Friday, November 14, 2014

The West is Ready to RUUUUUUUMBLE

By Chris Lock

From the sound of the first “B” escaping the referee’s lips, Tye Rush dashes for the quaffle like a horse jumpstarted with sharp spurs. Easily the fastest player on the pitch, Rush scoops the quaffle from midfield before the official can even finish shouting “Brooms up” and analyzes the field of Sun Devils ahead of him. Recognizing a rare no-bludger situation against one of the West’s most prolific teams and storied defenses, Rush charges into the pack of bloodthirsty Arizona State University chasers. With the speed and strength of Twilight’s Edward Cullen, Rush darts around and powers through opponents to reach the goal posts and fire a short-range shot. Evan Bell, the scheduled head referee, blows his Fox 40 whistle to signal a good goal. Rush triumphantly trots back to his side of the pitch and exchanges a confident high-five with his bludger-wielding partner in crime, Ricky Pasquier, before the two Riverside Quidditch staples prepare to literally and figuratively defend their home turf against Arizona State’s remodeled offensive unit.

At least, that scenario or something similar is how Rush hopes both his team’s season and this hosted tournament will begin. On Saturday, Riverside Quidditch will host its second ever tournament—the Riverside Rumble. The Rumble will feature eight teams in two pools followed by a three round bracket to declare a champion. Six teams will be playing their season openers (hopefully): Riverside Quidditch, the Santa Barbara Blacktips, Anteater Quidditch (University of California at Irvine), the Lost Boys, the University of Southern California (USC), and Arizona State University (ASU). The other two teams in attendance will be the California Dobbys and the Long Beach Funky Quaffles. The Riverside Rumble looks to be a great early litmus test for many teams and a chance for them to show they have top 10 potential.

POOL 1: ASU, Long Beach, Santa Barbara, Riverside

Riverside will be involved in a very lively pool. Three World Cup VII qualifiers are present in this “Pool of Death,” which should make for some very exciting quidditch. Even more interesting, this pool is nearly identical to the Pool of Death from the 2012-13 Western Regional Championship Tournament (Western Cup IV) that featured three of the top seven (of 18) finishers at the tournament. Replace Long Beach with the University of Southern California, and it’s the same pool. Still, Long Beach has the potential to be a nasty threat to any of these teams and should provide ample excitement in place of USC. If anything, this pool will be a great reflection on how the teams from 2012-13 have developed or fallen competitively. Now that all of these teams are amply established, the gameplay should be at a much higher level.

Riverside’s Tye Rush has silently established himself as one of the West’s top performers. Though he is a household name in California, Rush does not quite get the recognition he deserves in other regions due to the low exposure of his young team. Now entering its third season, Riverside will be looking to establish itself as a legitimate contender as many thought the team would do last season. Rush alone will make Riverside competitive as there is no individual defender capable of stopping him in this pool. As his teammates have become much stronger players over the year, a healthy mix of Rush’s talent and Riverside’s team-oriented gameplay could propel this squad to a breakout tournament.

Santa Barbara similarly has a stud leading quaffle player in Ben Harding, and it’s hard to imagine that the 6’3” chaser will not leave a screaming impression in the box score. Brian Vampola and Cy Torrey will provide great beater support. The Blacktips have likely continued to develop their trademark passing offense, and a new sturdy keeper with natural shot blocking and passing skills named Jeremy McIntyre may represent the Blacktips’ latest piece of recruiting magic. Santa Barbara has lost some big names, but the leftover squad should still be competitive and has a legitimate shot at taking the pool.

Long Beach had some mixed results in its earlier gameplay this season at the South Bay Spookfest. San Jose State University handily defeated Long Beach 140-80*, but the Funky Quaffles turned it around in the consolation bracket and split a pair of games against Stanford University and UC Berkeley. Long Beach is in the right position to make a statement, but going undefeated in the pool would be a tough order for the inexperienced squad.

ASU had some very successful exhibition games last month, notably a strong scrimmage at the Lumberjack Invitational against Arizona Quidditch Club. The team’s physicality will draw some “oohs” and “aahs,” but its strategic beating is going to be the reason it is the only team that will be able to contain Rush or Harding. Ultimately, ASU will win the pool.

