I’ve been really excited about the journey’s that ultimate players have been taking lately. After the World Games I wrote about Anna Nazarov:
Another player whose on-field journey I’ve been following for the last couple of years is Molly Brown’s Paige Applegate. Before writing this post I went back and watched the All-Stars vs. Molly Brown game from 2015 just to remind myself where she was as a player two years ago.
Nothing makes me happier than seeing players work hard and improve. It is hard to think of a player who has come farther that Applegate has in the last two years. If you run into her at a tournament you should ask her about what she’s been doing and listen carefully because you want to follow her formula (bad news, though, it is probably involves lots of hard work and dedication rather than magic beans).
What really impresses me about her play and her journey over the last few years is that it is really, truly hard to find the right balance between (what I think is) her natural “let’s take some risk” style of play and the duties of an elite O-line handler. It takes years of work and the list of players who tried and failed to find that balance is incredibly long. But players who make it out the other side of that journey like Applegate and Jenny Fey are so incredibly fun to watch, and also, for the purposes of this blog, so great to learn from.
So, below are 5 clips of Applegate’s play that caught my eye watching the Molly Brown vs Fury US Open semifinal:
(1) The mix of soft touch passes, great fundamentals, and attacking on Molly Brown’s second goal:
What I love from Applegate here is . . . well, everything.
(i) That soft little pass to Chastain. Handler to handler passes (swings or resets or otherwise) should be easy to catch. Turns on this passes are awful and Applegate (and really all of Molly Brown) did a great job with this skill all game.
(ii) The communication with her hands – we’ll see more examples of this later, too.
(iii) The little forehand fake to move Nazarov to the flick side! The 2nd replay really shows how effective that fake was.
(iv) Then that i/o backhand. That’s a risky pass and needs a lot of work to be game ready. Nazarov also uses it extremely well for Fury.
So many lessons from Applegate in this short clip!
(2) Similar to the clip in (1) but with a harder pass to the break side
Passes like the i/o backhand here are why I said above that it takes years to develop into the kind of player Applegate has become. It takes a lot of experience to learn when this pass is ok and when it just pushing the needle a bit too far.
The same nice soft touch passes and the forehand fake that were on display in the first clip are part of this clip, too:
(3) Fun physical play and great on field leadership
I’m sure that both Payne and Applegate walked off the field after this point thinking “that was fun.” I love the physical play from Applegate to get open and then to stand up after the grab and fire that pass down field to Megan Cousins (who, for the 1000th time just magically appears on the screen down the field standing around wide open . . . )
But watch Applegate raise her hands to slow everything down when Pitcaithly has the disc unmarked. It takes a very special player to throw the switch from “physical battle with Opi” to “time to watch the grass grow” in the space of 5 seconds. Smart play and super on field leadership from Applegate here.
(4) A small thing that I think she could do a little better.
The goal here is nice, but I was wondering why the first cut from Megan Cousins didn’t work out. Because of the way Applegate caught the swing pass, it took one extra beat to transfer the disc to her throwing hand. If she catches this with a (two handed!) claw catch instead, she’ll save a beat and be able to throw the forehand just a little faster.
Also, when the D knows that the quick forehand might be coming, you’ll suddenly have much more room on the backhand side, too, as the defender now has to take one extra step to close down the flick side.
(5) Finishing with a really nice and crafty goal.
I love how Applegate stays engaged with Chastain the whole way through on the cut that eventually scores. They way she uses her body to shield her defender from the disc is also great.
You’ll hear the announcers praising Applegate’s play in nearly all of the clips above. I’m glad that she’s getting recognized – that recognition is 100% deserved.
Also, I am totally serious about pulling her aside to talk to her if you are looking for someone to help improve your own game. After the journey she’s been on the last couple of years, if you are a young handler looking to improve there might not be a better person in the game to learn from.