Have we seen a breakthrough in defensive strategy?
November 13, 2018 by Cody Mills in Analysis with 0 comments
For the last ten years, San Francisco Revolver has dominated the Men’s Division, making nine of the last 10 men’s finals and winning five championships along the way1. Plenty of factors have played a part in this success, including surplus depth of world class offensive talent, a dedication to their “Intensity, Humility, Discipline” mantra, and an ability to develop their young role players into their eventual stars. And though all of these characteristics have been key to their run, their signature trait through their dominant stretch has arguably been their offensive style.
While Revolver did not invent the concept of an isolation cutting offense, they absolutely popularized it. Just as the Sockeye-Furious joint dynasty of the 2000s hoisted the horizontal stack into prominence, so has Revolver’s run brought isolation cutting into vogue. Many of their rival contenders– Ring of Fire, Truck Stop, Sockeye–now run systems that share conceptual heritage with the style Revolver made famous. The system’s efficacy in the contemporary game, coupled with Revolver’s success, made it the new fundamental.
That article from Dave Hogan (now a coach for Seattle Sockeye) and Alec Surmani provides a in-depth breakdown of the isolation offense’s major tropes. As the name suggests, the idea is to create as much space as possible for a single cutter to get open. Revolver has put a couple different faces on this throughout the years, opting for a proper side stack in the early ’10s while favoring a horizontal set in recent years, but the same cutting (and clearing!) principles have always applied, and all of them point toward maximizing space for an isolated active cutter to make multi-leg cuts.
This article, though, isn’t about Revolver’s offense. This article is about how New York PoNY was able to stop that offense–in resounding fashion–to win the National Championship in a 15-7 rout. Despite PoNY’s earlier victory over Revolver this season2 and Ring’s near upset3, the result (not to mentioned the margin of it) were jarring. How was PoNY able to turn the offense that had owned the division for a decade– being played by the most talented roster in the history of the game–on its head?
Clearly it wasn’t a fluke. PoNY beat Revolver twice this year, and neither game was particularly close4. In fact, it was the result of a clever game plan by New York defensive coach Bryan Jones. But, just as Revolver’s isolation offense takes elite talent to make it effective, Jones’ game plan required the talent and dedication of top-tier defenders to properly execute it. Not only that, the development, implementation, and honing of that game plan undoubtedly required an extreme time cost. Jones has admitted that he spent countless hours specifically trying to break down Revolver, and it’s clear from the tight margins in PoNY’s box scores5 that San Francisco was their focus. It’s also clear from the result of the final that the investment paid off.
So what exactly did New York do to knock San Francisco off their game? A look at the tape reveals three key points of emphasis that differentiated PoNY’s approach.
along with four world titles ↩
15-12 in the Pro Flight Championship ↩
Revolver prevailed 15-14 in the National semifinal ↩
Let’s be honest, 15-12 is a significant win in elite ultimate ↩
At Nationals they nearly were upset by both Rhino and Machine, beat Sockeye on DGP, and lost to Bravo in a meaningful game ↩
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