Friday, March 31, 2017

US Quidditch Cup 10 Preview: The Fifth Day of Kissimmee

On the Fifth day of Kissimmee, we have a first year Carolina team fighting to make a name for itself, a second year Austin team looking to surpass last year’s loss at the Round of 16, a three time champ looking to reclaim its throne, and a fourth and fifth time qualifier each looking to do its relatively isolated state proud.

Carolina Heat Quidditch Club
By Kenny Stowe Behind numerous veterans of the Carolinas, Carolina Heat has established itself as one of the top teams in the South in just its first season. Founded by Joe Goldberg, formerly of the University of South Carolina, the Heat has had a rather successful and decorated season this year. Despite losing three out of five games at the Oktoberfest Invitational in the Northeast this past fall, the Heat has two tournament wins and one second-place finish. It has prominent wins over University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Tufts University Tufflepuffs, District of Columbia Quidditch Club, University of Miami, and, unofficially, Florida’s Finest. The Heat enters the Cup as one of the most out-of-state experienced squads from the South and will look to use what it has learned over the year to develop new play styles. The chaser/keeper combination of Jody Louis, Steven Schwark, and Ryan Davis love to drive which, coupled with their adept shooting ability, makes them extremely dangerous in the keeper zone and beyond. Beaters Hanna Reese and Johnny Ingalls are tenacious and resolute on the attack, but if there is a glaring weakness, it is in their one-dimensional, park-the-bus defense. Bludger control is the Heat’s sword and shield, and if this team loses that ability, it will greatly pay for it. Its strength will be its seeking game. The team has several capable players such as Davis and Matt Corder who can make a quick grab. The Heat will capitalize on any toss-up game in SWIM, so camping all of the beaters beside the snitch will become crucial. This team could make Day Two and bracket play. However, the likely outcome is for the team to be one and done in brackets.
Carolina Heat takes home second place in the South Regional Championship | Photo Credit: Emilee Jones
Texas Cavalry By Michael Duquette In just its second year of existence this Austin, Texas-based community team has already had incredible success. Texas Cavalry was founded by a few of the former Texas Quidditch members following the team’s US Quidditch World Cup 8 victory, including Augustine Monroe, Marty Bermudez, Kaci Erwin, and Freddy Salinas. This group was able to recruit and develop many raw athletes from the Southwest into solid role players on a championship-contending team. Cavalry uses a very well-polished strategy, patience, and skill combined with its elite athleticism to consistently pull ahead of teams and boast an outstanding 27-2 record this season, with countless tournament titles under its belt. While the team fell to Texas State in snitch range in the semifinals at the Southwest Regional Championship, Cavalry hopes to get back on track come April when it battles for a national championship. Cavalry’s balanced play time across the board will pay dividends for this team in the long run. While its depth was questioned last season, and rightfully so, the leaders have made sure to give important minutes to the team’s more inexperienced players so that they may gain the confidence needed to make crucial plays in big game situations. Cavalry’s well-run slowball offense in more competitive games, combined with its versatility, have helped put this team in great shape to compete with any team in the nation. Joshua Andrews, formerly of University of Texas San Antonio, will be a key player. This season, he has become one of the most dominant seekers in the Southwest region as well as a solid addition at the keeper position. Cavalry has been able to end games quickly when the snitch enters the pitch due to frequent bludger control by beaters Cole Travis and Monroe, who have given Andrews many opportunities alone with the snitch. With Andrews, Travis, and Monroe all focused on seeker play, look for keeper Tyrell Williams, formerly of Texas State, to play big minutes and try to put teams out of range. A national championship is certainly a possibility, but regardless of whether or not Cavalry can pull that off, it is a threat to make it deep into US Quidditch Cup.
Keeper Augustine Monroe drives past Texas A&M chaser Sam Haimowitz at Diamond Cup V | Photo Credit: Alex Russell
