Friday, November 21, 2014

The Blacktip of the Iceberg

Lost Boys Win Riverside Rumble, but Santa Barbara Leaves Lasting Impression

By Chris Lock

The Riverside Rumble symbolized the beginning of a new season with hope and promise for six of the eight attending teams, and the tournament’s results indicated that a new era of quidditch has begun in the West. The Pool of Death and bracket play featured wild and unpredictable results throughout the day while the Lost Boys demonstrated they had retained enough of their key players to still be considered one of the top teams in the West Region. Kelsey Allen experienced a monumentally successful coaching debut as the first-year captain guided the newly reconstructed Santa Barbara Blacktips to an unexpected finals appearance, where the developing squad put up an impressive fight against the eventual champions. Still, by the time tournament director Tye Rush smugly smiled to himself as he flipped off the field’s lighting system, the dust had settled and the Lost Boys predictably finished at the top of the heap. The road to the finals, however, was one of the most baffling and exciting set of games in recent memory.

Riverside Quidditch, after confirming to the head referee it was indeed “ready to ruuuuuuuuuuuumble,” engaged in a brooms-up spar against the Arizona State University Sun Devils (ASU) to begin the tournament. Armed with a plethora of new recruits, Riverside demonstrated a noticeably higher level of physicality than in previous years that allowed the hosts to initially maintain a close match against the pool favorites. Still, despite the improved returners and physically promising rookies, Riverside’s new players weren’t quite prepared for the hard-hitting Sun Devils. After an injury to Riverside’s new starting keeper, Stephen Cheung, ASU took advantage of star chaser Rush subbing out to break a 30-30 tie and run up the score to put the game out of snitch range. The Sun Devils demonstrated they had considerably more depth than Riverside, and the hosts couldn’t mount a comeback after a spirited first half of the game. ASU eventually won 110-70* after a Riverside suicide catch, but Rush’s squad displayed some impressive results to reward its hard work before the day was done.

The rest of the Pool of Death lived up to its moniker, providing excitement throughout the day. The next match featured two World Cup qualifiers from last season as Santa Barbara squared off against the Long Beach Funky Quaffles (LBFQ), whom it had defeated in four official meetings last season. At first, Santa Barbara’s starting line looked competent enough to handle LBFQ as the Blacktips built a large lead. However, as the game lengthened and substitutions occurred more frequently, LBFQ utilized its physicality advantage to mount a comeback. LBFQ managed to finally tie the Blacktips 70-70 before Santa Barbara’s Cy Torrey caught the snitch to survive an early scare. Interestingly enough, Santa Barbara’s 100*-70 victory matched the exact same score as the first time these squads face each other in the 2013-14 season.

The pool’s third match headlined an exciting, if dated, rivalry between the Blacktips and ASU that would eventually determine the pool winner. Many spectators anticipated a close affair in which ASU would have a slight edge. If a spectator focused on just the beater game, this would have been a correct analysis. While the Blacktips played a solid and untraditionally disciplined beater game led by Brian Vampola, Torrey, and Ruthie Stahl, ASU’s beaters utilized their experience and physicality to exploit a subtle yet distinct advantage over Santa Barbara. Even though Santa Barbara has illustrated its best combination of skill and strategy this season and played a strong game, ASU was able to regain bludger control seemingly at will and physically overpowered the Blacktip beaters. However, if spectators even glimpsed the quaffle game, they would have noticed the Blacktips had a clear chaser advantage over their opponents. Keeper Ben Harding and rookie chasers Austin Goodheart and Jeremy McIntyre dominated their opponents. The three quaffle players executed the traditional Santa Barbara offense, featuring fast passes and quick alley-oops intended to beat the speed of propelled bludgers, and it led to numerous close-range goals. The Santa Barbara passing game was so strong that many of its goals came against bludger control and effectively negated any advantage ASU had over Santa Barbara’s beaters. In contrast, ASU’s chasers threw many errant passes out of bounds or set up their receivers to be easy targets for Blacktip beaters. Despite having more physicality, ASU found itself at a height disadvantage and rushed possessions, resulting in turnovers that only made matters worse. Whereas the Sun Devils physically overpowered Riverside in the opening game, ASU trailed throughout the game and struggled to just stay within snitch range of the Blacktips. Despite a few impassioned comebacks that nearly brought ASU back within range, the Blacktips eventually won 160*-80 to secure its first victory over ASU in franchise history.

The rest of the pool did not feature any other particularly close matchups, but some interesting results occurred. ASU blew out Long Beach 130*-10. The drubbing is particularly interesting since it came against the same Long Beach team that had nearly knocked off Santa Barbara earlier in the day. Riverside showed it was the clear No. 3 team in the pool by defeating Long Beach 110-90* but losing handily to Santa Barbara, 140-80*.

