Thursday, February 5, 2015

UNC Makes it Rain at Old Money Classic II

By Steven Schwark

The real story of Old Money Classic II was the weather. Heavy rain starting the day before and continuing throughout the morning hours of the tournament, created muddy field conditions. Some even made the argument to rename the event the “Old Muddy Classic.” Coupled with the mud, were the steady 15-20 mile per hour winds, which caused a significant decrease in the amount of long passes or shots attempted throughout the day. Due to the lack of traction on the mud, lateral cuts and stops became very limited and the game became more of a north-south physical style of play. For some teams this was beneficial, yet for others it was an adjustment they were unable to make.

Champion: The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) 
Record: 5-0

UNC came down to Charleston, South Carolina as the reigning champions and once again took home the trophy. Although the conditions did not necessarily favor UNC’s speed and finesse style of play, it was still the best team at this tournament, clearly showing why it is second in the Mid-Atlantic on our coach’s poll, seventh in the country on the USQ rankings, and 15th on the January the Eighth Man media rankings. UNC has one of the most dynamic offenses in the southeast, its speedy chasers and nearly impeccable passing caused many mismatches for defending teams. It utilized Its beaters on offense to create open lanes for its ball carrier down the middle of the field, which alone would usually result in a goal. However, even if defenders were able to wrap up the likes of Max Miceli, Chris Champitto or Andrew McGregor, it often left starting female chaser, Emma Troxler, wide open by one of the side hoops. While the mud slowed UNC down, it always found a way to pull out of snitch range before the seeker floor expired. UNC won all five of its games out of snitch range. Therefore, while it only caught one snitch, it did not have any SWIM situations at the tournament. UNC has the depth and ability at the seeker position if needed, but it appeared as if it was not focused as much on that aspect of the game. The conditions definitely skewed some of the snitch statistics as it was hard for snitches to put up a decent fight when standing in a mud pit.

Additionally, UNC has improved its defense since last fall. While still not an overly physical team, it has started using set defensive plays to bring opposing teams’ offenses to a standstill. With excellent spacing on man-to-man coverage and aggressive beating by Kyle Bullins and Courtney Reynolds, quaffle possession time was usually very limited for UNC’s opponents. The opposing ball carrier was often forced into making reckless passes or attempting to score long shots on keeper McGregor (an almost impossible feat even in good weather). Even with limited competition for UNC in the Carolinas, it seemingly continues to improve every aspect of its game and will definitely be a fun team to watch at the USQ World Cup in April.

Runner-Up: Appalachian Apparators Quidditch (AAQ)
Record: 3-2

Another World Cup qualifying team from the Mid-Atlantic region, AAQ was the team that had the best chance of challenging UNC for the trophy. In fact, as many predicted, the two teams met in the finals. After UNC put up an early lead, AAQ fought back to get to within 40 points. However, they were unable to close the differential to 30 to attempt to force overtime. Eventually UNC was up 160-70 and AAQ decided to suicide catch to end the day with a respectable 160-100* loss to UNC in the finals. AAQ’s only other loss on the day was against UNC again in a crossover pool play game, another suicide snitch pull resulting in a score of 140-90*. Its two pool play wins came against the Southern Storm (90*-10) and University of South Carolina (USC) (100*-20). After getting a bye as the number two seed, it won 190*-50 against USC in the semifinals. There were several standout players for AAQ at this tournament. Starting keeper, Trey Pressley, provided solid defensive play and excellent ball distribution on offense for the Apparators.

Ancrum Ballenger Jr. is one of the more underrated seekers on the East Coast. He has the ability to make catches within seconds of the seeker floor expiring. His physicality at defending also makes it very hard for opposing seekers to even get near the snitch. This can be proven by looking at the time of the finals game, 31:09. UNC was hardly able to get to the snitch, Tanner Morris, and even when it was, Morris was experienced enough to fend UNC off until Ballenger or an AAQ beater was back in the play. Ballenger is the reason that AAQ went five-for-five on snitch catches at the tournament. Lastly, with the addition of some larger freshman male chasers and keepers, AAQ will also be an interesting team to follow at World Cup in April.

