Friday, June 19, 2015

The Gladiators and Lions of West Fantasy

By Chris Lock, Kaylee Buchholtz, and George Williams

A preview of the front runners at the 2015 West Fantasy Tournament and the pretenders they’ll devour limb-by-limb.

Like an athlete’s life peaking in high school, this upcoming June weekend will feature the marquee quidditch event of the summer when Culver City, California hosts the 2015 West Fantasy Quidditch Tournament. Tournament Directors Evan Bell and Courtney Savage were creative when they structured the tournament by constructing a dual-draft style that functioned as an auction until galleons were exhausted and completed as a snake draft. This encouraged high spending on the major reputations in the draft pool, though many of the returning players were bought proportionally for the same amount as last year’s draft. So Bell’s setup ultimately may have been an exercise in economic inflation.

Without further ado, here is the highly anticipated preview of the 12 competing teams: a preview that will be five percent insightful coverage, 45 percent baffling projections, and 50 percent preemptive praise that will encourage players to rest on their laurels.


The Red Wedding (Red Team, GM: Kym Couch)
It starts as a friendly summer pickup match between two teams comprised of smiling athletes in high spirits enjoying a sweltering summer day in Los Angeles that’s perfect for quidditch. But the sting of former Blacktip Ren Bettendorf’s betrayal brings fresh, yet familiar, tears to Red team’s 260 galleon keeper, Ben Harding (Santa Barbara Blacktips [SBB]). Bettendorf was previously involved in holy union with Harding’s regular season team before shifting his allegiance to the Gambits in the 2014-15 season, and Harding has been riddled with disdain toward Bettendorf’s marriage to another. Vengeance, he reasons, is not only a risk that Bettendorf took upon departing the Blacktips, but also a truth Harding must deliver.
Chaser Ben Harding | Photo Credit: Isabella Gong Photography

As the Gray team and Red team prepare for their first match of the tournament, Red beater Mitch Cavender (formerly of Lone Star Quidditch Club) breaks protocol by crossing mid-pitch during warmups and begins to beat every opponent in the face. Red’s chaser Andrew Axtell (Michigan Quidditch Team) grabs a quaffle and forcibly charges through any player unlucky enough to still be standing before emphatically dunking over a doubled-over Bettendorf, who is still recovering from a Cavender imprint on his countenance, as Harding smugly observes the quidditch equivalent of mayhem and Red team supporters play “Rains of Cavender” on violins.

Once Red team’s underhand assault is completed, Kym Couch’s band of blood traitors will still need to play quidditch. The rookie GM has assembled a squad that seems poised to be playing late into Sunday from a balanced attack. Defensively, it is difficult to find holes in the Red Wedding. Axtell and Thomas Schoettle (University of Southern California [USC]) are both aggressive defenders at the chaser position; Axtell is an infamous hard hitter, and Schoettle routinely knocks down much taller players, yet continues to be a surprise every time he does it. Cavender is a conservative beater who doesn’t possess overwhelming athleticism but makes up for it with strength and keen strategy. Cavender’s style emphasizes timely tackles, adding even more physicality to Red team’s defense. Brandon Rylee (formerly of Thundercats Quidditch) is an aggressive beater who will make a huge impact at the tournament considering he went for only 25 galleons after being worth well over 100 last year. Behind the aggressive front line of the defense, Harding will use his wingspan and quickness to block any desperate long shots or futile pass attempts.

Offensively, there is a bit of a question mark regarding the team’s cohesion. Much of the scoring burden will be on the shoulders of Harding and Axtell, with expected contributions from Schoettle and Forrest Stone (Silicon Valley Skrewts [SVS]). Harding and Schoettle, however, both spend most of their time in a passing based offense whereas Axtell promotes driving as the first three options and passing being the fourth option. If a passing style prevails, support players like Caylen McDonald (Gambits) will be more beneficial to the team, but Axtell is more likely to reach his potential through a drive-based attack. It will be interesting to see if the team ends up favoring one strategy or the other, or plays a hybrid between the two.

