Thursday, February 16, 2017

Five Things We Learned from the South Regional Championship

By Kenny Stowe and Steven Paisley

From the cool South Carolina mornings to yet another reigning champion change, the 2017 South Regional Championship ushers in a new era of quidditch strength for the region.

1. Surprises should come as no surprise at the South Regional Championship: Gainesville Siege, the Flying Panthers Quidditch Club (FPQC), inTENNsity, and College of Charleston

As the South Regional Championship usually falls on Valentine’s Day weekend, it is very fitting to say that quidditch at its finest is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get. When the deep South and Florida factions clashed February 11-12, it was difficult to predict what might happen. From USQ policy to breakout contenders, this tournament showcased quite a few unexpected surprises.

The team that showed up and grabbed some attention was the Flying Panthers Quidditch Club. Formerly known as Florida International University before becoming a community team, the Panthers came into this tournament as an afterthought, but that quickly changed. With the addition of several key players, such as Logan Hartman and Austin Lillis, FPQC nearly upset Carolina Heat Quidditch Club in the quarterfinals (170*-140) and forced overtime against College of Charleston (CofC) in the consolation bracket. Seeking under the clutch was FPQC’s downfall in both games.

FPQC playing Gainesville Siege during Renegade Cup | Photo Credit: Andrew Salinero Photography
CofC also proved that it deserved to earn a bid. Although the team fell short, it played intense matches against Florida’s Finest (FF) in both pool play and bracket play, defeated FPQC in the consolation bracket, fought hard against University of Miami (UM) in the consolation bracket, and was ultimately knocked out for the final bid by inTENNsity. Although CofC struggled to get a rhythm going for most of the tournament, it played every match as if it was its last and showed the most heart and desire of the teams attending. Unfortunately, the fuel in the tank eventually evaporated and its stamina depleted, which left the team without a bid.

inTENNsity had perhaps the only upset of the weekend in its victory over the Southern Storm in bracket play before losing to Carolina Heat and moving to the consolation bracket. inTENNsity found itself in a rematch with Storm, who emerged triumphant this time with a score of 120*-100. With everything on the line, inTENNsity managed to edge CofC for the final and fifth bid 100*-50.

The greatest and most unfortunate surprise of the weekend came at 9:24 a.m. when it was officially announced that the Gainesville Siege would be disqualified for failing to provide a referee crew in a timely manner for the 9:00 a.m. play-in slot. Despite an appeal, USQ was forced to stand by its policy, ending Siege’s hopes of qualifying for US Quidditch Cup 10. This team was a heavy favorite to earn a bid and had the talent to make a deep run for the regional title.

2. Preview Predictions: What came true and what fell short

The University of Miami team lived up to expectations but did not outperform other teams, as it is usually accustomed to doing. After going 2-1 in pool play with its only loss to Carolina Heat, 150*-80, the Canes were fortunate to advance straight to the semifinals. With forfeits coming from the University of Central Florida Nearly Headless Knights and Gainesville Siege, UM found itself facing FF for a bid as its first match. Employing the slowball strategy, UM managed to keep the closest game with FF when the snitch arrived on pitch. FF made a quick grab, however, solidifying its bid to US Quidditch Cup 10 with a victory of 110*-60. UM went on to qualify in the next match, crushing CofC 160*-20.

This year’s regional championship also proved to be yet another justifying example of home field disadvantage. The finals match featured Carolina Heat, native to South Carolina, and Florida’s Finest. In a championship match between teams with top-caliber talent, it comes as no surprise that the game lasted around 30 minutes and handicapped the snitch to one arm. Florida’s Finest eventually put away the match 200*-100, now making it the third time in five years that a Florida team has won an out-of-state regional championship.

Florida’s Finest seeker Tyrell Byrd pulling the snitch at the What is Winter? Invitational | Photo Credit: Deanna Yates
3. Officiating Headed in the Right Direction

Like any other sport, officiating can be a deal breaker or a lifesaver. Gameplay, momentum, and morale are all affected by the degree of proficiency of a referee crew, and quidditch is known to have its fair share of inadequacy in refereeing. The South Regional Championship, however, has truly matured over the past year, and the officiating has continued to develop to a respectable standard.

Throughout the season, it has seemed that referees were not issuing enough cards or not issuing them in a consistent manner. Assistant referees have a tendency to miss a lot of illegal play in high-intensity matches, and referees in general tend to be more lenient with more warnings in other tournaments. But the crews on duty this weekend and the head referees overseeing them made the correct calls, made them often, and strictly enforced the rulebook. The nature of officiating in quidditch is challenging, which can lead to different interpretations of the rule book, depending on who is a referee at the time, but from an organizational standpoint, significant progress has been made to develop more consistent South referees.

4. The South will rise again and the time has come

Florida’s Finest has never sounded like a more truthful name. The team came into the tournament a heavy favorite for the title, but it was never an easy path. Stretching back to last year’s disappointing shortcoming when it failed to qualify for US Quidditch Cup 9, this team set itself on a path to redemption early in the championship. Many players who had never missed a national tournament now found themselves having to rebuild, grow stronger, and dig deep to put themselves back on the map.

Florida’s Finest rose to the occasion. Coming into the South Regional Championship as the overall top-seeded team in the country, there was nothing short of high expectations. FF toppled inTENNsity in pool play, defeated CofC twice, and grabbed the top seed headed into Day Two. After advancing to the semifinals, Florida’s Finest edged a strategical Miami and avenged itself against a Carolina Heat who previously beat it at Flagler Cup. The team went undefeated and is now poised to hold onto the first overall seed coming into US Quidditch Cup 10.

Florida’s Finest and University of Miami at the 2016 South Regional Championship, will both advance to US Quidditch Cup 10. | Photo Credit: Deanna Yates
Florida’s Finest, along with the other South powerhouses, has proven that it is more than capable of playing at a high level, so the storyline moving into April will be this: Will the South rise to the national level and leave an impressive mark, or will this Cinderella run collapse now that a target has been placed?

5. Southern Hospitality

Historically, Florida teams get much of the talk and hype when discussing the South region. This, over the years, has developed strong biases between out-of-state teams and Florida natives and has led a to rift within the region, but this year’s championship tournament has showed signs of change. Teams still continue to root for their neighbors, but the region is beginning to grow as a single entity.

This trend will need to carry over to US Quidditch Cup 10. If the South region is to make a push and a name for itself, it will be more important than ever to stick by each other and unite. The region may only have five bids, but it is the host this year. For any South team to succeed, the region must not be silent.

Most Impactful Players from the South Regional Championship:

Beater: Ginny Ostgaard/Darbi Harriman (Storm)
Beater: Joe Stephenson (inTENNsity)
Beater: Julia Pomeroy (FPQC) (Honorable Mention)
Beater: Jordan Rains (Florida State University) (Honorable Mention)

Chaser: Jacob Baldwin (UM)
Chaser: Rachel Ayella-Silver (FF)
Chaser: Jody Louis (Heat)

Keeper: Daniel Feliciano (CofC)

Seeker: Tyrell Byrd (FF)
Seeker: Mira Patel (University of South Florida Quidditch) (Honorable Mention)

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