the disc with Chain as with other teams. It was clear that the group of players on the field for Chain knew each other and their tendencies well.


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