Monday, February 27, 2017

Things We Learned From the Southwest Regional Championship

By TJ Goaley, Alex Stewart, Carrie Soukup, and Michael Duquette Lone Star Quidditch Club is back (to back to back)
The only team from the Southwest to make it to the semifinals of US Quidditch Cup 9 had a disappointing start to the season. Just a few months ago, the idea of Lone Star Quidditch Club (LSQC) capturing the regional championship would have seemed farfetched. The team straddled .500 throughout the fall and was a shell of its former self.

After bolstering its roster with players like Michael Duquette, LSQC turned in an impressive second place showing at Diamond Cup V. At the regional championship, by topping its pool and taking the third seed in bracket, LSQC didn’t look back on Day Two. After a bye, LSQC thumped  Austin Quidditch (140*-10) in the Round of 16, Oklahoma State University (120*-40) in the quarterfinals, and blew past second-seeded Texas Quidditch (140*-20) in the semifinals, earning a spot in the finals alongside Texas State University - San Marcos.
Lone Star beater Michael Duquette making a beat at Diamond Cup V. | Photo Credit: Sana Sadiq Photography
After two called-off catches in the finals for Texas State, Eric Reyes of LSQC grabbed the snitch, Gabe Garcez, giving the team not only the 230*-180 win, but its third straight regional championship.
With this performance, it is likely that Lone Star will be in the competition to bring the national championship back to the Southwest. The question remains: will the Southwest’s curse with regional winners never winning the USQ championship remain a curse? LSQC will do its best to break it.

Texas Cavalry is not invincible
After winning every tournament it played in this year – both official and unofficial – Cavalry remained the undisputed top pick coming into this weekend. After the first day of pool play, where it beat every opponent out of snitch range, there was still no reason to doubt Cavalry’s spot in the finals come Sunday. However, in the semifinals Cavalry matched up against Texas State, a team that has continued to gain momentum throughout the season. It was a close match throughout. Cavalry was leading by 30 at the time that the snitch was released, but Texas State fought back to go up 80-70 before Austin LaFoy ended it for Texas State. At the end of the day, though, the team with the best record in the Southwest is still Cavalry, and anyone that underestimates it simply because the snitch catch fell the other way will have a tough time playing Cavalry at US Quidditch Cup 10.  

College teams can still compete with the best community teams
Cavalry’s fall brings up another myth that the Southwest dislodged this weekend: the belief that college teams can no longer compete with powerhouse community teams. After this tournament, if anyone says that no college teams can compete with the best community teams, they are wrong. Once again, Texas Quidditch and Texas State competed against two of the top community teams. The caliber of the talent in the Southwest is incredible; it all comes down to who peaks at the right time in the season. If these college teams can compete with Cavalry and Lone Star, they have a shot at any community team they may encounter at US Quidditch Cup 10.

Texas seeker David Huber defends the snitch against Lone Star’s Jonathon Ruland during the Southwest Regional Championship | Photo Credit: Alex Russell

USQ has teeth
The Southwest Regional Championship (SWRC) is now the second regional tournament this year in which teams were disqualified because of technicalities; it is now understood that USQ’s usual laissez-faire attitude has disappeared. Many in the Southwest were disappointed that Texas Tech was disqualified from the competition due to not submitting a roster on time. Whether you agree or disagree with the call to remove Tech, you cannot deny that USQ is starting to crack down on its regulations. It will be interesting to see, once all of the US Quidditch Cup 10 spots are determined, if all 60 qualifiers make it to that tournament. Teams invest heavily in attending US Quidditch Cups, and with USQ’s newfound strictness, it will be important to stay on the right side of the rules.

Surprises lower down the bracket
Tribe Quidditch and Baylor University deserve credit for winning the secondary bracket positions, knocking down two favorites to gain spots relatively early (SHSU Quidditch and Silver Phoenix, respectively). They will no doubt be able to represent the Southwest well at US Quidditch Cup 10. The San Marcos Sharknados are deserving of attention as well; despite all the ups and downs they faced this season, they took University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) to overtime and played SHSU Quidditch in range for a US Quidditch Cup spot. Their play was so far above where everyone thought it would be, and they were able to capitalize on this and take teams by surprise. Also, shoutout to Lumberjack Quidditch for winning its first two games of the season and qualifying for the Consolation Cup.

Tribe keeper Ian Strickland driving to the hoops in their bid-clinching game against Austin Quidditch | Photo Credit: Alex Russell

This weekend was filled with close games and stiff competition. With less than two months left until US Quidditch Cup 10, you can bet that each one of the Southwest’s 12 qualifiers will be working hard to get their teams ready to compete with the best in the country.

