Thursday, October 29, 2015

A Triforce of Champions Crowned at Golden Broom Tournament

By Chris Lock

Author’s Note: Due to the impromptu condensed schedule, the author only had one break from gameplay and officiating, so complete coverage could not be provided.

After enduring a multitude of scheduling obstacles, Cal Quidditch hosted the official season opener for 10 Northern California teams on Saturday, Oct. 17. The second annual Golden Broom Tournament is also the season opener of the Northern California Quidditch Conference (NCQC). Though the name existed previously, the NCQC is in its inaugural season as a structured league, which splits teams into school and community divisions. NCQC also has balanced pre-defined schedules, which means that the teams each play each other the same amount of times and that the schedule is set at the beginning of the year, keeping recorded games from being added throughout the season.

The tournament site was not large enough to accommodate two official pitches unless overlap occurred, which is prohibited by USQ rules. As a result, the dual pitch schedule had to be condensed. The final scheduled match of the day, between Cal and San Jose State University Spartans (SJSU), had to be suspended due to lack of lighting, and the finals were cancelled. Despite these changes, the tournament was still a considerable success, as all of the teams got to play some close quidditch matches, and a few questions between regional “bubble teams” were answered.
Featured Games
Vipers vs. Dobbys: 80*-70

The brand-new Silicon Valley Vipers and the second-year California Dobbys are familiar adversaries: the two teams faced off multiple times earlier this season in no-snitch scrimmages that ended with very close scores. However, in their first ever official meeting, the snitch would prove to be all the difference.

The Vipers, who were led throughout most of the tournament by Mostafa Fathy, were able to branch out from relying on his agility-based goals in the match against the Dobbys. While Fathy’s presence was still visible, rookie keeper Nate Stender and chaser Laura Gaudet provided most of the offense in the Vipers’ closest match of the day. Beater Sam Fischgrund was the heart of the Vipers’ beating presence; however, he and his teammates were outmatched in the beating game due to California’s team-oriented beating approach.

Mikel Wu made several excellent beats for the Dobbys during the match, and fellow beater Laura D’Asaro also impressed on the pitch. Chaser Sean Booker paced the Dobbys in scoring, and thanks to a noticeable advantage in chemistry, the Dobbys maintained a small lead late in the game.

However, the match was tense from start to finish, as neither team could build up a point differential greater than 20 points. Just as the Dobbys seemed ready to break the game open, the Vipers pulled off a sudden snitch grab to win the game 80*-70. Although it was the Vipers’ only win of the day, it was certainly a thrilling victory for the new squad.

Skrewts vs. Skyfighters: 100-50*

The Silicon Valley Skrewts blew out their offspring, the Skyfighter Quidditch Club, by a huge margin in the teams’ only meeting last season. However, with a fresh round of recruitment, the Skyfighters came to Golden Broom ready to show their big brother that they are ready to fight back.

The sheer size of the Skyfighters’ starting lineup demonstrated this team has a changed look since when the team was affiliated with the Skrewts. The team featured many returning players who were rookies that went unnoticed last season but are now competing in the new season with more experience and a better understanding of the game. No one on the roster personified the change more than keeper Ryan Burton, who demonstrated that he does not shy from physical contact on defense and running to the hoops on the offense, though his occasional strategic mistakes suggest that he has more to learn this season about the game and his opponents.

In sharp contrast, the Skrewts came to the field with a much smaller roster than last season. With Andrew Covel injured, most of the keeping duties fell to Sam Harris, who literally played the entire game. In a strange turn of events, the Skyfighters featured a deeper lineup. However, the Skrewts exhibited their traditional gameplay: relying on high percentage drives and fine-tuned strategy focused on a few key players.
The game started surprisingly close, with the beating talents of Willis Miles and the acrobatic drives from Harris and Charles Shaw giving the Skrewts an early edge. Burton scored a couple Skyfighter goals, but the Skrewts still led 40-20 and the Skyfighters’ defense had no answer for drives from the Skrewts once Miles rendered their beaters ineffective.
The Skrewts did not have the subbing luxury that the Skyfighters boasted, so when the Skyfighters began their substitutions, the Skrewts kept their tired starters on the field. However, the Skrewts’ smaller roster did not appear to inhibit them, as they scored six unanswered goals to push the lead to 100-20 before the Skyfighters pulled a cold catch. Still, the Skyfighters surprised many spectators by playing a legitimate game against a team that has been known as the best quidditch team in Northern California for quite some time.

