Written by Amy Wickner
The DC Current notched their first home win tonight against the Philadelphia Spinners, fighting to a 3-point lead shortly after half and never looking back en route to an 18-14 victory.
It was an exciting game on several fronts, from athletic plays to new defensive looks to a couple of chippy interactions.
In warm-ups, the Spinners’ deep throws looked sharp while the Current struggled to connect with their cutters. With a slight but noticeable wind riffling jerseys at Montgomery Blair High School, the game looked set to be a huckfest, with both teams putting their receivers in position to catch goals running away.
As it happened, however, the first quarter sped by with just 7 points scored, as multiple turnovers kept lines on the turf for up to three minutes at a time. The Spinners quickly scored the first point of the game, then came down in a zone that forced the Current to a crawl down the field. Altogether, Washington completed 48 passes to even the score at 1-1, most of them either short or lateral passes between handlers.
The Spinners threw multiple defensive looks at the Spinners throughout the first half. Their initial zone look featured an almost V-shaped cup—a mark, an off-point loosely guarding a handler, and the middle cup defender moving horizontally just upfield from the other two—a three-man wall defending vertical zones, and a deep-deep. They would also experiment with poaches and switches, as well as with sagging handler defenders and backing cutters downfield.
The Spinners’ defensive sets may have been designed to stymie the Current’s deep game, or perhaps just to throw them off-balance. Multiple spectators remarked on the Current cutters’ ability simply to outrun defenders in a straight line, but the Spinners worked hard to limit opportunities for footraces.
Two of the more successful deep cutters in this game are notable precisely because they avoid relying on their speed. Brent Bellinger and Trey Katzenbach each made multiple catches based on smart reads of both disc and defender. Bellinger successfully kept track of two defenders on a covered deep cut, allowing one to jump too early and boxing out the other for the catch. Katzenbach outsmarted a certainly younger, likely faster defender in David Cranston by controlling his stride length and forcing Cranston to follow almost exactly in his footsteps. Having prevented Cranston from getting his steps right for a bid on the throw, Katzenbach caught the disc in stride, uncontested.
Other standouts for the Current included Alan Kolick, whose aggressive upline cuts help drive the Current’s primarily vertically-oriented offense; and Calvin Oung, who made athletic plays on both O and D to save the disc for DC. For the Spinners, Sean Murray caught goal after goal, while Nick Purifico, Mike Panna, and Patrick Lindsey played consistently tough defense and made big defensive plays for both O and D lines.
One of the best match-ups to watch this game was DC’s Brian Marshall guarding Sean Murray. Murray, an un-flashy but consistently dominant cutter, caught five goals tonight, mostly on big away cuts. In stopped-disc situations, however, he seemed thrown off by Marshall’s unwillingness to bite on one fake or another. With Murray stuck dancing in the open lane, Philadelphia’s handlers were put under a great deal more pressure; this led to miscommunication and unforced turnovers, as well as damaging blocks on Spinners handlers.
While the Washington handlers were not without their difficulties, they were, as a group, more error-free than the Spinners’ handler squad. They seemed to space and cut as if playing on a smaller field. This may have denied some throwers unusual bail-out options created by the wider field—although Jonathan Neeley, for one, took full advantage of such opportunities.
While the Spinners and the Current each notched a break in the first half, the Current broke twice to start the second half, putting them up 6-9. The teams traded points for the remainder of the third quarter, which ended with DC up 9-12.
DC found itself on defense to close out each of the first three quarters. No buzzer-beating scores were thrown, however, as the Spinners turned the disc over to end the first and second quarters, and Cranston’s huck to Daniel Kantor in triple coverage didn’t help (or hurt) the Current in Quarter 3.
Thanks to the opening coin toss, the Current started the final quarter on offense and increased their lead to 9-13. A bladey flick that floated too long nearly cost DC possession, but a defensive foul called on Nick Purifico put the disc in Sean Keegan’s hands.
This was not the first call-related discussion tonight, and it would not be the last. Earlier, Kyle Salasko argued briefly for a foul call after a Current defender came down on his foot and prevented him from having a second bid on a tipped disc. A hammer goal thrown to Nick Hirannet resulted in 30 seconds of discussion, but was eventually upheld. Late in the fourth quarter, Spinners coach Billy Maroon exchanged words with an official over a disc ruled down, and was given an orange band for his trouble. Sean Keegan of the Current and Philadelphia’s Purifico were also each banded for a brief entanglement after the game. From confrontations like these to both teams’ inability to take yardage penalties in stride, referees were forced into difficult duty tonight.
In the end, however, the Current controlled the pace of the game, keeping the pace up on offense and slowing things down for the Spinners on defense. DC and Philadelphia will match-up one more time during the regular season during the last week of play—June 22nd in Plymouth Meeting, PA.