Thursday, February 19, 2015

80 in 80: Harvard

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 Ernest Afflu and Zac Bathen, the captains of the Harvard Horntails.
Photo by Cassie Lowell
Quidditch Post: Last year you guys had one of the more up-and-down World Cups; you upset Maryland Quidditch, a team that lost by a snitch catch to eventual champions University of Texas at Austin in the Round of 16, but failed to make bracket play. How has last year's World Cup impacted this year's squad?
Ernest: World Cup did have its ups and downs for us. It showed the team how well we could play together. Even though we didn’t make bracket play, knowing that there had been a possibility to advance further was motivational. It was also most of the team’s first World Cup, so getting to play and watch such competitive games was a valuable experience. Last year made us all the more determined to return this year.
Zac: I agree completely with everything Ernest said. While we did not qualify for bracket play last year, we were impressed with the way we played and took our experience as both players and spectators in a very positive light. World Cup VII was, without a doubt, a time of growth for the Harvard Horntails.

QP: What are your goals for this time around?
Ernest: I want us to play our best in each game, use each game to improve our performance, and to go as far as possible. The Swiss format is new to me, but as I understand that this format should lead to a greater amount of competitive games. My hope is that World Cup will show how far we have come as a team since last April while still highlighting what we should continue to improve upon for upcoming seasons. I would also like the team to have a great time at World Cup, but I don’t think we’ll have any trouble with that.
Zac: We want to improve. Strategically, athletically, and in team dynamics. We will be coming into this World Cup expecting to both see and play quidditch at a higher level than in the Horntails’ history, and the biggest thing we want to take away is team growth.

QP: How is the team preparing for both World Cup and playing high level quidditch?
Ernest: For now we plan on having more practices each week and more practices before April. Last year before World Cup the weather prevented us from holding consistent practices for most of February and March, but this year we intend to get things going as soon as everyone returns from break. This will give us more time to address issues that we need to work on from last year, such as positioning on offense and staying organized on defense.

QP: Are there any players who you think will be key to the team's success?
Zac: Anyone that has played us knows that Jon Jackson is a force to be reckoned with. However in the coming months one of our focuses will be to utilize his quidditch prowess to bring out the strengths of other players, especially the extremely talented female chasers.

QP: Can you talk a bit about Jon and what he does on the pitch and also talk about a few of the players you hope will be key?
Zac: Jon excels at driving with the quaffle, and his foray into keeping during the first half of the season (though originally out of necessity because of injuries) proved very successful. His ability to beat defenders directly and get to the hoops is valuable,  but when the rest of the offense is strong he is also a great distributer. With return of Carli Haggerty this semester, we really think the chaser line will work better than ever to balance isolation with reverse passing and attacks from the back of the hoops.

QP: Are there any players you hope will emerge this spring?
Zac: Obviously we would love to see everyone improve and step up, but we are excited to see what a little more experience does with our new beaters. Freshman beater Savannah Whaley's tenacity is an important resource, and with a few more months' experience we can see her emerging as a powerful force on both ends of the pitch. In addition, sophomore Monica Marion has proven herself a strong passing option on offense, and we anticipate an even stronger showing in South Carolina.

QP: Would you say that the team has any particular style of play?
Zac: In general I think we play a little slower and a little more deliberately than some other teams, due in part to the very limited bench that the team has seen in years past. Otherwise, and even then, we really try to make an effort to mix up the way we play, subbing early and often in most cases.

QP: Are there particular teams you want to play?
Zac: As a bit of a grudge, I would like to face Arizona State University (ASU) again. Last year ASU kept us out of bracket play by beating us by 10 points on a simultaneous goal and snitch grab. We would love to play the team again and see how it turns out. Other than that, I’m really just interested in going up against teams that we haven't played. We were disappointed that we played so many other Massachusetts Quidditch Conference teams at the Northeast Regional Championship and would like to see some diversity of play.

QP: Is there anything else you think our readers should know about Harvard?
Zac: Just that we are ready to surprise people. We are not the team we were last year, and we are not even the team we were last semester. The Horntails right now are not a team to be crossed off anyone's list.

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