Tuesday, January 27, 2015

80 in 80: VCU

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 Wizengamot Quidditch of VCU Coach Scott Behler.

Photo by Hannah Huddle

Quidditch Post: Two years ago, the team reached bracket play at World Cup VI; last year, the team failed to qualify for World Cup VII; this year, the team is back in the World Cup. How does it feel to be back after the one-year hiatus?
Scott: Obviously, it's a great accomplishment for the team, especially with rapid rise of newer teams such as Appalachian Apparators Quidditch, George Mason University, Capital Madness, and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. You could certainly see what it meant this year when we punched our ticket after powering through the consolation bracket. On an individual level, this year's qualification meant a lot to me because I stepped back from my coaching responsibilities last year for personal reasons, so to come back into the role and get the team back on track was a great moment for me.

QP: Last year, you were also dealing with the absence of Darren Creary, who undoubtedly established himself as a star at World Cup VI. What has it meant to have him back?
Scott: The analyst's main talking point of our team last year was "the loss of Darren Creary," to which the team responded with a #WeFoundDarren Twitter campaign to make light of the situation. All jokes aside, there's no denying that we play better when Darren is available and on the team; anyone who would claim otherwise isn't paying attention. As a coach, it'd be impossible to say that having Darren back from injury hasn't been very important. That being said, we've really tried to stress a more team-oriented approach. There are a number of exciting new prospects coming through the ranks very quickly, and while having Darren back is great, it's important to remember that college teams tend to ebb and flow a lot as most players only play for four years.

QP: Who are some of those less heralded players, and what do they bring to the team?
Scott: Quite honestly, I could pick any player on the team and give you a reason why teams underestimate them and how they contribute, but three players really stand out to me.

Chaser Dan Newton is probably the player that first springs to mind. Until this year, he's played the part of snitch runner and excelled in that role. However, this year, as many snitches tend to do, he decided that he wanted to be more a part of the team. He's been a defensive stalwart for us; however, he picked up an injury the week before the regional championship. Had he not been injured, we probably would have beat Penn State University Nittany Lions to punch our bid rather than having to go through the secondary bracket.

On the beating front, Seth Poplawski has quietly been one of the most effective and physical beaters I've ever had the pleasure of working with. VCU has always had some really strong players in the beating department; Seth is no exception. He and Dan were both promoted to captain because of their unwillingness to accept mediocrity in their own game and their great work ethics.

Finally, it'd be a crime not to mention chaser Lisa Revette. Outside of the few teams that we face on a regular basis, I don't think many teams know about her. Regardless, she is an absolute workhorse and is the type of player I love to work with. She's one of those players that leaves you scratching your head after some plays asking, "How'd she manage to pull that off?"

QP: Do you have any particular goals for World Cup?
Scott: Win at least one bracket play game. The years that we've made it to World Cup after qualifying via the regional championship, we've always managed to get out of pool play, but I want to prove that we can do more than that. Despite the change to the Swiss style format, I think this is a very viable goal for us.

QP: What will you all need to do to achieve that goal?
Scott: Our first step is to split the team in half; we have over 50 dues-paying members, and while not all play, there's certainly enough there to be sending two rosters to tournaments. Next, we have plans to send the players who were getting game time at higher-level tournaments, such as the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship and Turtle Cup, to tournaments with similar caliber competition. Rather than attending tournaments because they're closer, we'll be sending the other players who are either young or inexperienced to tournaments hosted either by unofficial teams or teams still in their beginning stages. The goal there is to make sure that in either location, the players who have made this roster are all getting consistent, lengthy minutes on the pitch, rather than bringing a full 21-person squad that will lead to unused substitutes. After all, playing the same teams week in and week out doesn't teach adaption; it just teaches how to play against those teams in particular.

QP: It sounds like you're completely focusing in the spring on being prepared for World Cup. Is there a team you particularly want to face?
Scott: There's really no team that you actively hope to play anymore. Before the regional championships were required to qualify, one could hope to be in the same pool as a team that was just starting off, but now every team that makes an appearance at World Cup has earned its spot. It might be fun to play Tufts University Tufflepuffs again solely for the fact that (if I'm not mistaken) Ethan Sturm has been forced to play against us every year either as a member of Tom's River or Tufts since WC IV.

QP: What do you want the people reading this article to take away about VCU heading into World Cup 8?
Scott: I'm not going to begin to suggest that we'll be the last team standing; we're a solid team, but we're still a team that has a lot of improvement to make before we can really begin to make strides towards becoming an elite team. We know where we stand in regards to what our limits are as far as who we can and can't beat. That being said, we've been seen as a party ruiner by a number of teams in the past, and I don't see why that can't be true again this year.

QP: Thanks, Scott; we appreciate your time
Scott: My pleasure.

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