Water Polo Tactics by Dave Maynard

Volume 1 Number 8 June 1, 2009
Imagination is more important than knowledge - Albert Einstein.

Who Needs the Hole to Drive… or the “A.K. 45”

If you had the channel, I sure hope you watched the Women’s NCAA Championships and Adam Krikorian’s UCLA Lady Bruins beat the field on to their 5th straight national championship.  I hope you were paying attention, because there was some excellent play during that game.  In light of all of this, I want to take a break from my “No Opportunity Wasted” series to discuss a play in this game that was called at the perfect time and was almost executed to success.

The one play in particular happened at the beginning of the 4th quarter.  UCLA had just gone the entire 3rd quarter without scoring a goal, and Coach Krikorian wanted to generate a scoring opportunity, so Coach K drew up a play that utilized a field pick on the weak side of the pool between the #4 and #5 positions, hence “A.K. 45.”  (You like how I did that???)  The play wasn’t so successful for the Lady Bruins as they didn’t convert and actually got the ball stolen, however, this was an issue of finishing execution, everything leading up to the pass into the driver happened as planned.  Additionally, there were probably several ways this play could have worked out.  First, let’s look at what really happened.

I know what you’re thinking, “Big deal coach, it’s a pick.  It’s a classic play, why are you bring this up?”  Truth be told, with the current rules and instructions to referees to call the game, the days of a pass into the hole, followed by an ordinary foul, followed by perimeter driving, isn’t around anymore.  The Hole-Set is less of a passer (from the game of the late 80’s and early 90’s) and is expected to be more of a scorer, given their position in the pool and proximity to the goal.  Recognizing this, Coach Krikorian set up his offense so that the #3 player (the Point) is the trigger position to start the pick.  And, instead of picking down the pool, the Lady Bruins pick up, from the #5 position to the #4, the #5 player setting the pick and the #4 player swimming out to the wing.  Here’s what the play looks like:

Again, #3 is the trigger-man for the play.  #5 sets the pick to the #4.  #4 swims to the #5 position and #5 drives through to the strike zone.  Also notice the Hole-Set, shifting away from the play to allow room for the driver to work their inside water as well as dragging their defender away from the action (more on this later).  #3 passes to the #4 on the wing, #4 feeds #5 who is driving through the strike zone.  The defense fell for the play, as the #4 and #5 defenders called for a switch, sending the #5 defender back to the wing to cover the #4 attacker, but leaving the #4 defender trying to recover from a successful pick that yielded inside water.  #5 has inside water and the ball, which is a recipe for offensive success, as this play should end in either a goal or a Penalty Foul against the defense.

That’s how it happened in the game (or was supposed to anyway, kudos to USC for capitalizing on execution errors by UCLA), but… what would you do if the defenders didn’t switch?  Watch and learn.

With a well executed pick coming up the field from the wing and the defenders sticking to their marks, the pass from the trigger-man, Player #3, to the #4 going to the wing is well defended, so don’t pass it there.  Instead, hold on to the ball and wait for #5 player to head to the strike zone with their defender on their tail.  Player #3 feeds the driver the ball from the point, rather than #4 from the wing.  The end result is still the same, #5 has inside water, and the ball, and if you haven’t picked it up by now, this should be a goal or a Penalty Foul.

There are probably some Hole-Defenders out there saying, “Wait a minute coach, I’m defending the hole.  I’ll just crash the driver and take the ball away.”  Don’t forget what the Hole-Set did here either, in dragging across to the other side of the cage.  If the Hole-D drops off the Hole-Set to go for the ball, the driver flips the ball cross-cage to the Hole-Set for a backdoor goal.

And now you’re armed with the “A.K. 45.”  The only thing left to do is… “ATTACK!  ATTACK!  ATTACK!”


Athleon is a free, private virtual assistant coach for your team that helps manage all the out of the pool hassles and allows coaches to focus on coaching. Share moving plays privately, easily send text messages and e-mail the team, share game film, and a lot more.

WATER POLO PLANET.COM: the Alternative Voice    www.waterpoloplanet.com