Friday, July 24, 2015

THE Fantasy Preview 2015

by George Williams, Andy Marmer, and Danielle Lehmann

Returning this summer to the Austin Rugby Club in Austin, Texas is THE Fantasy Tournament. Spanning the weekend of July 25-26 2015, this tournament will host over 200 players drafted onto 14 different teams. With so many teams to keep track of, we’ve analyzed each individually below.

Editorial note: We believe the White Team changed its name from the Warboys to the Warpups; Kyle Epsteen informed us that Tony Rodriguez decided not to help with the draft.

GREY: Doug Whiston
Whiston built his team around an obvious love for the past, but whether this team has the talent to win a championship in 2015 is a very large question. Players like beater Jacob Adlis and chaser Christopher Morris were among the top players in the sport in their prime, but neither plays with the frequency they used to and both might have to shake off some rust. Whiston using one third of his budget on these players may prove costly. In a more modern twist, Whiston went to his University of Kansas roots to draft keeper Adam Heald, spending 250 on a non-Texan in such a deep draft seems to be another questionable move. Heald is a talented keeper, but he’s also the most expensive player who doesn’t make his home in the Southwest that did not make Team USA last year. With those two mistakes behind him, the Grey Team will need to lean heavily on Lone Star Quidditch Club’s (LSQC) Jonathon Ruland and the University of Texas-Austin’s (UT Austin) Paden Pace. Both are talented players, but neither can carry a team in the intense gauntlet that is THE Fantasy.

BLACK: Tad Walters
The amount of experience Walters was able to draft in his top picks is incredible. The Black Team is expected to be led by physically refined specimen and arguably the best seeker in the world Harry Greenhouse. Greenhouse is one of the few seekers in the game who can also lead a chasing corps for entire games before subbing in at seeker at the end of the floor, seemingly unaffected by fatigue. Combined with Tyrell Williams, Hank Dugie, and Mark Williard, Walters drafted an incredible chasing line. The Black Team’s beater corps is expected to be led by Lost Boys Quidditch Club veteran Frank Gao, who was easily one of the best beaters in the draft. Walters also rounded out his roster with several picks from his alma mater, Loyola University New Orleans, such as Michael Gallaty, Mari Nerbovig, and Alex Pucciarelli. It seems unfathomable that Greenhouse will not be able to take the Black Team deep into this tournament, especially with the amount of support he has all across the board.

ROYAL BLUE: Aryan Ghoddossy & Hope Machala
Machala is looking to capture her second straight THE Fantasy title, pairing up with Ghoddossy, a star on last year’s team. While it’s tough to call any team a favorite in such a large field with the talent attending, building a team around two players with literally a handful of World Cup champions is as good a strategy as any. The co-GMs spent almost half their budget on UT Austin keeper David Acker and chaser Marty Bermudez, now of the Texas Cavalry. The two present an intriguing combination of size and speed and will look to combine with Texas A&M (TAMU) star Sam “Keegan” Adlis. On the beating side, Eric Bilanoski will lead the line, coming off a strong season with Clone Star Quidditch Club and a star-making fantasy turn at this winter’s Snow Cup. Nichole Galle Wasikowski and Shelby Manford round out the starting lineup and both bring tremendous value to the team. While the starting lineup should be one of the best at the tournament, the team’s tournament may ultimately turn on its depth. Last year Machala spent heavily on just three players and filled out her championship team with cheap players while this year’s starting lineup is a bit more well-rounded than last year’s. The team’s bench could again be its weak point, and ultimately will be key to its success or failure.

Beater Shelby Manford | Photo By Isabella Gong Photography

MAROON: Rosemary Ross
After conquering World Cup VI together and, more recently and, let’s be honest, more importantly THE Fantasy 2014 Stephen Bell and Kody Marshall are teaming up once more to defend their title, this time for Ross. While the sight of the former Longhorns donning Texas A&M Maroon will certainly be something to behold, a repeat championship would undoubtedly give the two stars the last laugh. While Ross has acquired two of the world’s best players, she did so at a price. With just 14 players, Maroon Team has the shallowest roster, and with ¾ of the budget spent on Bell, Marshall, and the talented Kaci Erwin, this team will be depending on less highly-rated players to step up. Bell and Marshall were able to take home the title this way last year, but they’ll need to pull off similar magic again for another championship.