Kayl Chips (Green, GM: Kayl Eubanks)
Green team came away from the draft without many big names, but with a team as well-balanced as any meal should be. Saving its money during the initial big spending that happens at the beginning of any draft, GM Eubanks was able to spread out his money and pick up key players later on in the draft. This thrifty management of funds means Green team lacks the star power of some of the other teams, but is overall a well-balanced mix of experience and talent. Its chaser line centers around offensive point Ryan Parsons (USC) and defensive asset Michael Binger (University of California Los Angeles [UCLA]). These two will have good off ball and defensive support from Julie Brietigam (Gambits) and Jenny Yu (UCLA) to help out on offense. Green team’s solid beater line is anchored by Cy Torrey (SBB) who combines speed with accuracy to make for a deadly combination and finds support in Michael Aguilera (the Long Beach Funky Quaffles [LBFQ]), Julia Thomas (USC), and Ruthie Stahl (SBB). This team will come down to its subs and Eubanks’ late round bids to see how his early round economizing paid off. This year’s Green team may not be so green.
Beater Michael Aguilera | Photo Credit: Sofia De La Vega Photography

Silly Salmon (Pink, GM: Kyle Epsteen)
Pink team came away from the draft with perhaps the most impressive, well-rounded chaser lines in the draft. Brett Ambrose (UCLA), Andrew Murray (Gambits), Kelby Brooks (Gambits), Corey Osto (formerly UCLA), Tori Kaiser (Arizona State University [ASU]), and Nate Cortazzo (Arizona Quidditch Club) are all big names and potential starters for the chaser line. Each of them have selfless tendencies that should be great for chaser chemistry. The only problem is that not all of these valuable chasers will be able to be on the field at the same time, and Epsteen’s big spending on his chaser line left him with weaker beater line.
Chaser Andrew Murray | Photo Credit: Sofia De La Vega Photography

Ricardo Arreola (Tijuana Qwertyians) will be expected to anchor the beating line, along with the experienced Tanna Helm (Gambits) who is well known for her ability to effectively engage chasers. But neither beaters can be expected to play at a high level as the games wear on, and the lack of beater subs keeps them on the field. Pink team’s greatest strength is that it will have no drop-off in talent when its chaser subs take the field, including with up and coming athletes in Michael Richardson (Gambits) and Brenden Bixler (Boise State Abraxans [BSA]). If their beaters, however, prove to be outmatched and are not able to effectively control the beating game with the snitch on the pitch, Richardson who is also expected to seek will have a tough time closing out close games for the Silly Salmon. 

White Walkers (White, GM: Tad Walters/Joshua Mansfield)
Winter is coming to West Fantasy and its bringing Texas along with it. The tag-team GM duo of Walters and Mansfield dropped most of their money on their first two picks of Lone Star’s Drew Wasikowski and Simon Arends. In the next round, they spent almost all they had left securing their third pick of ASU’s Ryan McGonagle to hold down the team’s beater line. The rest of the draft consisted of small bids to fill out the rest of the roster. The strength of the White Walkers chaser line, therefore, unsurprisingly centers around Wasikowski and Arends who in addition to their strengths both offensively and defensively have the added benefit of working with each other throughout the regular season. The backbone of the White Walkers’ beater line consists of first-year talent Ryan McGonagle and potentially Willis Andrew Miles IV, who has a history of beating with the Skrewts that is almost as long as his name. Although he came into the draft saying he would primarily be keeping, if Miles decides to pick up the bludger instead, this team could be unstoppable.

Chaser Simon Arends | Photo Credit: Isabella Gong Photography

HOT AS A SEAL (Teal, GM: Sarah Kneiling)
Kneiling secured two Team USA chaser, Eric Reyes (Texas State University - San Marcos) and Hannah DeBaets (Tufts University Tufflepuffs) to make her team an instant threat. But in doing so, Kneiling only had half of her budget left over to buy chaser support. She did, however, manage to distribute her remaining galleons effectively. Kneiling drafted the ultimate role player: keeper Dan Hanson (Crimson Elite), who both motivates more effective passing when he’s on the pitch and enhances any team’s strategy. Hanson is also fresh off a break-out dominating tournament at Beachside Brawl in Santa Barbara, where his team took first place. Teal team will further benefit from having two keeper and beaters in Joel Johnson (BSA) and underpaid Cody Narveson (Minnesota Quidditch). Beaters Carlos Metz (Capitol Madness Quidditch Club) and Samanda Sweet (Gambits) will round out the team’s pricier players.

