Saturday, December 14, 2013

Analyzing the Lost Boys: Defense

For so many reasons--they are first community team to win an American regional, they have multiple vocal members of the online quidditch community, they have many former collegiate players--the Lost Boys are a really interesting team to analyze. In the second of a two part series, I'm going to study the Lost Boys' defense.
(Screenshot) Video by Amanda Nagy
Above is your basic Lost Boys defense. The point defender matches up with the ball carrier around midfield, and the second greatest threat to score is also marked tightly like a post-up in basketball
The third Lost Boys chaser tends to hang around halfway in between the offense's third and fourth most dangerous options. In the center of all the action are the terrific Lost Boys beaters. Clearly without bludger control in the screenshot above, if she had a bludger, Amanda Nagy would be hanging back in the center as Chris Seto charged up to meet the ball carrier (who was able to slip past point defender Jeff Lin). It's a basic defensive scheme that works really well with the personnel the Lost Boys have.

However, there definitely are holes. The Lost Boys gave up 70 quaffle points each to Arizona State (finals) and NAU (pool play), and also allowed UCLA to tack on 50 quaffle points in pool play. For a team that has championship aspirations and very talented beaters, this simply does not fit together. I went back and reviewed every single goal the Lost Boys allowed during those three games that were recorded. Here are the diagnoses from Dr. JackthePhan, M.D..

Variables in the Beating Game
I think it is sometimes believed that a great beater or beating pair is invincible. The mountain of scoring on the Lost Boys must seem as tall as Everest when opposing teams look down the field and see two bludger-wielding beaters. But there are things teams can do to distract the Lost Boys beaters from executing their gameplan, and slowly but surely, the opposing team starts to chip away at that mountain. Seizing bludger control and then staying conservative works to some degree. In the screenshot, Amanda Nagy was completely taken out of the play by the Sun Devils' conservative bludger control. However, the offense is still faced with a focused Chris Seto. NAU often sent up 
both beaters to wreak havoc among the Lost Boys beaters. Getting to the root of the problem, the focus of the Lost Boys' beaters was shaken at times and the Narwals seemed to have the most success at putting together successful possessions. The downside to this strategy is that it leaves the door open for the Lost Boys to get into the transition game easily. While I don't see either of these beating strategies propelling a team to a win over the Lost Boys, it certainly creates scoring chances and accounts for some of the goals.

Diagnosis: Play through the pain. Yes, the Lost Boys are giving up goals, but the strategic moves opposing teams are using to get some of those goals are also hurting themselves defensively. Out of the nineteen goals I examined, only seven were caused by or partly caused by beating issues in my opinion. Compared to many other teams, that number is pretty low. 

Point Defense
Good point defense wins championships. Let's compare and contrast Mitch Cavender and Jeff Lin. To clarify something I couldn't put very eloquently in words, it just seems like Cavender has a stronger defensive presence than Lin, but each are equally effective as point defenders. Presence, whether it's due to aggression, positioning, or even an intimidating stance, is only one of the factors I consider when evaluating a point defender (another is speed and ability to move well laterally--where the clear advantage goes to Lin). Hope you guys like this video. I thought this was a good chance to mix highlights and words! Credit mostly goes to Amanda Nagy plus like seven seconds to the IQA!

Diagnosis: Nothing major. While the Lost Boys point defending wasn't terrific point defense, but it wasn't hurting them too much. Out of the nineteen total goals, I counted four that were conceded due or partly due to point defending errors. As the UT WCVI champion team showed, having many great
point defenders is vital to a team's success. If the rotation expands from two to five or six, I think the Lost Boys will be in much better shape.

Keeper Zone Woes
Explaining the Lost Boys' biggest defensive problem is going to require me to go off on a little tangent first. 

The competitive quidditch career of Tony Rodriguez has barely been a year. With a historic transfer to the Lost Boys last winter, Rodriguez drastically changed the future of quidditch. Without the transfer of Rodriguez, it is extremely unlikely that the Lost Boys would have turned into a regional runner-up and Elite Eight team. Without that success, who knows if the Lost Boys would have picked up players like Jake Tieman, Missy Sponagle and Peter Lee. Without Tony Rodriguez, there would be no reason for me to be analyzing the Lost Boys.

Now I'm going to get tough. Tony Rodriguez is not playing championship-caliber defense. Long shots are no problem for the long, athletic shot-blocker, but near the hoops, the quidditch version of football's trenches, Rodriguez is not getting the job done. Missing tackles, falling for pump fakes, and being hesitant to initiate contact, Rodriguez's defensive mistakes are costing the Lost Boys. I counted ten goals out of the nineteen goals could've been stopped by a more physical keeper and a partly Rodriguez's fault. Opposing chasers are running through his arm tackles and feasting on the chance to run right up to the hoops and not receive a hit. Rodriguez can't be afraid to deliver a hit to a driving player and when he comes out, he has to make a solid tackle.

Despite the sub-par defense I've noticed by watching this film a little more carefully, I still stand by my nomination of Tony Rodriguez as the fall's the best keeper. Because, guess what? I also took some stats and Rodriguez's numbers were through-the-roof. And it wasn't just due to the less-than-perfect opposing defenses as I pointed out in Analyzing the Lost Boys: Offense. Rodriguez is the best offensive player in the game right now. For every goal Rodriguez conceded in those three games, he scored more than one goal and had more than one assist. Say Rodriguez was the sole reason ASU, NAU and UCLA scored ten of their nineteen goals, but in only those three games, he scored 17 goals and had 14 assists. That is insane.

Back to the bad tackling...

Diagnosis: Not good, but curable. Against a greater competition, there's going to be a time when Rodriguez can no longer keep his team ahead when so many goals are being allowed "in the trenches." The mistakes Rodriguez was making were bad and if the Lost Boys are going to win World Cup VII, he's going to have to use that incredible willpower to become a better defensive player.

Goal Breakdown
*There can be multiple "causes" of each goal conceded.
No Bludgers/Beaters Out of Position 7
Bad or Sloppy Tackling Near Hoops 12
Bad Point Defending 4
Open Player 6
No Fault/Stands Up and Claps 3

Offensive Statistics
Tony Rodriguez 17 goals, 14 assists
Alex Browne 8 goals, 7 assists
Vanessa Goh 7 goals, 1 assist
Andrew Waldschmidt 3 goals, 1 assist
Mitch Cavender 3 goals
Missy Sponagle 2 goals, 1 assist
Jeff Lin 1 goal, 2 assists

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