Analysis: UNC Defense Keeps It Simple To Beat UNC Wilmington

UNC's defense was the story of the semifinal

North Carolina takes on UNC Wilmington in the semifinals of the 2014 College Championships.
Photo by Kevin Leclaire — UltiPhotos.com

The battle of North Carolina is over and UNC Darkside is champion.

What an offensive spectacle. Some of the five second half goals Jonathan Nethercutt threw felt like they should have been accompanied by fireworks. He straight up caught fire in the second half. Christian Johnson commanded the disc on resets: up line, backfield, wherever. These incredible offensive performances were a big piece of the puzzle for Darkside. No question.

But this game was won on defense.

Coach Mike DeNardis and North Carolina knew what they wanted to do to the Seamen. Man backhand – of some kind – tinkering in the first half to find the best wrinkle.

“I would have put on some more forces if I didn’t think they were prepared to beat the different looks we had,” said a calm DeNardis about 45 minutes following the semifinal win. “You see at some points that game we did and they beat them and we just had to go out of them quickly. We found what worked, they were tired, we just kept grinding on it.”

What worked was a big, flat mark that shaded slightly backhand. UNC started running it at 6-5 and forced two turns that point. One was a hand block and the other was a contested huck – both a direct result of the adjustment.

Of the 14 times they pulled, Darkside ran zone once and man flick only once – failing to create a turn either time. Once they had the defensive recipe, UNC just kept running it and finished the game on a 9-5 run.

There are obvious advantages to running a backhand force against teams you don’t know. Like the longer wind-up to huck, for example. North Carolina and Wilmington aren’t strangers. Darkside knows what the Seamen can do with break side hammers. The same hammers Pitt learned the hard way about in quarters.

“It’s pretty simple. You put a flick mark on – they’re getting a hammer to the break side anywhere on the field, usually deep to the corner,” DeNardis said with a serious tone of respect. “At Regionals we put a trap mark on a sophomore. The guy couldn’t throw a forehand or a backhand around but he threw a hammer to the corner for a score.”

Hats off to DeNardis and his staff on a job well done. A number of times this weekend you saw coaches trying to get fancy and abandoning defenses that are getting turns just for the sake of mixing it up. UNC’s D wasn’t broke so their coach didn’t try to fix it.

Also, yeah, those hucks by Nethercutt were really helpful in this win too.

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