The Weekend’s Standout Performers:

Brittany Laurent, Gulf Coast Gumbeaux, Keeper
Laurent has stepped up big for Gumbeaux this season and put on an excellent performance at SWRC. Working with a plethora of solid beater partners, including Joshua Mansfield and Kody LaBauve, Laurent adjusted to different play styles and has continued to excel in her own fashion. Her athleticism and decision-making skills helped her team secure a bid for US Quidditch Cup 10, where we should expect to see some more highlights from the Gumbeaux beater.

Joe Wright, LSQC, Chaser
While Lone Star’s chaser depth and talent never comes as a surprise, Wright is easily the team’s best kept secret. His size and stature typically does not intimidate opponents, but once he steps on the pitch, he is an amazing weapon for LSQC, and that was no different at SWRC. Wright’s aggressive and consistent point defense and ability to fast break was crucial for Lone Star’s championship run in Bryan-College Station, Texas.

Wright facing Texas during LSQC’s semifinal game of the Southwest Regional Championship | Photo Credit: Alex Russell

Hayley “Red” Rutledge, SHSU, Chaser
When watching Rutledge play, there’s one word that immediately comes to mind: athlete. Rutledge scored crucial goals on offense and forced many big turnovers on defense, all while giving spectators highlight after highlight to enjoy throughout the weekend. Her tenacity and obvious skill allows her to lead her team by example and gave SHSU the lift it needed to claw tooth and nail during bracket play on Sunday to earn one of the last bids the region had to offer to US Quidditch Cup 10. In addition to clutch seeker TJ Goaley, expect Rutledge to be utilized big time if SHSU has a chance to put on another amazing performance this April.

Daniel Sobarzo, Texas A&M, Beater
Sobarzo played important minutes for Texas A&M throughout SWRC and gave the team the spark it needed to make it to the quarterfinals, earning a bid to US Quidditch Cup 10 early on in bracket play. With beater Harris Coleman gone all weekend due to illness, Sobarzo was forced to play most games without more than a couple minutes to sub out. Sobarzo applied heavy pressure on opposing beaters, often leaving them clueless as to what he was going to do next. His skill and athleticism are so apparent that there is hardly a drop-off after Coleman. If the two beat together in Kissimmee, Florida, pray that you don’t have to line up against them.

Paige Lehrmann, Oklahoma State University (OSU), Seeker
With the best snitches in the Southwest region giving seekers headaches all weekend long, that didn’t bother Lehrmann one bit. Lehrmann took on the challenge at full speed, catching two snitches throughout the weekend as well as spending large portions of crucial games defending the region’s best seekers who were doing their best to end the game. Her tenacity, grit, and athleticism were on full display at SWRC and has earned the respect of her opponents. Lehrmann is not one to be messed with, no matter who is coming at her.

Lehrmann seeking during OSU’s game against SHSU during the Southwest Regional Championship | Photo Credit: Alex Russell

Craig Garrison, Texas State, Keeper/Seeker
The savvy veteran who has played in many big games in his career used his experience to help lead Texas State to a finals run at SWRC. Along with a great beating corps and a young, but hungry chaser line, Garrison was vital for his team’s success throughout the weekend. Garrison made key stops at the hoops, plowed through defenders for goal after goal, particularly in the finals, and caught many of the best snitches the region has to offer throughout the tournament. Look for Garrison to play big minutes as Texas State gears for a deep run at US Quidditch Cup 10.  

Danielle Celaya-Alvarez, Texas Quidditch, Beater
Alvarez stepped up big time for Texas Quidditch in its deep run to the SWRC semifinals. With Texas beater Hallie Pace sidelined for a majority of the weekend due to injury, Alvarez filled in nicely, playing huge minutes and working well with beater partners Eddie Molina and Zachary Pickett. As her playing time increased throughout the weekend, it was clear that her confidence on the pitch grew, making many key beats. Expect to see her solid decision-making and great chemistry on full display come April.

Celaya-Alvarez playing against Tribe Quidditch during the Southwest Regional Championship | Photo Credit: Alex Russell

Gabe Garcez, GOAT, Snitch
Check the stats. ‘Nuff said.

List of Qualifiers:
Texas Cavalry
Gulf Coast Gumbeaux
University of Texas at San Antonio
Texas State University - San Marcos
Lone Star Quidditch Club
Oklahoma State University
Texas A&M Quidditch
Texas Quidditch
Baylor University
SHSU Quidditch

The Silver Phoenix

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