Official Team Short Summaries
Cal Quidditch (2-0)
The Golden Bears brought some physically intimidating recruits to their host tournament, and this program may soon be relevant in quidditch again. Though the new roster features some athleticism, the players are clearly novices and have a lot of technique to learn before competing with higher level teams. Still, they opened the weekend in impressive fashion with a 140-30* blowout against Stanford and a 160*-90 victory over the Dobbys.

Skrewts (3-0)
The Skrewts featured a much smaller roster than in previous years, but still exhibited a powerhouse playing style against their Northern California opponents with lopsided victories against the Skyfighters, Stanford, and the Vipers. Still, depth questions arise, as the Skrewts wield a very small roster, and there will be tougher matchups for them in other areas of the West region. On the bright side, chaser Martin Pyne is getting plenty of minutes on the pitch.

Fighting Farmers of America (2-0)
No questions were really answered about the Farmers this weekend, as they neither imploded  nor excelled against any high caliber teams. As their closest match was against the brand-new Vipers, it is tough to determine how good the band of quidditch veterans actually is. That being said, the franchise opened its history with a 100*-0 shutout over SJSU. Midwest transplant Evan Batzer, formerly of Michigan Quidditch Team, played impressively at chaser and keeper, making plenty of key defensive hits and strong drives. Sean Pretti, formerly of Arizona Quidditch Club, played above expectations at both chaser and beater. The Farmers will continue their young season on Nov. 7 at Northern Arizona University’s Lumberjack Invitational.

Fighting Farmers of America | Photo Credit: Vanessa Goh

California Dobbys (1-2)
The Dobbys relied heavily on their athleticism last season, but this year a more strategic emphasis is apparent. Booker is a key cog in the Dobbys’ offense, and the team has the physical skill to be a contender this season. Yet the squad will have to work for better results than losses to the Vipers and UC Berkeley if it hopes to qualify for World Cup.

Silicon Valley Vipers (1-2)
The true talent level of the Vipers is still hard to determine, as the team was victorious in its hard-fought match against the Dobbys, but still lost to experienced teams in the Farmers and the Skrewts. Suffice it to say they are not shocking Northern California by pulling off amazing upsets against stronger squads, but they have also never failed to win when expected. Only time will tell where the Vipers stack up against the rest of the West.

Stanford (1-2)
Stanford was able to pull out a clutch 80*-60 snitch game victory over the Skyfighters, but it could not muster much offense against either UC Berkeley or the Skrewts. Like the Vipers, Stanford lost to two of the better teams at the tournament, so it is difficult to tell how well they compare to the mid-level teams present.

Skyfighters (0-2)
The Skyfighters managed an unofficial victory against the South Bay Blazers, but the team is still seeking its first franchise-official victory. Based on how much the team has improved in the offseason, and its snitch-range loss to Stanford, the Skyfighters should not go without victory throughout the rest of the season.

San Jose State University (0-2)
The Spartans had two complete games at the tournament. One was a forgettable 100*-0 loss at the hands of the Farmers, but the other, a 120*-70 loss to the Dobbys, featured very impassioned play. The Dobbys had built a large lead, but thanks in large part to the play of Carlos Cuevas off the bench at keeper, the Spartans pulled back within snitch range before the Dobbys finally caught the snitch to win. It should be noted that SJSU was missing a large part of its roster this weekend, and its performance may not be indicative of its true talent level.

Tournament End
As UC Berkeley and SJSU matched up in the last scheduled pool play match, the sun sank dangerously low, preventing any further gameplay. The match was suspended with a score of 50-10 in favor of Cal, and it will be resumed on Jan. 23 when the Vipers host an NCQC league tournament.

Since the finals were not played, the tournament ended with three undefeated teams: UC Berkeley, the Skrewts, and the Farmers. Several suggestions were made to break the Golden Broom trophy in a sportsmanlike manner, but there was no true documented champion. Even so, Northern California was able to show signs of parity from its mid-level teams as well as high-level play from its top three teams.

The South Bay Blazers and the Golden Snitches (Berkeley’s B team) attended the tournament unofficially. Several teams had matches against these teams, which were not recorded in the article.

An all-tournament team was omitted due to the incomplete nature of the tournament.

For those interested, the NCQC is a two-division conference that will feature playoffs at the end of year for the top three teams from each division. Each team is scheduled to play teams in its own division twice and teams in the other division once. All-league teams and MVPs for each division will be announced at the end of the season and will play an all-star game at the playoff tournament. More information can be found at these links:

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