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 Nik Jablonski, Keevy Narcisse Jr., and Etefia Umana, coaches and captains of Loyola University New Orleans.Photo by Alex Pucciarelli
Quidditch Post: Loyola qualified for its first ever Division I World Cup berth. What does that mean for you and the team?
Nik: It's absolutely huge. Words cannot express how excited I am that all the work the team has put in this year has paid off. I am so proud of all 23 members of the team (we have two injured players) and their sacrifices they made to get to this point.
Keevy: Our seniors’ hard work has finally bore the fruit they waited four years for. This appearance will be the first, but not the last, for Loyola quidditch.
Etefia: It means a lot to those who remember the days when we would get our ass whipped by Louisiana State University in our school's quad...by 250. It also shows how hard the team had worked this season.
QP: A few of those members have really made a name for themselves both on and off the pitch. Can you talk about a few of the team's key players?
Nik: The people who have taken our team to the next level this year have been our freshman class: Drew Brekus, Oliver Blackstone, Mari Nerbovig, Caroline Kendrick, Alex Pucciarelli, and Margaret Ledet. Their willingness to work and learn from the all-stars everyone knows, like Etefia Umana, Tad Walters, and Christopher Junior, has changed the way Loyola has played entirely, and this team would not have qualified without them. Also, shoutout to Eric Jurgeson for having a hell of a weekend at seeker.
[Editor’s Note: Nik initially listed his entire roster here but we made him cut it down.]
Keevy: Our beaters are probably one of the most underrated beater groups in the country. And yes, we have more beaters than just Tad Walters.
Etefia: Well, if you listen to The Eighth Man, the only members on our team are Christopher, Tad, and me. So I guess those three? Our female chasers—Mari Nerbovig, C.G, Emily Szklarski, and Caitlin—have done a lot of the dirty work on both sides of the ball: setting screens, playing hard defense to prevent second and third chances. Francis DePano, a male chaser, is also in that category.
Keevy: Also, our seeker Eric Jurgeson has pulled some clutch snitch catches for us.
QP: Can you elaborate on a few of the players and what they bring to the pitch? Etefia, Tad, and C.J. are unquestionably the program’s biggest names.
Nik: Mari and Caroline have brought a depth to our female chaser lineup that was never there before, while Drew and Oliver have become incredible support players. Alex has allowed us to play with depth at female beater and has picked up the game incredibly quickly.
QP: What are your goals for World Cup?
Nik: I would say our goal is to make the Day Two bracket, but with the new Swiss Style that's going to be harder than ever. However, if we keep improving as we go, I think it's very possible.
Keevy: Our goals are to take out the team put in front of us, and hopefully one of those teams is Oklahoma Baptist University (OBU) and Chandler Smith.
Etefia: Our goal for World Cup is to win as much as we can, which I think is a bracket play win...or two.
QP: Outside of fewer teams making the bracket, do you think Swiss Style will have any impact?
Nik: Absolutely. It means more good games against better teams. You will play teams that you would normally only see on Day Two (if at all) on Day One (or in the first part of the tournament since Swiss Style runs into Day Two).
Keevy: I think it will make later games more interesting for both upper-tier and lower-tier teams.
Etefia: It makes preparation a bit more difficult. With pools, we could study teams closer and have more specific game plans. Now, our preparation is much more general. We have to be the best iteration of ourselves instead of trying to find a team's weakness in film.
QP: Are there any particular teams you hope to face?
Nik: Christopher and I have lots of friends in the Northeast, so I'd love to play Emerson College Quidditch, Q.C. Boston: The Massacre, and/or the Tufts University Tufflepuffs, but anyone outside the Southwest would be awesome. We really just want to see other regions and their playing style.
Etefia: If possible, we would really love to play OBU. There’s been so much talk from Chandler, and we would really like him to back it up. Besides that team, we would like to face every other regional champion. Between the experience we would gain from seeing different play styles and playing really good teams, I think it would be great for us.
Keevy: OBU. Anyone can say a team is overrated; another thing is to prove it.
QP: Can you talk a bit about the rivalry between your team and OBU?
Etefia: It's just one of those things where gum flapping got a little reckless online, and I'm not one to simply back down. Neither is the rest of my team. They beat us last year, and somehow they think that this year would be the same result. We think differently, which is why we really would have liked to play them at the regional championship.
Keevy: We have improved by leaps and bounds from last season, and what better way to prove this than by showing the non-believers firsthand?
QP: How would you describe Loyola's playing style?
Nik: We try to play with a lot of ball movement and a physical defense (but I guess that's what all teams say).
Etefia: We try to play as smart as we do hard.
Keevy: Intelligently attacking a team's perceived weaknesses.
QP: What will the team need to do to make bracket play?
Nik: Honestly, play our game, move the ball, and just relax. We're at World Cup to have fun, and if we just play our game and do everything we practice, I'm very confident a bracket play appearance is possible
Etefia: Play our best. That means making a lot of effort plays, taking scoring chances when they present themselves, and committing on the defensive end.
QP: Is there anything else you'd like to add about the team?
Nik: I'm damn proud of everyone on the team and all the hard work they've put in to step it up to a new level that this program hasn't seen before. We know we can be a top 20 program, and we plan to prove that at World Cup.
QP: Thanks for your time; we appreciate it.Nik: No problem!