Sunday, January 18, 2015

80 in 80: NYU Nundu

As part of our efforts to preview all 80 teams competing in USQ World Cup 8, the Quidditch Post is chatting with representatives from each team. Today we spoke with New York University Nundu (NYU) Captain Kyle Jeon.

Photo by Leslie Hargett

Quidditch Post: NYU was eliminated in the play-in round last year, but this year you've proven to be one of the top teams in the Northeast, advancing to the regional championship game. What are your expectations for World Cup 8?
Kyle: Honestly, we have a year-by-year approach. As long as we do a little better than last year, we're going to be happy. So this year, I'd like it if NYU made it through to the Sweet 16. Anything beyond that will be icing on the cake.

QP: You wrote something for us earlier in the year about your team's fall season, but what would you say is the biggest reason for NYU's success so far this season?
Kyle: I would probably say internal development. Our core group are sophomores this year, and last year we simply didn't have enough veteran presence due to a large graduating class to make a seamless transition, so our freshman (last year) core group was lost and inexperienced. This year, they've really come together, and all if our break-out players from this year (Austin Sweeney, Dylan Meehan, Stanford Zhou, Kyle Carey) are sophomores.

QP: You mentioned a few break-out players. Can you talk about what each of them brings to the table?
Kyle: I don't think Austin needs to be explained; he's just one of the most naturally talented seekers I've personally seen. Kyle Carey is the physical, drive-oriented chaser that we lacked, given that Zack Gindes is a shooter and David Tian is a technical, all-around player. Once Kyle gets going, I doubt any amount of defenders could stop him. Dylan and Stan are the two male beaters, and I think the only reason we could keep up with Q.C. Boston: The Massacre and Tufts University, and the only reason we can use the two-male beater system (which we really utilized to great strength) is because they've developed to the point that they have. Dylan's a smart, field-aware player in the same vein as Mike Sanders, and Stan's more of a wild playmaker in the same vein as Max Havlin. I think they could definitely get to the elite level beater by next year, if not definitely by their senior year. Molly Potter is our star female chaser; she has a soccer background, and she just picked up the game faster than anyone I've seen. She's small, but she's really sneaky and has great hands; she never really drops a pass, and she can shed defenders and make plays behind the hoop by herself, which really opens up our offense. And then Leslie Hargett is our best female beater. I think she doesn't get enough recognition because our male beating line is so strong, but she's sort of the unsung hero of our team. She's developing into a good chaser too, so she'll be really useful for us because she can convert to chaser if we do two male beaters. I think sooner rather than later she'll be good enough for us to put her up against a two-male beater set so we can add another male chaser into the line.

QP: One star player you didn't talk about is yourself. You've been heralded as one of the top coaches in the Northeast, and I seem to recall around the regional championship people talking about you being the next coach of Team USA. I know you're humble, but it only seems fair if we're talking about what makes NYU click to talk about you and what you bring both on and off the pitch.
Kyle: I do hate talking about myself, but I guess I can speak as honestly as I can.

QP: I know it's a tough question to answer, but how would you describe your personal style of play?
Kyle: I would say I play to control the pitch. On defense, I try to use positioning as my main weapon, to try to force the quaffle into a situation where a beat can cause a turnover, and when I see that chance, I take that risk. I think beaters use the bludger either too conservatively or too freely, and they don't think enough about what the mere presence of the bludger can do to change the dynamic of the opposing offense. It's similar on offense; if I can create space and favorable positioning for my chasers with my presence alone, then I'll hold on to the ball. If I see that I can throw with minimal risk of losing control, I'll throw. On offense it's easy to get caught up looking flashy and cool trying to beat opposing teams five feet from their own hoops, but it's just impractical. As far as technical skills go, I would say the thing that I do best is probably catch the ball, and that lets me be a little riskier than an average beater. I think that's probably one of the reasons why I tell Dylan and Stan to emulate other beaters as opposed to me because they don't really have the catching ability that I do, which I take into consideration when I choose to play the way I play.

QP: Do you have have any sort of goals for World Cup?
Kyle: My personal goal is to make the Elite Eight. I think that would be a really huge accomplishment given our unfamiliarity with World Cup success. I think if the bracket breaks right, then maybe we could potentially have an Emerson-esque run to the semis, but I don't anticipate or expect that to happen. Honestly, as long as we make the Sweet 16 and bring back a spot for the Northeast next year, I'll be happy.

QP: What will it take for NYU to make a deep run at World Cup?
Kyle: Well, conditioning for sure. We need to get in better shape as a team if we want to match up with the physicality of the Southwest teams. But also, I would say having a defined playing style. In the fall semester, I took NYU to six tournaments, and we ended up being the team with the most games played in the entire country. I planned it that way on purpose because I think drills and plays are rather pointless to teach to people who don't even have a feel for the game. In addition to that, going to tournaments and playing a lot lets you become more adaptable as players because you face different styles. NYU was sort of known as a team that can adapt to any style, and I definitely plan on carrying that over. We can make in-game adjustments, but having a defined style will help a lot. Lastly, I think improving our middle- and lower-tier players will be the final piece of the puzzle. I'd pit our starting line against any team in the world with 100 percent confidence, but our depth isn't quite there for a championship contender. I plan to focus our training,practice, and even games around our second and third stringers so that they can contribute meaningfully in a do-or-die game in the bracket play of World Cup.

QP: You mentioned the Southwest, so is there any team in particular that you would like to face, be it Southwest or otherwise?
Kyle: I would absolutely love to play Lone Star Quidditch Club because I think that this iteration of Lone Star is probably the most talented quidditch team put together ever, and I would love to experience the height that quidditch can go. I would also love to play Baylor University because I'd love to try to coach against the zone to try to break it. Lastly, I'd love to play against Texas State University because I'm sort of a secret Ryan Peavler fan after World Cup last year, and I'd love to play against him.

QP: Earlier, you mentioned conditioning and a lot of game play. What are your spring plans prior to World Cup? You obviously have to deal with the Northeast's weather, which is a major obstacle.
Kyle: Honestly, the amount of practice time we have isn't enough to make a significant impact in terms of overall fitness on a personal level, so I can only encourage and help people get into healthier routines and workout myself. The thing I'm going to focus on during practice is mechanics, such as proper tackling, quicker lateral movements, catching the ball while running and facing backwards, things that will allow a player to become better through repetition and muscle memory as opposed to pure physical ability. I'd like to sort of derail whatever hypetrain there is for me being coach of Team USA. I can say with 100 percent certainty I would not take that job. There are people like Mitch Cavender who know how to train and coach high-profile players, whereas I don't think I have the personality to do that, and I really enjoy coaching as a strategic venture where my coaching really makes a difference in terms of the outcome of the game. I think Team USA is far too talented for any amount of coaching, from our side or the opposing side, to make a difference in the outcome. I don't think that talent gap will close between the US and the rest of the world before I leave the quidditch community.

QP: Is there anything else you think our readers should know about NYU?
Kyle: I guess that we're just really happy that this year has gone so well for us, and we hope we continue to show that programs aren't stuck where they are. Teams really can improve if they work hard at it. And also that we know how fickle success can be in quidditch, with random variations in recruitment success and drop-outs by non-graduates, so we're just going to enjoy the ride as long as it lasts.

QP: Thanks for your time, Kyle; we appreciate it.

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