Crimson Elite By Cameron VomBaur Following the noteworthy departures of Dakota Briggs, Kristin Jakus, Jensen Morgan, Erik Tita, and Dan Hanson, it would not have been unfair to describe Crimson as undergoing a “rebuilding year” entering this season. However, it has marched onward with the same relentless consistency that has characterized the team for the past few years, thanks to a combination of established veterans and a rookie class full of young talent. Duston Mazzella and Michael Vong (formerly of the Fighting Farmers of Arizona and Silicon Valley Vipers, respectively) will make their season debut with Crimson and join a cerebral rotation of beaters. Its chemistry allows Crimson to force turnovers and make defensive stops even without bludger control. Despite the loss of Jakus to Gulf Coast Gumbeaux and Abbie Simons to Lone Star Quidditch Club following the fall semester, Crimson’s chasing has remained a strength, with Gina Allyn a massive threat to score whenever she’s on the pitch. While coach and keeper George Williams may not see much of the pitch while recovering from ACL surgery in December, keepers Nate Western and Luke Steining, as well as chaser and brother Matt Williams, will keep the offense humming as ball carriers. As with last year, Crimson wins its games via low-scoring affairs, with Dan Howland (or, on occasion, Nathan Liou) securing a SWIM snitch grab. This same style did allow it to stay in range with West Regional Champions Arizona State University, but it also allowed snitch-range games in victories against non-qualifiers Northern Arizona University Narwhals, the Fighting Farmers of Arizona, Rain City Raptors, and Mile High Quidditch Club. While Howland is certainly an extraordinary seeker, overdependence on his hot hand may spell trouble. Look for Crimson to advance again to bracket play without the burden of last year’s Pool of Death, but don’t be surprised if it suffers a snitch-range upset at the hands of a lesser team.
Dan Howland pumps up the Crimson Elite at the West Regional Championship | Photo Credit: Michael Vong
Oklahoma State University By Carrie Soukup Oklahoma State University’s (OSU) season started off rocky with a semifinal showing at both their own tournament (Cowboy Cup) and the secondary bracket of Diamond Cup, but OSU’s record going into the 2017 Southwest Regional Championship (SWRC) belied its ability on the pitch. OSU’s beater ability, formerly among some of the best, was lagging; however, its chasers were unafraid to venture deep into enemy territory and score, a deciding factor in snitch-range games buoyed by Hayden Applebee’s physicality and relentless driving ability. OSU’s chasers are still the driving force of the team this late in the season. One standout for OSU who showed her mettle with two snitch catches (vs. SHSU Quidditch and Houston Cosmos Quidditch Club) at the SWRC is Paige Lehrmann. Female seekers are rare enough in the region, and Lehrmann is equally adept on offense and defense. Lehrmann is one to look out for at US Quidditch Cup and should not be underestimated. At SWRC, Oklahoma State qualified in the primary bracket, showing that while the team was slow to start, it is gathering momentum for its US Quidditch Cup run and should not be counted out. Getting into the Round of 32 is not out of the question, especially if the team is on point for the day and willing to tackle everyone to get there.
Hayden Applebee drives against Austin Quidditch during Diamond Cup V | Photo Credit: Alex Russell
Texas Quidditch By Alex Russell Editor’s Note: Alex Russell is a player on Austin Quidditch. After a disappointing showing during the Southwest Regional Championship (SWRC), Texas Quidditch will look to rebound at US Quidditch Cup 10. Under the leadership of coach Simon Arends and captains Rajan Makanji and Nick Marino, this year’s club is stacked with young players who have quickly become top performers, with only Makanji, Marino, and Hallie Pace left from the USQ World Cup 8 winning team two years ago. There has been a high turnover the past two seasons with several new players who have grown into some of the team’s best options. Headlining this crop is beater Eddie Molina, whose style of play is similar to ex-teammate Michael Duquette, and has grown into one of the best beaters of the Southwest. Complementing the aggressive beater play is a chaser corps built on speed and physicality. One player absent from the SWRC disappointment was Pace, whose presence as beater was sorely missed even with the success of Danielle Celaya-Alvarez and Kylie McBride. Despite injury problems later in the year, Texas has reason for optimism in its new seeker. Alek McCracken was often on pitch during the SWRC to face off against bigger, more powerful snitches after they were tired out from earlier seekers. McCracken made three snitch pulls during the tournament, including against Texas A&M in the second round of bracket play. Combining McCracken’s recent success with Molina’s excellent snitch presence will make for very competitive snitch-range games. Texas should make it to bracket play without question and is well suited for a deep run. Last year’s early exit – a loss to Ball State – left many of the players on this team bitter and eager for another shot at glory. Texas should reach the quarterfinals and can definitely advance further.
Beater Eddie Molina fires a bludger against Texas A&M at the Southwest Regional Championship | Photo Credit: Alex Russell

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