Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Under the Radar: Southwest Players to Watch

By TJ Goaley

Since I began playing quidditch three years ago, the majority of regional championship articles, USQ World Cup previews, and tournament analyses that I read only covered the best players and teams in the Southwest. While it is important to evaluate and report on great players, I would like to recognize those players in the Southwest who have contributed to their teams’ successes but are not usually mentioned. I spoke to the captains of Lumberjack Quidditch, Texas Tech Quidditch, and Texas Cavalry to get their input on the players who, in their opinion, deserve more recognition for their level of play. I also went back to look at footage of these players to evaluate their performance and contributions.

Lumberjack Quidditch
Lumberjack Quidditch (LJQ), from Stephen F. Austin State University, is a club that was founded in March 2014. I spoke to Adrienne Machann, the team’s president, about Lumberjack’s up-and-coming players: Nancy Layden, Samantha Smith, and Robert Arnold

Layden is LJQ’s beater captain and is described as one of the team’s best players. Her intense hustle allows her to fight for the ball on the ground; she has a strong arm and is able to motivate her teammates during practice as well as during games. Layden’s style of play is fairly reserved, but it allows her to keep her focus on the field while being able to transition to a more aggressive style when needed. She is able to consistently get a quick beat and then recover to where her team needs her. 

Next is Samantha Smith, a beater and one of LJQ’s newest players who has already proven herself an asset to her team. Her initiative on the field has allowed her to gain a reputation as a smart, capable, and aggressive beater. She has no problem stepping up on defense or offense to maintain or recover bludgers. This, along with her accuracy, makes her a solid beating force. 

Finally, Robert Arnold is a utility player who primarily plays as a beater. Arnold has been one of the driving forces behind the changes LJQ has made on and off the field since its creation. He has the ability to play every position, primarily playing beater and seeker. His quickness and aggressiveness on the pitch allows him to take on beaters larger than himself. This quickness transfers over when he plays other positions as he is often able to outmaneuver the defender. As a beater, he maintains a cool head, even under pressure, which allows him to get solid beats consistently in game-time situations.

Texas Tech Quidditch
A lot of great talent has come out of Texas Tech Quidditch (TTU), and Captain Sean Townsend says there are two players who deserve some recognition: Derek Malone and William Wells

Malone plays keeper and is one of the captains of TTU. He is a player who relies primarily on his agility, but he uses this to do more than just score. He is often able to use his speed and balance to swiftly break out of opponents tackles and get through defenses to score. Malone has great field awareness, allowing him to get off quick, strong passes to his chasers around the hoops. When playing defense, Malone has proven himself to be an aggressive shot blocker who is skilled at tackling opposing players if they get too close. The combination of his ability to drive to the basket, his accurate and quick passing, and his intense defense have made him a valuable asset to TTU.

Derek Malone carried Texas Tech at USQ World Cup 8. | Photo Credit: Hannah Huddle

While Malone has become a rising keeper for his team, William Wells has been able to contribute by becoming an essential member of the beating corps. He is the easiest player to spot on TTU because he has long, blond hair like Thor. Wells has the ability and talent to play any position, but after two years of chasing, he has become TTU’s starting beater. His aggressiveness and sheer willpower on the pitch allows TTU to quickly gain bludger control and maintain it for a good amount of the game. Wells has no problem with taking on two beaters at the same time, and he has the athleticism to maintain or regain control. He has accuracy over large distances and has great control of the bludger at close distances. However, it is not just his talent that makes him a valuable asset to the team; Wells’ personality helps ground the team when tensions peak. Having a player who can reduce stress during practice can really help a team grow and perform at its best, and Wells is able to provide that support.

Texas Cavalry
While no one would doubt that the community team Texas Cavalry (TXC) has its fair share of incredible talent, Captain Augustine Monroe says that Cole Travis deserves recognition as one of the better keepers in the Southwest.

Cole Travis played with Cavalry at Bat City Showcase, where the team went 4-2. | Photo Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography

Travis’ teammates never have to worry about his performance; he is always able to step up and do what is asked of him. On offense, his speed allows him to score in various ways, and his crisp passing allows him to draw the defenders and kick the quaffle out to an open chaser around the hoops. With his high level of intensity, Travis is capable of making some of the best defenders look average at any point in the game, against any opponent. While on defense, his reflexes make it difficult for a shooter to get an easy shot past him. When forced to step up and defend a chaser or keeper coming down the field, Travis uses his quick hands to strip away the ball, or he takes advantage of his athleticism and makes a great tackle before they get too close to the hoops.

Every team has essential on-the-cusp players who are the keys to making plays, defending the hoops, and scoring important goals, but with limited time and space to write about every one, they often do not get the attention they deserve. I hope to continue my search for these players who tend to be off the radar and to highlight more of them next month.

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