Tuesday, April 7, 2015

80 in 80: Rochester

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 Lisle Coleman and Devin Sandon, coach and assistant captain, respectively, of the University of Rochester Thestrals.
Photo by Harry Clarke
Quidditch Post: Rochester has to deal with some of the worst weather of any team competing at World Cup. How will that impact your team as you prepare to compete in Rock Hill, South Carolina?
Lisle: Unfortunately, yes, Rochester is incredibly cold, windy, and snowy. Usually, our team practices inside for approximately half our practices. However, this semester we were unable to get any field space inside; that means all of our practices are outside. This has a couple of different impacts. First, playing in the snow is a whole different game. It's slower, passing is sloppier, and your endurance is lower. Readjustment back to a faster-paced game in April will definitely be difficult. Secondly, because of the cold we are almost guaranteed to have a lower turnout. Since we’re already a small program, this is a huge problem for us. The only plus side to the snow is that we have extra padding to try to bring Rochester's tackling game up to par. So yes, the cold has some major impacts on our game. In order to encourage attendance and keep players moving, I've attempted to have Rochester attend as many tournaments as we can. Obviously, official games are faster paced, and these games will hopefully keep us fresh and ready for World Cup!

QP: Would you say your team has any particular goals for World Cup?
Lisle: Rochester has always been a team that is hovering on the edge of being top tier. We're certainly a team that you can't count out, but we've never achieved greatness. My goal for Rochester is to continue to build a solid program that will push us higher and further. This year, we have a young team. I want to build a base, not just a team that will do well for one year.

QP: Who would you say are some of the key players for Rochester?
Devin: This is honestly a really hard question for me because we have a very strong and deep roster. I'm tempted to give a shoutout to everyone, but I'll try to pare it down. On our beater line, I think that Jack Venuti has been fairly underrated. He's an incredibly talented player who does a great job of anchoring our beater line. Similarly, Lisle Coleman has done a great job, and Anna Parker has had some absolutely fantastic games. Similarly, our veterans in the chaser corps like Garrett Gowan, Dominick Schumacher, and Mat Quirong were huge for us in the fall. The real difference makers for us, though, have been our freshmen: players like Basem Ashkar, Perry Wang, Steven Belitzky, and Sam Dinga. Honestly, all of our freshmen have been absolutely fantastic this season, and their growth and development is what pushed us from being a team carrying a 2-7 record a month before the regional championship to losing in overtime to the Tufts University Tufflepuffs in the quarterfinals.

QP: You recently added six players from the RIT Dark Marks. What impact will they have?
Devin: The former RIT players have been a huge boon for our team. What with the snow, cold, and injuries, we were struggling to get good turnout for practices over the winter, and often had practices where we didn't even have 10 people. Regardless of their talents, just having five driven players who were showing up to most practices with the intent of proving that they deserved a roster spot for World Cup did wonders in allowing us to have more meaningful practices. Additionally, our other players, sensing new competition for their slots and wanting the opportunity to see and play with their new teammates, began to come more often.

Beyond this, the new players were invaluable for a number of reasons, first, the new players were all very strong players mechanically, which helps a lot, but perhaps more importantly, they gave a new perspective on what we were doing well and poorly, and how we could move forward. In general the new players all had very strong communication skills, and talked far more on the pitch, which has caused a bit of a cascading effect amongst our players and improved everyone's communication.

QP: You're obviously the most well-known player on Rochester. Can you talk a bit about what you bring to the team?
Devin: Well, I'd like to think I bring a bit of experience and stability in my fifth season. On the pitch I'm fairly quick, I have a decent mid-range shot, and I'm not shy to hit. Probably the most valuable thing I bring to the team is being a distraction though. Other teams just seem to assume that our offense is way more one dimensional than it is, and if I can keep the focus off my teammates and get defenses to overreact to me, my teammates can take advantage of the error.

QP: What are your goals for World Cup?
Devin: The fall was a bit of a rebuilding period for us, and we've had our share of setbacks over the winter. That said, I feel good about this team. For the last two years we've made the bracket, but we've never won a bracket game. This year, it'll be even harder to make bracket play and that much harder again to get that first elusive bracket win. It'll take a lot of work for us to get there; we'll need to step up our game and work our asses off, but we can do it. I want that bracket win.

QP: Do you think the Swiss Style will have any impact?
Devin: I'm honestly not sure. We've always been bad about putting away teams we should beat cleanly while staying with teams we would be expected to lose to. We too frequently played to our opponent's level in the past. That said, this year we've been better; we've still stuck with top teams while cleanly beating lesser teams out of range, which bodes well for us. Additionally, I think we are a deep team. We are used to playing a lot of closely-contested games, and we have the depth to avoid stumbling in the later stages, so I think Swiss will probably be good for us, although its too early to really say.

QP: Would you say Rochester has a distinct style of play?
Devin: We've always been characterized as a fast-paced offense that loves to use beaters aggressively to create fast break opportunities. In the past, we've had a one-pass offense at best. This year, however, we've developed our newer chasers to have a heavy pass-first mentality. Its gotten to the point where players will get the ball by the hoops in a position to score, and instead of driving it in the last 10 feet, they'll look for the next pass to set someone up for a dunk. This year, we are trying to play a much more controlled game with our beaters dictating the pace and our chasers being more comfortable moving the ball around and being patient on offense rather than forcing plays.

QP: Thanks; we really appreciate it.
Devin: It was my pleasure.

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