Chaser Hannah DeBaets | Photo Credit: Isabella Gong Photography

The players that Kneiling paid double-digit galleons to gain will combine to form a competent core. Many of the remaining players on her team, however, are inexperienced or haven’t played consistently in the past season, raising numerous depth questions. The avid follower may surmise this is due to Kneiling’s aversion to the demonic institution of subbing and the Iron Woman GM may simply expect her first string players to participate in lengthy amount of gameplay. The Los Angeles Sun, though, will likely have other plans.

Hot As A Seal is a team with large potential, mostly due to the combination of Reyes and DeBaets. Yet this team is clearly more talented in its starting line, and depth is vital to fantasy tournaments. The team may dip in performance as the days wear on due to fatigue, or the bench players may turn in surprising performances to make Teal more competitive. But if Teal team ultimately has to rely on Reyes to hero-ball, the team may be in trouble as plenty of opponents have similar star talent available. Still, the personnel composing Teal team will likely gravitate to a more team-based approach.

Quicksilvers (Gray, GM: Andy Marmer)
There’s nothing remarkable about Gray team’s drafting strategy, though the same could be said last year when Gray team took first place. GM Marmer dropped most of his money engaging the Gambits’ Ren Bettendorf and supplemented his chaser line up with strong players like Evan Batzer (N/A), Anthony Hawkins (LBFQ), and Justin Fernandez (SBB). Grant Rose (UCLA) will be a dunkfest waiting to be happen if left uncontested. Christy Conway (SVS) is a tall chaser who catches passes near the hoops for easy goals a high percentage of the time, and she also plays fundamental skills well so her defender can’t expect to be left open often. Thanks to Marmer’s drafting strategy, it doesn’t look like the Quicksilvers will suffer from a lack of chaser talent, though if the defending champion GM wasn’t so stingy with his galleons he could have reunited his duo from last season and combined them with Bettendorf a gritty defender and tireless scorer. That being said, this team’s weakness lies in its beater line. Although this team looks like it will be able to rack up the points, it may not fare so well against a team with a strong offensive beater corps. Gray’s only well known beater is Tommy Brown (SBB), who is just finishing his first season, though Gillian Manley is experienced as well. While Brown has seamlessly integrated into the position, Gray team’s beater depth is behind other teams in the tournament. One may even say its beater situation isn’t in Gray-t shape.

Chaser Anthony Hawkins | Photo Credit: Sofia De La Vega Photography


DyeNasty (Tie-Dye, GM: Craig Garrison/Paxton Casey)
While the DyeNasty unlike traditional athletic dynasties has few dominant players, it boasts perhaps the deepest team in the entire tournament. While Garrison and Casey emptied their pockets for a star beater and seeker in Steve DiCarlo (Gambits), the other Tie-dye team players are all talented and were bought for reasonable prices at worst and absolute steals at best.

Tie-dye team’s list of female talent is a strong testament to its depth: while Hannah DeBaets in the only Team USA female chaser in the tournament, Alex Pisano (LBFQ) and Kristin Jakus (Crimson Elite) are undeniably two of the top five female chasers in the draft, and both players had a successful 2015 fantasy season thus far, earning Quidditch Post All-Tournament recognitions at Snow Cup. Pisano can juggle balls during the course of a game playing both beater and chaser; she can both bring the quaffle down pitch and set up behind hoops effectively. Jakus is similarly a utility player who also fares well as receiver; when she receives the ball within the keeper line, the Crimson Elite chaser is practically unstoppable. Due to their complementary strengths, it wouldn’t be unsurprising to witness a double female chaser line at some point in the tournament with Pisano at ball carrier and Jakus off ball. In addition to Jakus and Pisano, Alexia Barnes (LBFQ) provides experience at the beater position and is a huge bargain pick at 10 galleons. For depth, Tie-dye team boasts utility Nicte Sobrino (USC) and chaser Sofia de la Vega (N/A), who are both players who could start on other teams in the tournament. In short, Tie-dye team has the most rounded female talent in the tournament by far.

