Most of what happened in the The All-Stars loss to Molly Brown I should have seen coming. Four games in five days with a short roster, 1800 miles of travel, the altitude - I knew all that was happening. I knew that Molly Brown was quite good as well. But how did I not know that Alicia White was playing for MB? That's not fair.
The most damaging of The All-Stars' fatigue manifested itself in the lack of secondary cutting. The primary cutting was still decisive and aggressive - but it's always easy to find the will to cut when you're on stage. What was missing (and necessary on a night where there was a lot of poaching off of the handlers) was the secondary cut. Those cuts came, but because of the fatigue, they came a beat late. The mark was on, the poach was settled and consequently, the fifteen yard reverse flow cuts into the middle of the field that killed Riot, weren't there against Brown.
The altitude was responsible for the windedness and lack of defensive pressure throughout the game, but it was also responsible for several turnovers on leading passes. Playing at altitude has a profound effect on what you can throw and how you can throw it. You can throw the disc so far, it's unreal. Just look at Qxhna's pulls in that game compared to the sea-level games. But you can't hang the disc. The thin air means that the disc will run out and away from itself. There a number of The All-Stars' turnovers that came on away passes that never slowed down and set up like you'd expect.
Having watched U-23 Japan, Riot and now Molly Brown play use it, it seems likely that the sag-off-the-handlers defense will be the It-Defense of the year in the women's division. (A key component of this defense is to sag in the middle and then aggressively trap the disc on the sideline. It is a bend and then break strategy.) One of the really cool things about seven players is that it is actually too many. Just dropping down to six greatly reduces the poaching potential because you can put everyone in an aggressive, active, damaging spot. The cool problem with sevens is that some offensive player is always in a bad spot which means that you have to work to put them in a good place. Against smart help defense, there is always a free defender. How do you negotiate this problem? Three-handler spread offenses put their extra person around the disc, but that allows a poach to sit in the lane. You can hit them, but all you've done is throw the disc into the trap on the sideline.
There are two good solutions. The first is to run your handlers and play high tempo. The shifting angles and constant motion reduce the efficacy of the poaching. The second is to take the swings and be patient. (This is Fury's strategy.) The All-Stars don't have a defined strategy yet and maybe they won't get one, but they need something better than the pie-cut resets they are currently using - it costs yards and runs them right into the poach on the other side of the field. (This was a huge problem in the U-23 finals.)
I loved getting to watch Molly Brown's offense. It is still a bit embryonic, but it looks capable of being nasty efficient. They did a really nice job spreading the field, moving the disc laterally and then attacking once they'd gotten an opening. The spacing was really pretty - but something I'd expect from a team with such an infusion of Scandal players. Quality spacing is a hallmark of the Rev-Scandal system. The other thing about Molly Brown is how deep they are. You take a team that is on a slow rise, a team that has a really good base established and then you add four or five really talented players? That's a recipe for a national title.
Notes: the defense was boring. I understand why MB played vanilla (they're deeper, they're on film) but TASU should have played some weird stuff. Why not? Maybe you settle on something they can't solve and even if not, you learn something about your team....Kate Scarth is underutilized...in general, I think a bunch of The All-Stars are underutilized....it's interesting to see TASU settle into a very O-line, D-line system....Ozone will be a tough game; they are better than people think and the pace of the tour will really begin to take it's toll.