Pool Predictions:
1. ASU
2. Santa Barbara
3. Riverside
4. Long Beach

Anticipated Matchup: ASU vs. Blacktips

These two squads have a bit of history dating back to the 2012-13 Western Regional Championships that resulted in some bad blood. Most of the parties involved have since departed from their respective teams, but that doesn’t change the fact that these teams met twice in that tournament. ASU defeated Santa Barbara in pool play but had to fend the Blacktips off yet again in a World Cup qualifier match with elimination on the line. The second match was much closer with a defensive emphasis, but ASU maintained a snitch-range lead due to its imposing defense before catching the snitch to win the match 70*-10. These two franchises haven’t met since then, and there’s a strong chance their match this weekend will determine the pool winner.

POOL 2: Anteater, USC, Lost Boys, Dobbys

This pool has the potential to be interesting. There seems to be an expected result, but as the old adage goes, games are played on the pitch and not on paper. This pool pits two new official squads against two former Western Region Champions. Saturday will be the region’s first look at the new Lost Boys.

Anteater Quidditch does not have an optimistic outlook in this pool, but that is purely because many of its players are inexperienced. The team is led by UCLA alum James Luby, so spectators can expect this squad to have a reasonable idea of what it’s doing. Physically, Anteater Quidditch has the potential to be a good team, so it will be interesting to see whether or not it pulls off an upset or two on Saturday.

USC played some friendly exhibition matches a month ago and exposed it weakness in female depth. However, some famous names are on its official roster, including Ryan Parsons, Nicté Sobrino, Julia Thomas, and Tony Likovich. Additionally, USC will bring some very talented, if underrated, players in Thomas Schoettle and Nicky Guangorena. USC is a wildcard this season, so everyone will have to wait until Saturday to see what team shows up in white and red.

The Dobbys are a new team full of athleticism. At South Bay Spookfest, they defeated Stanford University 110-70* but ultimately lost an overtime match against Berkeley on double snitch grabs. They were outclassed in an 80*-10 loss to San Jose as well, so the Dobbys probably aren’t going to be the very best the West will have to offer this season. Still, they should be able to play some competitive games and possibly surprise USC.

The Lost Boys are the easy favorites to win the pool. Led by Alex Browne, who hasn’t lost an official game against a Western Region team since 2012, the Lost Boys will have an efficient offense that will get them through pool play with large margins of victory. After adding Frank Gao, the Lost Boys now have four capable male beaters, some of whom may be doing double duty at chaser. What is noticeable, though, is the absence of chaser Jeff Lin from the roster.

Pool Predictions:
1. Lost Boys
2. USC
3. Dobbys
4. Anteater

Anticipated Matchup: Dobbys vs. Anteater Quidditch

Two brand new teams! This is where rivalries are formed and where we see the juggernaut franchises of tomorrow. There’s no way to predict how this match will turn out, and that’s what makes it exciting!

Bracket Play Predictions:
Championship: ASU vs. Lost Boys
Champion: Lost Boys

While a rematch of last year’s Western Regional Championship match would be highly enjoyable, there’s no getting around the fact that ASU’s strength is in its beater corps, and it is probably outmatched against the Lost Boys. Talented as he is, ASU’s Josh Mattison cannot account for the combination of Chris Seto, Peter Lee, and Michael Mohlman. Alex Browne and Jake Tiemann are not impeded by physicality, so ASU will have to be creative if it is indeed matched against the Lost Boys on Saturday.

West Region Power Rankings:
1. Los Angeles Gambits (5-0) If Ren Bettendorf leads the undefeated Gambits to the Lone Star trophy, or even a win over the University of Texas, there’s no excuse to stay off the hype train.
2. Lost Boys Quidditch Club (0-0) Ultimately, their personnel losses could have been much worse. A solid chaser line combined with extraordinary beaters means this team will still be on top for a while.
3. Silicon Valley Skrewts (8-0) The Skrewts are undefeated and ranked #1 by USQ, but three snitch-range matches against San Jose and a slow start against Stanford causes some questions
4. UCLA (0-0) The Bruins will be hurt in the long run if they don’t schedule some games to build chemistry.
5. Utah Crimson Elite (5-3) Fun fact: Utah is 2-0 against other West Region teams.
6. Northern Arizona University (5-3) Impressively finished runner up at Crimson Cup, but the Narwhals are 0-3 against other Western Region teams.
7. Arizona Quidditch Club (0-0)
8. Arizona State University (0-0)
9. San Jose State University (5-4) The Spartans have become a legitimately good physical team this season. All four losses have come at the hands of the Skrewts.
10. Santa Barbara Blacktips (0-0)

No comments:

Post a Comment