Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Analyzing the Lost Boys: Offense

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 first of a two part series, I'm going to study the Lost Boys' offense.

The Lost Boys lead the IQA scoring an average of 181 points per game and are ranked number two in the country. However, they don't necessarily look like a physically dominating, perfect passing, offensive team with terrific stamina like WCVI Texas, so why are the doing so well? One possible explanation is that the Lost Boys are playing loosely and having fun (did you see that Tony Rodriguez behind-the-back pass?!) or that they are just the most experienced and have the best, most productive practices of their opponents (also likely), but I believe the West is pretty weak this year. The Lost Boys have really yet to face a good defense. I figured in the high-stakes Western Cup, opposing teams would step up and lock all windows and doors to prevent the Lost Boys from scoring so often. But the Lost Boys cruised through the pool of death and the later rounds of bracket play, scoring an average of 150 quaffle points against teams ranked in the top five of the Western regional coaches poll. Any tight man-to-man defense or disciplined zone could stop these Lost Boys goals.

Video by Amanda Turtles

Jeff Lin receives a pass from Tony
Rodriguez. Rodriguez pulled the
entire NAU defense over when he drove down the near sideline, leaving Lin open in the middle and Vanessa Goh more open on the far side. While Lin would end up swinging the pass to Goh for an easy ten points, he could've also scored or passed it to Alex Browne behind the hoops.

Video by Amanda Turtles

Alex Browne passes cross field to a cutting Missy Sponagle. Browne drew the attention of the entire ASU defense leaving Sponagle wide open on the far side. With nice, little pump fake, Sponagle is able to fake out the ASU keeper and score. The ASU keeper is the only player who is able to get to Sponagle in time.

Video by Amanda Turtles
Tony Rodriguez passes to Vanessa Goh as he is being tackled by UCLA point defender Corey Osto. Notice how I can fit all four UCLA chasers and beaters on defense in a little bubble. That shouldn't happen. Goh slips behinds the defense and Rodriguez's pass is the perfect through-ball that leads to a Goh goal. Alex Browne is also open on the near sideline.

Honestly, these were only one example from each game. I could pick out two other bad defensive breakdowns in transition from each game and add in a couple more minor defensive miscues. The Lost Boys aren't really thought of as a transition team the way BU is, but the SoCal community team dominates the transition game. As you can see in each of these screenshots, there are multiple Lost Boys sprinting down the field and anticipating a pass. Often, half of the other team's players are jogging back to the hoops after being beat by the Lost Boys beaters. The ones who weren't beat all cluster towards the ball carrier. When the players who were beat touch the hoops and return to gameplay, they turn around and see three open Lost Boys chasers. While credit should be given to the Lost Boys chasers for getting up the field so quickly, a little defensive hustle could stop many of the plays like the ones pictured. So the Lost Boys have been getting it easy out West and I will be really interested to see how they react to better defenses when they travel to Diamond Cup. A lot of the time, goals like the ones pictured above get the Lost Boys comfortably into their rhythm. 

Here's my theory. The Lost Boys chasing corps is relatively small, with only really three or four players who are the type of player that sends the defender flying onto their back after a fast collision. I think because of this, they depend on getting open. The Lost Boys play a style of offensive quidditch that I think is closer to basketball, with rotations, lots of screens, cutting to the hoop(s), with the big emphasis on finding the open player. It's a very smart style of quidditch, and the Lost Boys' experienced players execute it perfectly, but many of their players avoid contact when possible, instead opting for a pass. In the West, this has worked really well. The best Southwest teams like A&M, UT, Lone Star, UTSA and Baylor play a style of offensive quidditch that is more like football or rugby. The understanding among many Southwest players seems to be that you're going to have to get through somebody to score. It seems to be more about creating physical mismatches in certain places on the field similar to the classic football example of speedy running back versus a linebacker in the open field. Instead of getting a player wide open for a goal, teams in the Southwest work in their possessions for a third and one situation, where the player with the ball only has to go a short distance to score.

I think the jury is still out on the Lost Boys. They are capitalizing on every little defensive mistake their opponents make and are winning games out of snitch range. But, I think physical, disciplined Southwest chaser defense is going to cause the Lost Boys offense a lot of trouble. They are really going to have to work to score goals. They are terrific at playing the basketball style of quidditch, but, when the Lost Boys travel to Diamond Cup and World Cup VII, some teams are going to force them to play a more physical, football style offense. Because of the contact rules quidditch has, teams can stop the basketball style offense with a football style defense.

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