Beater Alexia Barnes | Photo Credit: Sofia De La Vega Photography

Tye-dye team will have a tenacious point defender and keeper in Michael Bernstein (ASU), who has a knack for knowing the right time to make a hit or tackle an incoming chaser. Porter Marsh (NAU Narwhals) will be aggressive at whatever position he plays and is one of the best seekers in the tournament for close situations. Most impressively, Garrison and Casey nabbed a standout rookie, Austin Goodheart (SBB), for just 5 galleons. Goodheart is a reliable defender and speedy ball carrier who will add even more seeking depth, but he may be hampered by injury.

Tye-dye team is tough to forecast: it has the necessary depth to make a title run, but it also lacks an offensive juggernaut to carry the scoring load. Still, in close situations, it will have a great chance of coming away with a snitch pull due to having three talented seekers. Tye-dye team has the makings of a team that could surprise opponents by meekly advancing to the finals and winning the trophy, or its lack of a dominant quaffle carrier could see the team exit as early as the first round.

The Professor Plums (Purple, GM: Liz Barcelos/Ali Fishman)
The Professor Plums are a great example of a top-heavy team that has all the necessary players to make them a threat. After drafting one of the top beaters in the tournament, Frank Gao (the Lost Boys), the tag team GM duo of Liz Barcelos and Ali Fishman (AKA Barceloman) were quick to pick up an epic combo straight from the legendary Rye Tush roster: Chris Lock (Future Farmers of America) and Tye Rush (Future Farmers of America). With Lock handling the quaffle and Rush as one of the best off-ball chasers and seekers – along with his point defense and ball carrying ability these two should combine for a lot of great moments and a put up a lot of points. These two were also core pieces of last year’s championship team, Misty and the Grays, and will be looking to repeat with new teammates this year. Barceloman was able to come away with a few more relevant players such as chaser Chewy Shaw (SVS), and talented female beaters Sarah Staatz (SVS) and Anna Huang (San Jose State University Spartans). Ultimately, the success of the Professor Plums will depend on how much weight their top three picks can carry and whether or not their subs are able to step up when they’re being overworked.

Chaser Frank Gao | Photo Credit: Sofia De La Vega Photography

Texas Quidditch (Orange, GM: Hank Dugie)
Dugie managed to spend all of his money composing an intimidating chaser line full players who are either physical behemoths, top-notch athletes, or both. After spending 400 galleons on one of the best keepers in the west, Alex Browne (the Lost Boys), Dugie made an imposing statement by landing Nebraska Huggins (free agent), giving Texas Quidditch two strong charging players. If by some gift of speed, bludger control, and luck that an opposing team manages to neutralize that combination, Dugie picked out Troy Roomes (LBFQ) for 45 galleons, who somehow manages to surpass both Browne and Huggins in physical size. Tylor Mclaren (Oklahoma Baptist University) adds a speed element to the stalwart chaser line. Long Beach’s Kyle Loud and Katie Garnett add more physicality to the chaser line. Under Browne’s pitch command, Orange team’s chaser line may be the most productive at the tournament.

Keeper Alex Browne | Photo Credit: Isabella Gong Photography

Though this team doesn’t even need beaters to perform well, Orange team will have a respectable pairing in Brian Vampola (SBB) and rookie Vicky Sanford (ASU). Vampola fits Dugie’s tactic of acquiring natural athleticism. Vampola’s dodgeball background always made him a natural fit for beater, but his impulsiveness is known, on occasion, to counteract his sizzling velocity and pinpoint accuracy. Sanford has natural athleticism, strong velocity, and competent aim which makes her a great choice to anchor the team’s beating needs.
Texas Quidditch will not exit the tournament early, barring an injury to Browne. It should make at least the semifinals, and is probably a favorite to advance to the finals, but the team’s downside is that it may be too top heavy and chaser focused.

