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A Tweak To The 1-3-3

by Matt Dufort

With zone defenses, I tend to lean away from the old standards, reasoning that if most defenders know them, most offenses know how to play against them. Almost everyone has run a standard three-person cup, and every offense has seen one. In order to get a good offense out of its rhythm enough to generate turnovers, you need to either run a well-known zone better than other teams do, or you need to do something different. 

Here's something different: the formation is a 1-3-3, but with a few major changes. One marker, three defenders 5-10 yards downfield from the disc (aka "first wall"), and three more defenders 15-50 yards downfield from the disc (aka "second wall"). The spacing of the defenders in the second wall is largely dependent on where the threats are, and is similar to the backfield in most other zones. 

From the first wall, two players step up to form a 3-man cup with the marker. The break-side player from the first wall drops into the hole immediately behind the cup. If the disc then swings to the other side of the field, he/she steps up to become part of the cup, while his/her counterpart on the other side of the field drops into that same hole behind the cup. This requires more communication and awareness, but the cup players no longer have to chase the disc back and forth across the field—instead the composition of the cup changes as the disc moves. A good marker is essential—someone who can contain break throws, but will take a risk here and there when they smell blood. 

The defense traps the disc on both sidelines. Essentially, the marker is always forcing the disc to continue moving the same direction as the previous pass. So if the marker is forcing backhand, and gets broken by a crossfield swing, he/she just switches to forcing forehand, to keep the disc moving toward the opposite sideline. This is primarily to save energy—the marker never has to catch up to the disc to contain the flow. It also perpetuates the trap, as the easy continuation throw will usually be toward a sideline. 

Most of the turnovers generated by this zone will be from riskier throws off the sidelines. The trap uses the sideline to reduce the area that can be thrown to, and forces the offense to break through the zone just to maintain possession. My opinion is that at many levels, offenses have become patient enough that force-middle zones don't create turnovers. Unless the team has a really bad zone offense, or the conditions make it difficult just to complete passes (extreme wind, rain, snow), a force-middle zone is just going to slow the offense down. Trapping makes things hard, takes away the easy options, and can force turnovers even from skilled, patient teams. 

This zone has two main weaknesses. It's not designed to contain the disc in the middle of the field, so it's susceptible to handlers chipping the disc up the field with short two-yard gains. To prevent this, the middle player of the first wall needs to step up to make those short gains more difficult. It's also possible for the offense to gain yards by swinging to the weak side, then taking quick upfield shots before the defense adjusts. To combat this, the side players in the first wall need to move quickly when the disc swings. If run efficiently and aggressively, this defense can fluster offenses and create lots of turnovers, without exhausting your team's best zone D players. Lastly, it helps to have more than one alternative to man defense (either a transition or another zone set). That way, if the offense starts to figure out your zone, you can mix things up a bit to throw them off again. 

huddle Issue 7 Zone Defense

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

The Wham!
by Jaime Arambula

Addressing Zone Questions
by Chris Ashbrook

Zone Observations From The NYNY Days
by Tully Beatty

A Tweak To The 1-3-3
by Matt Dufort

What Should We Contain?
by Jeff Eastham-Anderson

Adjustments To The 2-3-2
by Adam Goff

Redistribute Their Resources
by Greg Husak

Trap Hard & Smart
by Kris Kelly

The Four-Person Cup
by Miranda Roth

A Couple Of Thoughts On Zone D
by Ben Wiggins




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