The Oregon Ducks Lacrosse team was supposed to be a contender in 2011! At least I thought they could be, and I’m pretty sure a good number of others thought the exact same thing. They’ve got good goaltending, some physical poles and speed and/or size in some good places. They’ve got some middies who can dodge and an attackman or two who can finish. This is a team that should be rising, not falling. And while they recently beat UNLV (in a tight game), they lost to Cal 10-2 and Santa Clara 7-6. Next up is Michigan… and to go 0-3 in MCLA games (UNLV is not in the MCLA this year) would be a horrible start.
So what’s wrong with Oregon? Can they turn the ship around? Can they maybe do what Colorado did last year and shock Michigan?
Now, I haven’t seen full game film. And for the first time in a long time, I actually don’t think I need to. I’m going to draw some conclusions from the highlight (or lowlight, depending on your perspective) tape by BHSVideoDad because after watching it at least ten times, I’m convinced it doesn’t have anything to do with their offensive or defensive sets. It doesn’t have anything to do with personnel alignments or 1 on 1 match ups. It has to do with the little things. Good Charlotte would be so proud.
Watch the video, which of course, is of the most excellent quality, and then read what I have to say. Then tell me I’m wrong. I’d love to hear what you think.
Like I said, it’s the little things. Towards the end, you’ll notice that Oregon gave up a couple goals without a goalie anywhere near the net. If this is happening during clears, then he is way too far out of his crease, way too often. But, more inexcusably, it looks like it’s happening during rides, where it seems like they are attempting to run a ten-man. I have no problem with the ten-man ride whatsoever, but you need to have it DOWN to use it in a game, especially a tight game early on. That is attention to detail.
That means running it in practice at full speed all week and the loser does sprints. Even the day before the game. That’s giving the clearing team an extra player once in a while and STILL running the ten-man just so the D knows how to recover from a broken clear. That’s having the patience to only run it when you know your team can do it, and do it right. It’s attention to detail. This isn’t meant as a jab at the Oregon coaching staff either. I’m positive they felt like they were ready to use it, but truly paying attention to the little things means you don’t feel ready, you are ready. And Oregon was not ready.
On a different note, side arm shots plagued Oregon in what was only a 4 minute video. This is inexcusable. Players who were perfectly lined up to take overhand shots instead opted for low or sidearm shots, few of which found the back of the net. When Oregon did score goals they were mostly overhand or in close. There is a reason for that: that’s the best way to do it most of the time.
YES, underhand and sidearm have their places. So do behind the back shots. But when you’re dodging the alley righty and you shoot sidearm away from your body you DRASTICALLY reduce your angle AND manage to get the laws of physics working against you. An overhand btb would have been better there. But sidearm? Why? That’s attention to detail. And no, it’s not the right thing because I say it is, it is the right thing because it works. Oregon was FORCING underhand shots against a zone defense. That’s what the zone D is PRAYING for!
The last thing I noticed offensively was finishing inside. Sometimes goalies make big saves, that’s just unavoidable. But it isn’t a good save when an attackman catches, cradles and shoots all high to high from in close… it’s just a bad shot. When a player is in close, they must be able to get the goalie moving and then tuck the ball in the net. These are the basics of finishing and they really come down to attention to detail. Attackmen must be willing to take the extra step, throw a fake, finish, and maybe get laid out. All in a day’s work. If the attackmen have a mucker’s attitude, it will influence the play of the rest of the team and everyone will be more willing to go the extra mile.
Rides, finishing and shot selection weren’t the only obvious problems. When playing man down, Oregon’s poles need to reign it in a little bit. There is no need to play guys at the top of the box, especially when you have some talent in goal. The Santa Clara players were able to find space on the backside of the defense when they were man up after simply rotating the ball. This means if your defenders ARE going to extend you need them to turn and bust back in to the middle a LOT harder. This is attention to detail.
Running out and playing your guy hard is great, but it’s only half the battle. The other half is getting back inside to help your teammates, since you’re man down and all. Not such a little thing actually, but an easy problem to fix. Make getting into the hole after extending a priority. We ran an aggressive zone at Weselyan and the D spent hours every week working in and out, in and out… by the end of the season our legs could take the beating all day and it made us a much better defensive team. Running the D in and out HARD was attention to detail. Heck, we’d do it without an offense or a ball sometimes, and just focused on how hard we were running. The little things.
This also covers penalties and from the looks of things, Oregon had a LOT of them. The body and stick checks were just a little lazy. One handed tomahawk checks, blatant hits from behind, crosschecks, pushes, the list goes on. None of them were egregious or particularly cheap, but they were clearly not effective at all. Maybe for Santa Clara, but it didn’t help the Ducks. This comes down to a willingness to play defense with your feet first, THEN throw a check. It comes from taking the extra step or laying off the big hit because you know it’s illegal. Being willing to sacrifice personal glory for the success of the team. It comes down to the little things.
Some people will blame the coaches, or the Seniors, or the Captains… but it takes a team to win or lose games so it starts with the last freshman on the depth chart and goes all the way to the Head Coach and Team President. The Oregon players actually look like they are trying pretty hard but they’re not focused and they’re not clicking. So who will change the course for this team?
True Leaders do the little things, and they don’t make a show of it. Leaders make sacrifices for the benefit of others. Leaders DO things and they mark the way with their actions. They ask more of themselves than anyone else. When things aren’t going their way, Leaders just buckle down, keep their cool and work harder. They focus on doing the little things right.
To answer the original question, all Oregon really needs right now is a Leader.