Semifinalists: University of South Carolina
Record: 2-3

USC had one of the smaller rosters at the tournament, bringing only 13 players. However, it got off to a good start by beating the Southern Storm 100*-40. While it lost its other two pool play games to AAQ and Florida State University (FSU), it managed to keep games fairly close and was able to get the number three seed in bracket play based on point differential. With impressive two-way play from female keeper, Kaley Crunk, USC is capable of playing its two male beaters, Joe Goldberg and Kyle Demo, simultaneously to help slow down the pace on defense. When the two had bludger control, USC was effective at staying in games. USC did this well in its play-in game against FSU, which it won 120-70*. However, the lack of subs became noticeable in its semifinal matchup against AAQ. USC was able to keep it close for the early stage of the game, but after Goldberg and Demo subbed out, AAQ used its full 21 person roster to its advantage and quickly ran up the score. Overall, USC is a defensive minded team that lacks an offensive leader, someone who can make the plays when the team needs to get back in a game. While it has players who have the potential of fulfilling this role, its more immediate focus should be on ensuring that it brings a full roster to the South Regional Championship so it can keep up with the depth of the Florida teams.

The Southern Storm
Record: 2-3

A community team consisting of players mostly from Coastal Carolina University, Winthrop University and the Cullowhee Chimeras, the Southern Storm put up a solid fight at the tournament. Both of its wins came against the host team, College of Charleston Quidditch, a team it is fairly familiar with after losing to it two times the previous weekend at the Tornado Tournament in Charlotte, North Carolina. This weekend the Southern Storm beat the College of Charleston 70*-30 in pool play as well as 90*-40 in the play-in round, going two for two in SWIM situations on the day. Although this is a young team, it is made up of experienced players who all know each other fairly well. Playing established teams like AAQ and UNC (whom it lost to in the semifinals 120-60*) will only help this team grow even more. There is some very apparent chemistry within this team which will allow it to learn and adapt fast, as was seen in the weather conditions this weekend.

Play-In Round: College of Charleston
Record: 1-3

It was a relatively disappointing showing for the College of Charleston at its own tournament, especially after making it to the finals against UNC the year before at Old Money Classic I. It won its first game of the day against FSU 120*-70 but after that, everything went downhill. It seems that as the field conditions got sloppier, so did the College of Charleston’s play. After a suicide catch against UNC for a 140-80* loss (its third loss to UNC in a span of seven days – it played UNC twice at the Tornado Tournament the previous weekend), it dropped two close games to Southern Storm to end the day. CofC has a lot to improve on before the South Regional Championship if it hopes to avoid a repeat of its heartbreaking regional championship performance last year. Physically, College of Charleston is capable of being one of the best teams in the South. The problem lies in its lack of mental preparation and strategy. It look panicked on the field and too frequently got complacent with allowing opposing teams to set the pace of play. If it can learn to balance its individual athleticism with teamwork and communication, it has a chance at stealing a World Cup bid.

Florida State University
Record: 1-3

FSU decided to make the trip up from Florida to get more experience for its re-emerging team. It also got a view of the three South Carolina teams that will be attending the regional championship in Florida at the end of February. It is the only Florida team to play against a South Carolina team this season, which will give it a slight advantage should the teams meet again in a month. FSU started off the day with only 12 players on its roster and lost another to injury in its first game of the day, a 160*-40 loss to UNC. Following a close loss to College of Charleston, FSU had two rounds to regroup before its next game. Its only win on the day came against USC in the last round of pool play where its 11 players fought back and earned an 80*-70 comeback against the Gamecocks. However, USC learned from the game and later beat FSU in the play-in round to end FSU’s run. FSU appeared to be a very athletic team, with some impressive individual players as well. Like USC’s situation, if FSU can bring a full roster of players to the regional championship, it definitely has a shot at earning a World Cup bid.

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