Monday, April 6, 2015

80 in 80: UTSA

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
Azeem Hussain, coach and captain of University of Texas at San Antonio Club Quidditch (UTSA).

QP: Last year was an interesting season for UTSA with multiple players departing mid-year for Lone Star Quidditch Club. Consequently, UTSA was unable to attend World Cup. What impact did that experience have on this year's team?
Azeem: When it initially happened, it sucked. Team morale was at an all-time low and it was really hard to remain positive sometimes, but we were able to qualify with only 12 people. That's when we learned how much everyone who stayed cared for each other and the team. Despite losing talented, experienced players, we were able to put together a new crew and teach them, and now we're back again. I think the biggest impact we had was this added confidence in all the returning members. There's no doubt in anyones mind that our executive board works hard every day, and that instills confidence in our newer players to try even harder on the pitch.

QP: Are there any players that are key to the team's success?
Azeem: Absolutely. Captains Luke Langlinais and Taylor Tracy do an incredible job keeping everyone hyped both on and off the pitch. Their ability to execute our offense is what brings us great success. Along with keepers Cullen Friday and Austin Villejo, female chasers Sarah Martini and Brook Willett, and male chasers Isaac Jefferson, Joshua Andrews, and Edgar Ibarra, our offense runs incredibly well. Along with them, every single one of our beaters, Ruben Polanco (also our beater captain), Jonathan "Jo-Nathan Jonas" Garcia, John Hart, Alyssa Ahlers, Ashley Cuevas, and Shelby Rose have stepped it up to a whole new level this year. There are of course countless other individuals on the team who each bring their own strengths to the table, and I feel like that's why we're finding so much success. We're able to bounce ideas and plays off of each other, and each individual is able to add their own spin to our success.

QP: UTSA has managed to reach really the top of the mid-level in the Southwest without many of your players getting wider recognition in the community. Why do you think that is?
Azeem: I think the biggest thing is the fact that we try to keep our play as selfless as possible. Of course we have plenty of key players on the team who love making plays, but even they understand that the best way to get a win is playing good old fashion team quidditch. We try to keep everyone involved, and every single player brings something unique to the table. As a young team we're still trying to figure out our own identity, but I wouldn't be surprised over the next year or two if we got even more recognition as a team and even our individual players.

QP: Would you say that UTSA has a particular style of play?
Azeem: I would say that, like many teams here in the Southwest, we've adapted into a hard hitting, fast breaking, super good-looking, aggressive team. Despite our lack in experience, we're one of those teams that adapts well to other playstyles. We leave everything on the pitch every game and we've gotten used to being the underdogs. Upsets are our favorite kind of victories.

QP: Do you have any goals for World Cup?
Azeem: A couple. Our first, which we share with every team going, is getting first place. I think most importantly, though, is making sure we play every game as a team without any mistakes. No matter what the scoreboard says, at the end of the day every single player is on the same page with each other, and we've worked together as a team. As a family. That's the most important goal to me. And last but not least, be able to eat my body weight in ice cream Sunday night.

QP: What do you hope your team takes away from the experience and, with that, what do you hope to take away?
Azeem: The big thing I want my team to take away from this is the ability and the confidence to play at our best every game. I know we have the potential to be able to beat any team when we're playing at our best; the problem is staying at our best the entire tournament. I have no doubt of our skill and athleticism, and the experience from World Cup will be incredible for the team.

As for myself, this is my first year coaching and only the second tournament where I've stepped back from playing and focused solely on coaching, so I'm hoping to look at the game from a different scope and gain experience from a coach's perspective. I also hope to maintain and strengthen my bond with my players, and make sure I do everything in my power to make my players lives easier on and off the pitch.

QP: Are there any teams you hope to play?
Azeem: The University of Texas at Austin for sure. We've played Texas in previous seasons, and only once this season, and it's always an amazing game. We always come out learning more and they're always great sports. They respect us, we respect them, and both teams play with everything they have. It's a great experience to play against them. And it'll be great to experience teams from other regions (Los Angeles Gambits, the Lost Boys, Maryland Quidditch, Blue Mountain Quidditch Club, etc.). Lastly, we have a mini rivalry with Sam Houston State University Quidditch so it'll be great if we get to play and beat Sam Houston at World Cup as well. Ryan “Stretch” Carr makes a great pouting face after a loss to us and it just brightens my day.

QP: Thanks Azeem, we appreciate your time.
Azeem: Thanks for the opportunity!

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