Often times, when you talk about the 6-5 attack following an exclusion, you focus on the wing and high post shooters (positions 1, 4, 5, and 6). This is primarily because most of the shot opportunities are set to come from these positions. Often times, new coaches, players, and spectators forget about the low post players in the 2 and 3 positions. These are the two players that set up at around the 2 meter line right in line with the posts of the goal. There is a job to be done, and this is no place for a player to hide as this is one of the most physical places to set up.
Consider what happens with the standard 4-2 attack scheme and where the defense positions themselves. There are defenders between the post and the 2, between the 2 and the 3, and between the 3 and post. As the ball moves around the perimeter, these players shift with the ball to close up shooting lanes and cover up on the low post players so they can’t get any easy pop-up goals. When those defenders move, the players in the 2 and 3 positions are getting pushed off and sunk, constantly. When you find yourself in this position, you have to be both mentally and physically tough to handle all of this activity. In addition, you have to know the proper positioning. You have to keep your hips up, almost lying down on your stomach in the water, and pivoting (or rolling) from side to side as you follow the ball, looking over your shoulder to track the ball movement on the perimeter. Keep your legs under you to have a stable platform as there is a lot of pushing and shoving in this area and be mindful of the 2 meter line. Once the player understands these things, then they can be prepared to play the low post.
Job #1: Garbage Man
Remember that in the game of water polo, when playing man-up, shots are typically taken from the perimeter positions. If that ball gets blocked by the field or goalie, there is a strong possibility that it could land right on your doorstep. Snag that rebound and put the ball in the back of the net. Many times, I have seen the shot come from the 1 position, get blocked or ricochets off the cross-bar, and falls right on the 2M line in front of the 3 position. With the hips up and legs under, you lunge for the ball and shove it in. Wet shots are great for this, be it a shove, screw or T shot. Do NOT bring the ball back for a baseball, or windup shot. Keep it in front and get it in the back of the net as soon as possible.
Notice the defense shifting with the play, but the low post holding true to their position. By their position, they have inside water from the post defender. With the shots coming from the wing and careening across the front of the cage, the low post is in perfect position to “take out the trash.”
Job #2: Make the Defense Move and Become a Threat All at Once
Remember back to an earlier article on “simple shifting” and we mentioned the “Sucker Play.” The low post players typically set up on the 2 meter line. If they stay there, they are not very much of a threat to score. If you feed the ball into those positions, it will most likely get taken away. But if one of the low post players steps out away from the net a little, to the 3 meter mark, then a little more room is opened up. You have just increased the distance the defense has to travel to cover you. Additionally, you have opened up shooting angles and room to become a legitimate threat down low.
Watch how the 2 position on the low post moves out and draws the post defender with them. The ball is worked on the weak side of the net to draw attention to that side of play, often times, focus is lost on the opposite side. A clean pass and a quick shot will find the back door wide open with a resulting goal. Make the defense work harder to cover up, and shooting lanes are opened up.
Sliding out to the 3 meter, as stated earlier, causes this low post player to be a scoring threat now. Quick passing can catch the defense between cover-ups, open up the inside post who slipped out to the 3 meter, and a goal is surely to follow.
It’s the same movement, and same positioning, but with the pass coming from a different spot. Tracking the ball around the perimeter, with clean passing, the defense can find themselves making long movements and ultimately out of position, leaving the 2 position out in the open for a quick pass and shot.
There’s a common trend in all of this and that is clean passing, solid positioning, creating space, and forcing the defense out of position. There are other variations of utilizing the low post positions, and where the pass could come from, and who knows, we might revisit these at another time. For now, absorb these into your playbook and get to work. The man-up happens often in the game, and the team with the most success in these situations often turns out on top. Finding more ways to create these scoring options only helps the team be more successful
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