Monday, April 3, 2017

US Quidditch Cup 10 Preview: The Eighth Day of Kissimmee

Baylor University
By Carrie Soukup

In a region defined by hitting hard and carrying momentum from tournament to tournament, Baylor has had a rocky start this year. Its slow start was not aided by the negation of Wolfpack as an official tournament, and overall the Baylor name has not been on the forefront of the Southwest region this year. Arguably one of the teams that benefitted the most with Texas Tech’s disqualification, it fought back at the Southwest Regional Championship to qualify for US Quidditch Cup 10 in the secondary bracket. Led by captains Mark Williard and Reed Marchman, experience is on Baylor’s side in leadership as the team heads to Kissimmee, Florida.

“[Mark] Williard and Steffi Hoffman bring a great senior presence to the team and keep our feet on the ground,” said Marchman. “It seems that every game we get carried by a different part of the team.”

While Baylor still runs its zone defense – one of its signature strengths – the team’s 8-12 record accurately reflects the struggles the team has gone through. Baylor has a lot of first-year players on the team, and this can be considered a weakness; however, Marchman feels that one of Baylor’s best assets is its on-field decision-making, which can be attributed to the veterans on the squad. Despite this year’s record, it is never a good idea to underestimate Baylor, but this year is definitely not one that has been kind; the team’s battle continues at US Quidditch Cup, where a good showing would be to make it out of Day One. It is not out of the question, but it will be an uphill climb.

Long Beach Funky Quaffles
By Christopher Dewing

A community team from Southern California, the Long Beach Funky Quaffles have extensively travelled throughout the West region this year, playing in both Arizona and Northern California for different tournaments. The added experience paid off as the team’s competitiveness jumped from last season. Led by beater Andrew Burger, keeper and chaser Anthony Hawkins, and chaser Jessica Ward, the team has a deep roster to complement its strong starting lineup. The Funky Quaffles are a team with a high competitive ceiling, but struggle with consistently maintaining that level.

The Long Beach Funky Quaffles at the 2016 West Regional Championship | Photo Credit: Chris Rothery
With one of the biggest upsets in the West region this year – a victory over the Los Angeles Gambits at Next Best West – much was anticipated of the Funky Quaffles heading into the West Regional Championship. Here they struggled to match their level of play from earlier in the year, but did showcase streaks of their potential. A tie game before the snitch catch against eventual champions Arizona State University in the quarterfinals was the closest they came to making their core strategy work. The Funky Quaffles run a very aggressive two-male beater line led by Burger. Working in tandem, both beaters often press up into the opposition’s keeper zone when trying to open holes for driving on offense. While drives from their point players are frequent, much of the offense relies upon the steady hands of Ward. Ward positions herself near a side hoop and has both the physicality and skills to beat her defender and the keeper after receiving the ball. How much the Funky Quaffle offense can generate outside of Ward will likely be the key to its bracket play chances. Maintaining its cohesive and competitive play will be the real battle the team faces at US Quidditch Cup. If it can consistently score and control the beater game, Long Beach has upset potential even against top teams. A spot in bracket play would likely mark a successful campaign.

Anteater Quidditch
By Christopher Dewing

Anteater Quidditch is a college team based out of the University of California, Irvine. After the team’s first few seasons were spent struggling in the bottom of the standings, the Anteaters have turned a corner this year and snagged a surprise bid to US Quidditch Cup. The team is led by beater and chaser Joe Robles, chaser Connie Henderson, and keeper Austin Sharp. They have been able to pull off several stunning upsets this year, including victories over the Lost Boys and the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). Despite these victories, the team’s 10-13 record showcases an ongoing struggle to consistently stay in games. Against higher quality opposition at US Quidditch Cup, the Anteaters are unlikely to remain competitive.

Connie Henderson and Jacob Ellis Chasing for Anteater Quidditch at the 2016 West Regional Championship | Photo Credit: Chris Rothery
Playing a very slow and deliberate game, the Anteaters rely on aggressive physical play on defense and individual driving skill on offense. Sharp has been the top scorer this year, but fellow chaser and seeker Jacob Ellis has also been able to generate goals when the team needs them most. The team’s beaters sit back deep while on defense but have choice moments of aggressiveness that prevent opposing teams from ever settling into a half field set. With a talented, deep bench with flexible skills – highlighted by Henderson’s ability to play point on defense – the Anteaters can continue to have fresh legs deep into games. Their struggle will be to match the higher levels of talent they will face at US Quidditch Cup and not let other teams dictate play. Any victories in pool play will be treated as success, but a spot in the bracket is likely beyond the Anteaters. However, if anything has been learned from their performance this season, it is to never count them out until the final whistle.

Penn State University Nittany Lions
By Liz Snell
Editor’s Note: Liz Snell is a captain of Penn State Quidditch.

Always the underdog, Penn State plans on fighting for victory this Saturday and Sunday.
After losing the first bracket play game at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship (MARC) on a snitch catch, the Lions continued to fight hard throughout the day, winning two games in the consolation bracket to qualify for US Quidditch Cup. This semester, Penn State played in two tournaments: the Knights Cup IV at Rutgers University and the Second Annual Tri-River Tournament at Carnegie Mellon. While Penn State was in the running for a title at Rutgers, the team had to forfeit due to too many injuries. The team took home the first place title at the Tri-River Tournament after beating Central Michigan Quidditch Club and Michigan State Quidditch. After placing second in its pool on Day One at MARC 2016 and making it to the Round of 16 at US Quidditch Cup last year, Penn State is ready to build on last year.

Captains Thomas Jaworski, Chris Humbert, and Liz Snell (a senior who plans to coach from the box due to an unfortunate ankle injury that occurred during MARC) lead a skilled team, including five powerful freshmen, all of whom have become pivotal players on the team. In addition, Penn State will also bring a group of strong beaters, including senior Jack Kulick, who can wreak havoc on the field. Josiah Hritsko and senior Michael Eccker, who play as both beaters and seekers, have caught 15 out of the 18 snitches in the official games in which the team has played. Keeper John White brings an element of physicality to the game that the team will rely on.  The chemistry on this team is unmatched, with chasers, keepers, and beaters working together with finesse on offense and defense.

By Carrie Soukup

Ranked at No. 86 according to USQ’s standings, Tribe has the illustrious distinction of one of the lowest-ranking teams that qualified for US Quidditch Cup 10. Don’t let this fool you; despite this, it still has a drive that can cause some teams great consternation. Tribe’s qualification surprised quite a few at Southwest Regional Championship (SWRC), but this is not Tribe’s first appearance at a national championship. The team’s first national bid was back in 2015 for USQ World Cup 8 in its first year as a team.

Led by co-founder and keeper Ian Strickland, along with captain and keeper Brent Rowland, the team has quite a bit of flexibility throughout its play with experience on the pitch. This will help Tribe throughout pool play, but its roster, featuring many new names compared to earlier in the season, may lead to issues later in the day with substitutions and lack of depth. With four of its five wins for the year occurring at SWRC, this shows that the team is able to rise to the occasion (putting away fellow Southwest qualifier Silver Phoenix 100*-60). However, with 12 losses on the season, Tribe’s less than 50 percent win percentage for the year will prove its downfall as the team is highly unlikely to make it out of pool play. Any wins for the team in Kissimmee should be considered its goal.

Keeper Brent Rowland brings up the quaffle against Texas Quidditch at the SWRC | Photo Credit: Alex Russell

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