NAVY BLUE: Shane Bouchard
What immediately stands out about Bouchard’s Navy Blue team is that he drafted two of the top seekers early in the draft with Evan Carr and Margo Aleman. Two of the only seekers in history to catch a snitch in the World Cup Finals in the championship match, Bouchard obviously has the best seeking game in the draft. Craig Garrison and Simon Arends are also fantastic chasers with seeking ability, but it’s not likely that they’ll need to play anything besides chaser with Carr and Aleman filling the position. What stands out about these four athletes is their veteran experience and multifaceted athleticism, which should carry this team a long way. However, Bouchard had to sacrifice drafting an elite beater in order to secure his top-tier chaser and seeking picks; if we learned anything from last year’s tournament, it’s that it is very possible to win THE Fantasy tournament with fantastic chasers and budget, but talented beaters. At this point, it’s impossible to tell how big of a weakness beating will be for the Navy Blue Team. We’ll just have to wait and see.

Seeker Evan Carr | Photo By Sofia de la Vega Photography

BROWN: Becky Schmader
Becky Schmader will once again turn to friend Augustine “Augie” Monroe, her former UT Austin co-leader and current Cavalry co-founder to lead the Brown Team to greatness. In so doing, Schmader made the three-time champion Monroe the most costly player at 400 galleons; 100 more than he went for last year. Monroe, returning to Texas from his Major League Quidditch (MLQ) home in New York, will likely be interested in proving he can still tear up Southwest players after controlling the Northeast as a member of the New York Titans. However, as talented as Monroe is, one man does not make a team. Schmader has assembled a talented and diverse supporting cast to aid Monroe with Lost Boys utility player Michael Mohlman, Lone Star’s Chelsea Lorenz and Ethan Banner, and UT Austin’s Zach Pickett, and Hallie Pace. Monroe will be the undisputed quaffle leader for this team, but with a deep and talented beater line, this team has a chance to go far.

PURPLE: Adam Clark
The Purple Team will call on players from many different teams based primarily in the Southwest, which will start the team off with good chemistry. Hayden Applebee, Romie Lof, and Jaycob Freeman are physical players who will make a stout defense when accompanied by the aggressive beater core of Josh Carroll, Payton Lancaster, and Chris Perrie. Carroll’s accuracy and speed make him by far one of the most skilled beaters in the Southwest. Lancaster has an interesting style of movement that presents itself as lackadaisical, yet he always seems ready to pounce. What he lacks in physical strength, he has in arm speed and endurance. Perrie may not be the most intimidating or skilled beater, but he is often overlooked, and he will keep anyone on their heels and near their own hoops if you face him. Emily Hickmott is one of the best female chasers in the world and will lead the chaser line on this team. While the Purple Team has strong chaser and beater depth, it lacks keeper depth. The Purple Team’s defense across the board is strong, so they could score low in games it just needs to click offensively in order to dominate.

ORANGE: Dan Hanson
Hanson came away from the draft with a diverse roster in terms of size and speed. But the two common threads between his quaffle players seems to be their driving ability and their ability to play both sides of the ball. His most expensive pick, Brad Armentor, is an offensive and defensive juggernaut who is nearly impossible to tackle. Dilan Freeman’s uncontested size means the Orange Team, between him and Armentor, will almost always have a player on the pitch that can’t be stopped without a bludger. Add ball handler George Williams and his speed to its offensive prowess and you’ve got a three-headed monster of a chasing line. Hanson also picked up Michael Duquette to anchor the beating game, along with underrated beaters in Paxton Casey, Cody Boyes, and Jasmin Carranza. If there’s one thing you can always expect from Hanson in a draft, it’s for him to come away with relatively unknown but underrated players. Although few of his later draft picks stand out, it’s hard to imagine Hanson drafting a team without depth and contributing players from the bench. The Orange Team also has the strategic advantage of having an experienced coach on its sidelines, as Hanson nearly always attends tournaments when he GMs.

WHITE: Kyle Epsteen, Tony Rodriguez, & Chris Seto
The White Team is easily one of the best teams on paper. With a lot of recognizable names and versatile players, it’s not hard to guess they have championship potential in this tournament. After drafting the winning team for West Fantasy, Epsteen has already made his mark as a smart GM this summer. Combining his knowledge and drafting skills with that of mastermind Seto, they were able to come away from the draft with a deep team in every position. Besides drafting an experienced beater corps, they picked up talented chasers in Eric Reyes and the infamous combination of Justin Peters and Ian Strickland. After adding Jacob Bruner in a secondary draft lottery pick, their chaser line will likely be unstoppable. Throw expert chaser/seeker Tye Rush into the mix with their experienced female players, and they quickly become the most well-rounded team in this draft. With so many versatile players, it’s hard to pin down what the game strategy will be for the White Team in any given game. We expect them to play a very adaptable game style and if they’re able to make adjustments in critical situations, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the White Team make it to the finals.

