Friday, February 12, 2016

South Regional Championship Preview

By Bernardo Berges, Talitha Brys, Sarah Goad, Karissa Kirsch, and Austin Lillis

The South region will gather in Auburndale, Florida this weekend for the South Regional Championship. This tournament will determine the regional champion, along with the three other teams who will earn bids to US Quidditch Cup 9.

Pool One
Florida Gulf Coast Quidditch (FGCU)
Tennessee Tech Quidditch (TTU)
Florida State University (FSU)
Nearly Headless Knights Quidditch (CFQ)
Ringling College of Art and Design Quidditch (RCAD)

Florida Gulf Coast’s current positioning in the first pot for Pool One is a tenable prediction for the program’s place at the end of Day One. The team is athletic, organized, and its play style has solidified as the year has gone on. FGCU has kept pace with capable programs such as the University of Miami and the University of Florida this year, and buried a few of the lower-tier Florida teams. The program’s USQ experience thus far this season is locked within state boundaries, however, and the second pot in this pool remains a relative unknown to Florida – and the rest of the region. Tennessee Tech, formerly a reliable juggernaut from the northern parts of the region, is a wildcard at the moment. While a few of the team’s veterans, such as Charlie Jordan and Christy Le, remain on the roster, the majority of TTU’s players from last season are now the founding roster of the new Tennessee community team, inTENNsity. The drastic decrease in the size of the program’s roster has made it difficult for the team to compete regularly at the same level it has in previous years. That being said, TTU is still a strong team with an aggressive chaser line and a strategic, adaptive beating style. First in this pool could go to TTU or FGCU, depending on which program cannot hit a groove Saturday morning.

The bottom three teams in this pool will be in a battle royale to steal the last slot eligible for bracket play. Ringling’s consistent attendance at events could give the team the leg up to hold out and claim the last bracket invite in the pool, but it is uncertain if the program will continue into Day Two. Florida State’s record this season does not bode well for the program’s odds at advancing far into bracket play, either. It is most likely that the Nearly Headless Knights will beat FSU and go on to defeat Ringling again to take the third spot in the championship’s only five-team pool.

Pool Two
University of Miami
University of Florida Quidditch (UF)
Florida International University (FIU)
Time Turners Quidditch (TTQ)

This pool is made up of teams with varying levels of experience and success. The University of Miami is a clear pick for the No. 1 team in this pool. Based on how the program has played this season and the records of the other teams in this pool, it is pretty much guaranteed that Miami will sail straight through Saturday and on to bracket play. It will be interesting – and poignant, due to her recent retirement – to see how the team fares without beater Shannon Moorhead on the roster. Second place is expected to go to the University of Florida, but if this past season has been any indicator, Florida International University might just give UF a run for its money. FIU has been playing far better than it did last season. Every game these programs have played this season has ended with close results. If FIU keeps up its improved performance, it just might take second place from UF. Having only a 5-11 record, though, does not bode well for FIU. What is most likely to happen is FIU will put up a hearty fight, but UF will secure its place behind UM. The uncertainty in this pool definitely comes in the form of the most recent addition to Tennessee’s lineup. Time Turners Quidditch is a team with a roster populated by players new to quidditch, coupled with a few returning members from previous years. TTQ has grown exponentially from the beginning of the season, becoming better at passing and communicating. If the program is able to tighten its defense and tap into the aggression that has been missing from its play, the Time Turners may walk away from the regional championship with a few wins to add to their record. 

Pool Three
Florida’s Finest (FF)
University of South Florida Quidditch (USF)
College of Charleston (CofC)
University of South Carolina (USC)

As Florida’s Finest has  yet to be beaten by any South teams this season, it is an easy choice for first place in the pool. The momentum from its showing at the Scottish Highland Games last month – where each victory was by at least 50 quaffle points – will roll them through Saturday and, perhaps, all the way through to Sunday’s championship-deciding final match. USF’s solid 9-5 season record suggests that the team will be able to finish second in the pool and advance to bracket play. The program’s strength against in-state teams will not come in handy in this pool: it will have to adapt to the out-of-state play styles brought in by CofC and USC if the program hopes to validate its second-pot placement. Andres Cedeno has proven himself to be a wonderful seeker over the course of this season; whether or not USF’s beaters can continue to give him the clean runs at the snitch will depend on the beater game of the other three teams in the pool. College of Charleston’s deep run through bracket play to the finals at last year’s regional championship may leave some fans hoping for a similar charge this year, but a dearth of veteran players on the roster and a penchant for hesitancy in the newer athletes could leave those fans wanting more. The program’s 2-6 season record boasts some close losses and clutch victories against both in-state and out-of-state opponents; however, CofC has not faced a Florida team yet this year. Advancing to bracket play will depend on the team’s ability to unite and adapt under pressure. Based on USC’s 1-3 performance at the third annual Old Money Classic and the bumpy start to its season, it is doubtful that the team will place much higher than its pot placement in this pool. Regular standouts Kaley Crunk, Kyle Demo, and Joe Goldberg are sure to impress, but if their teammates do not get into gear on Saturday, USC will not make it through to Sunday.

USF’s Andres Cedeno seeker blocking | Photo Credit: Gabriel Antonio Moreta
Pool Four
The Southern Storm
University of Southern Mississippi (USM)

The match between inTENNsity and the Southern Storm is definitely the game to watch in this pool. Both teams were founded fairly recently but are populated with experienced, veteran players from other programs. inTENNsity has not yet been able to play with a full roster at a tournament, but as long as it can retain the synchronization that many of the athletes have developed while playing for TTU over the years, the team should be solid competition for the Southern Storm. The Southern Storm is relatively untested against teams outside of the Carolinas so far this season, so it will be interesting to see the team go up against the rest of the region. First and second place in this pool could go to either of these teams. 

Taking into account USM’s 0-7 official record from this season and the team’s ongoing struggle to find cohesion on-pitch, the third place in this pool will almost certainly go to RCQC. RCQC has gone to several tournaments this season, completing each one with a majority of successful results. Between going undefeated in the unofficial pool at the Canes Classic tournament and holding its own against teams like USF and UF, it should come as no surprise that RCQC will easily take possession of the third spot. Even though the program has not had the best season, USM has maintained a full roster and continues to participate regularly in tournaments. Unfortunately, the team’s defense needs serious improvement, and it seem to only be able hold together if it has bludger control. Because of this, it is more than likely USM will occupy the last spot in this pool. 

Bid Distribution Expectations

With little-to-no interstate intraregional play having gone on, it is difficult to know exactly where the remaining three bids will go after Florida’s Finest lays claim to its bid. Miami is likely to get a bid, but beyond those two teams, it could be any of a number of squads. The Southern Storm, inTENNsity, USF, UF, and FGCU are all prime contenders, while TTU could also make its habitual dash through bracket play and grab a ticket to the national level. Much rides on the four teams who go on to represent the South region at the national level; the performances of the programs who claim this year’s bids will likely determine – in part – how many bids the region will be granted for the 2016-17 season.

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