Terrordactyls (Brown, GM: Roger Thompson)
Keeper Tony Rodriguez and Chaser Michael Mohlman | Photo Credit: Isabella Gong Photography
In a drafting pool full of top tier talent, Brown team started off early by picking up the West’s most widely known keeper, Tony Rodriguez (Gambits). As Rodriguez is no stranger to being the first overall pick or the most expensive player in previous drafts, it was surprising and interesting to see him go as only the eighth most expensive player this draft. GM Rodger Thompson was able to fill out his roster with important picks in the auction portion, and paid a hefty price for each pick. Thompson picked up great players in Michael Mohlman (the Lost Boys), Kaylee Buchholtz (Future Farmers of America), and Devin Pearson (UCLA) to dominate the beater game while Rodriguez racks up points with his notoriously scoring ability. Thompson also came away with a dangerously hot seeker in Austin Wallace (University of British Columbia Quidditch), who has recently shown he can come away with snitch pulls to win close games, including pulls in every bracket game including the championship at last month’s Beachside Brawl. The main concern with the Terrordactyls, as with most fantasy teams, is their depth. But after securing chaser Sam Beck as the top pick in the snake portion of the draft, Thompson was able to fill out the remainder of Brown’s roster with good picks, taking several up and coming players such as female chasers Celina Flores (Wizards of Westwood) and Roxanne Pena (LBFQ). If the Terrordactyls want to prove their championship potential, it will likely be through Rodriguez keeping them in snitch range and relying on dominant beating, and their star seeker to pull them out of close matches.

Duke Silver’s B & J (Blue, GM: Sean Pretti)
Duke Silver’s B & J came away from the draft with a solid starting chaser line up and the award for the most original team name. GM Pretti spent almost half of his money securing Lost Boys beater Chris Seto, and the rest of it securing a respectable offensive line lead by keeper George Williams (Utah State Quidditch Club), supported by Alex Richardson (Gambits) and Ericka Phanthip (Quid Pro Quo). Vanessa Goh (free agent) rounds out this draft, however as she is recovering from a torn ACL, she will only be seeking during this tournament. Chris Seto remains Chris Seto and will play accordingly. Blue team’s initial draft picks look strong, but it has a lot of work in front of it if the team want to make a finals run.

Chaser Vanessa Goh | Photo Credit: Sofia De La Vega Photography

#westcoastburnttoast (Black, GM: Harrison Baucom)
With a combination of a smart GM and his taking advantage of lucky opportunities, Black team came away as one of the deepest teams with great athletes filling every position. GM Harrison Baucom was able to almost entirely fill out his roster in the auction portion of the draft and was able to steal several talented players when the rest of the GMs were out of money and after they lowered the minimum bid, some will point out. Capitalizing late in the auction, Baucom was able to add notable athletes such as Billy Martin and Paul Chaus (Crimson Elite) to an already strong roster for a combined 15 galleons. But early in the draft, Baucom also carefully crafted his team with smart picks. Stew Driflot (BSA) has proved his worth as a chaser and seeker with his ability to lead teams and come away with clutch snitch grabs. With another talented seeker in Blake Thurston (ASU), Black team will always be able to fill the seeker position with a reliable athlete. Baucom continued the draft with smart picks, adding Bryan Bixler (BSA) to an already size-advantaged roster in addition talented female chasers Brooke Lydon (the Lost Boys) and Tiffany Chow (the Lost Boys). Black’s beater line will likely be led by Matthew Ziff (Gambits) and Sarah Ballister (the Lost Boys), who are both more than capable of holding their own. The only thing that has yet to be determined about Black team is its chemistry. With one of the most talented rosters on paper, the only thing that could hold back #westcoastburnttoast from a spectacular performance would be a lack of chemistry.

Chaser Tiffany Chow | Photo Credit: Isabella Gong Photography

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