Chaser Ian Strickland | Photo By Hannah Huddle

PINK: Alex Scheer
Alex Scheer drafted a diverse team, with his five most expensive players hailing from five different regions. Hannah DeBaets and Tiffany Chow are two incredible chasers, but the loss of keeper Blake Fitzgerald who has been tearing apart MLQ will undoubtedly hurt this team. Austin Pitts and Seth Segura are both quality chasers and will contribute a lot of smart and aggressive play for the team. Add in chaser Jon Quattlebaum and the Pink Team will be putting up some high scoring games. Last but not least, Austin Wallace, a great two-galleon pick up from the Northwest, will be able to show how much of a steal he was once on the field. Scheer’s team is full of steals across the board, including all of the aforementioned players and Baylor University’s Chris Rhodes. (Wallace might be the biggest steal of the whole draft.) But without Fitzgerald, this team is going to struggle. The team needs a player to lead and assemble the offense and the Ball State keeper would have been the perfect fit. We’ll never know how good this team could have been.

LIGHT BLUE: Samuel Haimowitz
In building Light Blue, Samuel “Sam” Haimowitz looked to a pair of teammates to lead the way. At 340 galleons, Drew Wasikowski was the second most expensive player of the draft, and while you can do worse than building around the Lone Star and Texas A&M star, building around him and the 190-galleon Sarah Holub placed some limits on Haimowitz’s ability to build a complete team. While Wasikowski and Holub might be two of the best quaffle players in the tournament, their supporting cast is one of the weaker ones. Joshua Mansfield will lead the beater line and Joshua Tates is one of the best seekers in attendance, but for Tates to matter, this team has to be able to keep opponents in snitch range. While it feels near sacrilege to count out a team led by Wasikowski and Holub, it’s just not clear that this team has enough of a supporting cast to hang with all of the talent attending the tournament.

RED: Azeem Hussain
Azeem Hussain managed to put together his own dream team comprised of big names from three-time world champion University of Texas at Austin, supporters from Texas A&M, and a core of most trusted familiars: players from his own University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA). The UT Austin players came at a premium with Chris Davis, who was a crucial role player in the Longhorns championship, fetched 190 galleons in the draft while his teammate Alfredo “Freddy Salinas cost Hussain 195 galleons. TAMU's Daniel Sobarzo, a well regarded beater, was the other triple-galleon luxury commodity at 100 even. Sobarzos teammate, keeper Chris Beck, was key add later on to the squad. In addition to selecting players from the Southwest's two most storied programs, Hussain secured a large number of UTSA players that should give an instant chemistry boost as well as some of their trademark hustle. UTSAs Ruben Polanco, Taylor Tracy, and Alyssa Ahlers are all expected to make significant contributions to the Red Team's cause. The female chaser rotation may not be the most renowned in the tournament, but it should always feature a competent player, as Sofia de la Vega will bring impressive speed and competent catching abilities to the pitch. Overall, while the Red Team doesn't boast a lineup implying it will be a title favorite at first glance, the combination of experienced winners, depth, and natural chemistry indicates this team has the potential to morph into a finalist.

RAINBOW: Kedzie Teller & Mollie Lensing
Kedzie Teller and Mollie Lensing will depend on a lot of under the radar players. In making Kevin Tran their third most expensive player, Teller and Lensing must be onboard with the hype that is surrounding Tran at the moment in the Southwest. They’ll pair Tran with a solid point chaser in Tylor Mclaren and one of the game’s very best in Rebecca DuPont to make a formidable quaffle lineup. Grant Daigle and Aussie Luke Derrick will both be key forces as well. Yet as well-rounded as this lineup is, it’s not clear that Team Rainbow has an elite beater aside from Amanda Turtles” Nagy. Turtles is one of the game’s best and has made remarkable progress throughout her career, but it’s unclear who can aid her in the beating lineup. Team Rainbow opted to spend a lot of its budget in ensuring high quality depth and it did an effective job at that; the consequence, though, is whether or not its top-tier can compete with some of the remarkable lineups assembled by other GMs. This team has all the tools to succeed and some remarkably skilled players, yet the lineup feels weak compared to some of the exceptionally talented teams assembled.

Beater Amanda Turtles | Photo Courtesy of The Eighth Man Staff Photographer

DARK GREEN: Sarah Kneiling
The Dark Green Team is a well balanced team with average depth in all positions. Audrey Wright is an exceptional player who brings physicality, energy, and athleticism to every field she plays on; this tournament should be no different. Sean Fry and Mathieu Gregoire are two experienced beaters who have a past history as teammates at both Texas A&M and more recently with Lone Star. Ryan Carr is both a dependable seeker and chaser who will use his speed to get to either the quaffle or snitch, no matter which one he’s after. While there isn’t a steep drop off in talent for any position, each player will have to give it their all to challenge the teams who rely heavily on their star players.

This article was written with the help of Hayden Applebee, Monty Turner-Little, Janos Barbero, Alex Holmes, Becky Schmader, Alyssa York, Chris Lock, Spencer Stratman, and Alex Scheer.

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