Who can catch the day one dominators?
June 11, 2022 by Keith Raynor in Recap with 0 comments
This article was co-authored by Tyler Byrum.
RICHMOND — High School National Invite 2022 commenced with Girls Division play Friday, as teams dealt not only with some of their toughest competition to date but challenging conditions and a new level of pressure. Some rose to the occasion while others wilted. Most kids were joyous to be taking the fields with their teammates, in front of parents and fans, to play against strong and spirited competition. While the fans got some thrills, there were some narratives that emerged from the day’s three pool play rounds.
The Saturday Bracket
Top Seed Day One Domination
The best of the West looked very strong on Saturday, particularly the top two seeds, South Eugene (OR) and Roosevelt (WA). The Oregon club was basically untouchable, giving up just four goals across their three games. They made solid teams like Lexington and Radnor look out of their depth. Roosevelt brought a polished game and a deep lineup, and only had a few moments of challenge in their matchup with Lone Peak, the best team either squad faced on day one.
South Eugene and their large junior class are immensely talented and have strong heading to make use of their advantages. They have a lot of speed and attack the disc on defense. After generating blocks or pressuring teams into mistakes, they blazed trails to the end zone with a fast-paced transition attack. The team maintained a steady energy throughout the day as they blitzed their opponents.
Roosevelt didn’t step on the gas in quite the same way but were similarly unrelenting. Their skill runs deep, and they are able to put a number of different players on the field who can drive offense. Chagall Gelfend, Chloe Hakimi, and Lucy Tanner all showed off the ability to distribute effectively. Plus they had some impressively thought out defensive sets to mix things up, with Bella Mansfield making an impact on that side, as well.
It is tougher to say that Lincoln and Ingraham were quite as dominant, but they both looked quite strong. Ingraham only played two games in the three-team Pool D, winning both by large margins, but the quality of their competition is unclear. Lincoln got tested once by a scrappy Four Rivers squad that put up three straight late in the game to close the gap. Otherwise, they posted similar scores. We may have to wait until semifinals to find out how they compare.
Better Have Your Zone O Ready
While the conditions were calmer for the Girls Division’s afternoon rounds than it had been for the boys, there was no shortage of zone defense points to be found on Saturday. Cups zones and even junk looks were both in fashion as teams looked to avoid giving up quick scores. Lone Peak and Four Rivers were both frequently in zone defenses, and they were far from alone.
A lot of teams had smaller rosters or rotations, so running zone defense might have been a way to save the legs of top end players. Teams with a wide spread of defensive ability on their roster might also see benefit in running sets that funnel the disc towards their best block-getters. Testing the discipline of young players and being able to target weaker throwers can be winning strategies.
But some teams felt inflexible, like they didn’t have the ability to adjust if a team could effectively navigate their zone defense. Very few teams transitioned to matchup mid-possession, opting to remain guarding space even as the goal line drew closer. The clubs with the disc skill and discipline, or the athleticism to go over it, fared well on Saturday.
Depth Is Key
Most teams played three games to 15 today, but they did so with sun rays and 80 degree temps draining their stamina. As these things tend to do, the issues compounded as the day went on: more tired players made execution mistakes that made points longer and more grueling. By the back half of round three, legs were looking heavy.
It was a really difficult day to be a team relying on a few players to carry a large portion of the workload. The teams that looked the strongest were not the ones whose best players were consistently dominating — it was the team’s whose third, fourth, or fifth strongest individual was showing out. Beyond even the pool winners, Four Rivers, Lone Peak, and Radnor during their high points all were getting contributions from players beyond their highest usage folks. Sophia Slade was effective for Four Rivers, making challenging catches throughout the day. A number of players stepped up for Lone Peak, including River Gordon and Sarah Swenson. Erica Clarke and Diana Huang both had standout moments for Radnor.
This also was exacerbated by the prevalence of zone defense. Teams that could consistently field full lines of players who were comfortable attacking a zone, or at least finding space and hitting resets, had a much easier time during the day. That also let them keep games from becoming energy-sapping grinds.
How Will Roster Changes Impact Sunday?
There’s been an undercurrent at the fields of various players unable to join their teams. Rosters certainly felt small and impacted by the heat, and there was a sense teams were incomplete. Some teams, like Garfield, couldn’t have all of their players in attendance at all. Some others had players miss today for prom, graduation, or other prior commitments; others might be gone tomorrow for the same reasons.
It is impossible to schedule a weekend within the right timeframe with no conflicts, so teams know what to expect and have to learn to adapt. But things on Sunday might look a bit different if the personnel changes.
Ultiworld subscribers, read on to hear about some of the most notable standout performers of day one.
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