In contrast, the other pool did not provide any unexpected or close results. The Lost Boys cruised through the pool thanks to power drives and finesse passes from Jake Tieman and Alex Browne as well as the beater-led defense anchored by Peter Lee, Chris Seto, and Missy Sponagle. The University of Southern California (USC) brought a strong physical team, featuring great performances from David Demarest, Tony Likovich, Nicky Guangorena, and Nict̀é Sobrino. USC smothered both the Irvine Anteaters and the California Dobbys, but it also fell to the Lost Boys 160-70* making it the clear No. 2 team in the pool. The Dobbys brought down the Anteaters 130*-50 in a meeting of two first-year teams to round out pool play.


Seedings were determined based on record and point differential. Cross-pool play was not guaranteed.

The No. 1 Lost Boys unsurprisingly eliminated the No. 8 Anteaters 220-50*. The No. 2 Blacktips had to grind through a rematch against the No. 7 Long Beach Funky Quaffles. LBFQ made a better effort from the beginning of this match, applying its physicality early and often via double teams at the hoops. The Funky Quaffles designed their defense to contain Harding at all costs, and it worked initially. Early on, McIntyre and Goodheart kept the Blacktips’ offense afloat, but McIntyre was red carded after a knee tackle and subsequent shove from behind on a later play. Anthony Hawkins’ and Kevin Hayes’ physical defense and drives kept Long Beach within striking distance, but Harding found numerous offensive openings after McIntyre’s departure. Long Beach’s physicality eventually eroded into desperate and illegal defense, which gave the Blacktips power plays and scoring opportunities. This, combined with strong beater play, let Santa Barbara push LBFQ out of snitch range before eventually winning 100-80*. Hayes played a very strong tournament for LBFQ, providing hustle, strong tackles, and numerous snitch grabs (although they were all suicide grabs). Ultimately, Long Beach seemed to suffer from a lack of discipline and cohesiveness. Its newer players struggled with legal contact, and the offense never seemed to naturally flow. If Long Beach develops strategically, it may be competitive in the future against the teams it faced at the Riverside Rumble, but right now it seems to be a step behind its pool mates.

Two other stunning results took place in the quarterfinals. Jerome Gage caught a snitch to help No. 6 Riverside absolutely shock No. 3 USC 70*-60. Even though USC oscillated between 30- and 20-point leads and had the clear quaffle point differential, it found itself stunned with an early exit from the tournament. The Trojans played like a semifinalist team throughout the day and showed they were better than last year’s squad, but Riverside ultimately displayed that it is an improved team and pulled off the biggest win in the program’s history by eliminating USC from bracket play.

No. 4 ASU faced off against a similarly young yet physical team in the No. 5 Dobbys. ASU had a clear beater advantage, which was much more apparent than when it faced Santa Barbara. The teams matched each other in physicality, and the crowd was treated to both impressive drives and exciting stops and tackles from both sides. The Dobbys kept the game close early on as the two teams shared a 30-30 tie 10 minutes into the match. However, ASU took advantage of its depth and veteran experience to build up a 70-40 lead after the Dobbys began to lose stamina. Still, the Dobbys were in the midst of their most impressive match of day and refused to give up. Dobbys captain Salvador Sánchez snatched the snitch shortly after the seeker floor was lifted to tie the game and send the match into overtime. While a program as new as the Dobbys would already view reaching overtime against a strong and established program as a success, the new squad was not finished impressing. More tackles and goals were exchanged in the overtime period, and at the end of the full five minutes the two teams were tied again at 100-100. Double overtime proved to be a nerve-wracking and suspenseful affair as both teams missed potentially game-winning shots from mid-range, and the ASU beating squad saved the game by beating Dobbys’ Jorge Silva on a seeming breakaway close-range drive to the hoops. However, the Dobbys caught the snitch at mid-pitch before ASU could attempt another goal to stun the crowd with a 130*!-100 (no overtime snitch catch) upset. Despite the premature elimination, the Sun Devils have high hopes for the future. Josh Mattison and Kaylee Buchholtz continue to deftly anchor the beating line while rookies Ryan McGonagle and Vicky Sanford demonstrated they will only strengthen an already talented beater corps. McGonagle brings hustle and physical tenacity while Sanford showed she is capable of competently defending a large area. Rookie keeper Tyler Ortiz demonstrated a lot potential running the Sun Devil’s offense, chaser Jonathan Riecker played outstanding point defense, and Connor Morrin displayed multiple fundamentally sound hard tackles.


The No. 1 Lost Boys defeated the No. 5 Dobbys 140-40* to end the young team’s Cinderella run. California received a great seeking performance from Sanchez, and keeper Silva demonstrated natural quidditch talent with many drive-based goals against much more experienced players. Chelsea Friedman also gave the Dobbys a superhuman effort as the beater played the entire tournament without any substitutes. Overall, the Dobbys showed they are a team with both discipline and plenty of potential. The team was one of the more contact-based squads in attendance, yet it amassed very few cards. Their physical discipline and unexpected victory over ASU indicate a bright future for Sanchez’s team.

No. 2 Santa Barbara dispatched No. 6 Riverside for the second time in the tournament, 140*-20. Despite the substantial loss, Riverside Quidditch impressed at its host tournament. Aside from upsetting USC, Riverside displayed a much more physical team this weekend than in the past and a more potent offense. Rush led the team’s offense, as usual, but the star chaser received great contributions from his teammates. Gage played a strong tournament at chaser, beater, and seeker, while Nick Higgins set a career high in both goals and tackles. With many new recruits, the Riverside program is heading in the right direction to win more frequently in the near future.


The Blacktips played one of their best games in program history as they went toe-to-toe with the regional powerhouse Lost Boys. Sloppy quaffle handling by the Lost Boys, Santa Barbara defenders tipping passes, and timely beats early on prevented the Lost Boys from scoring in the first three minutes. In the meantime, Santa Barbara scored early on thanks to an alley-oop from Harding to McIntyre that spanned nearly half the pitch and a fastbreak steal and dunk by Goodheart. However, the Blacktips 20-0 lead would not last, as Lee, Seto, and Mohlman teamed up with their partners to retain bludger control for a large portion of the game. To the Blacktips’ beaters’ credit, they managed to force Lee to throw his own bludger back to the hoops repeatedly, but Browne and Tieman took advantage of the lack of bludgers to come back and regain the lead on multiple close-range goals. The Lost Boys built a 40-point lead by the time the snitch returned. The Blacktips scored to briefly get within snitch range, but Harding left the game with an injury, and the Lost Boys took full advantage of the sturdy keeper’s absence. The Lost Boys typically are strongest when the snitch is on pitch, and the finals were no different as the Lost Boys built up a 200-120 lead (doubling their initial lead from when the snitch was released) before winning the championship 230*-120.

Despite the large final deficit, the Blacktips had a weekend to be proud of. Santa Barbara finished 5-1 and looked like an extremely strong team even though it was expected to experience a “rebuilding” year. Vampola, the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of beaters, played one of the best tournaments of his career, showing both improved physicality and conservative beating. Ruthie Stahl made a successful transition to beater, and rookie Sara Weman had an impressive debut. The end result was a Blacktip team that looks more stable at all positions than in previous years.

The Lost Boys demonstrated they are still a force in the West Region. In addition to their front line of returning players, the Lost Boys also added Brandon Scapa and Joanne Lam, who both made key contributions throughout the weekend. Additionally, Sarah Ballister was a natural fit in the beater program. While winning a tournament is always exciting, it will be thrilling to watch the Lost Boys play in Santa Barbara this weekend to see if they are still the No. 1 team in the West Region.
All-Tournament Team
The following All-Tournament selections were determined by coach’s votes. One captain from seven of the eight teams, as well as the author, submitted an All-Tournament roster for eight total entries. Each All-Tournament team is bound by gender requirements.

First Team
C- Tye Rush (Riverside Quidditch)
C- Jake Tieman (Lost Boys Quidditch Club)
C- Missy Sponagle (Lost Boys Quidditch Club)
B- Peter Lee (Lost Boys Quidditch Club)
B- Chelsea Friedman (California Dobbys)
K – Alex Browne* (Lost Boys Quidditch Club)
S/C- Austin Goodheart (Santa Barbara Blacktips)

Second Team
C- Sara Weman (Santa Barbara Blacktips)
C- Jeremy McIntyre (Santa Barbara Blacktips)
C- David Demarest (University of Southern California)
B- Kaylee Buchholtz (Arizona State University)
B- Brian Vampola (Santa Barbara Blacktips)
K- Ben Harding (Santa Barbara Blacktips)
S/C- Salvador Sánchez (California Dobbys)

Honorable Mention: Cy Torrey (Santa Barbara Blacktips), Jorge Silva (California Dobbys), Joanne Lam (Lost Boys Quidditch Club), Chris Seto (Lost Boys Quidditch Club)

*MVP: “Browne’s outstanding hoop coverage anchored the best defense of the tournament field. In addition, he scored a majority of his team’s goals in the semifinals and played every minute of a hard-fought finals victory.” Chris Seto (Lost Boys Captain)

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