Sunday, April 2, 2017

US Quidditch Cup 10 Preview: The Seventh Day of Kissimmee

On the seventh day of Kissimmee we have the defending champions on a more than year long winning streak, the last team to beat them, that team’s intra-city community and collegiate rivals, and a mid-tier Southwest team looking to make a name for itself.

Quidditch Club Boston
By Mike Pascutoi

Where do you start with Quidditch Club Boston (QCB), a team that has proven time and time again to be the best in the sport? You can reasonably start with Lulu Xu, one of the best beaters in the game who was arguably the biggest snub from 2016’s Team USA squad. There’s also the 6’3” behemoth Stew Driflot, one year removed from leading the Boise State Abraxans to the quarterfinals  at US Quidditch Cup 9, the unmatchable chaser defense of Kara Levis, and arguably the most underrated beater in the country in Jesse Knowlton. Those four alone with QCB’s deceptively deep supporting cast would make QCB a national title contender, and that does not even count the three players who have changed the face of quidditch in Boston forever.

QCB catches the snitch at the Northeast Regional Championship | Photo Credit: Chris Rothery
QCB is once again a favorite entering US Quidditch Cup 10, having stormed its way to a 19-0 record this fall before spending the winter regrouping for another run at the title.   The triumvirate of keeper Jayke Archibald, chaser/seeker Harry Greenhouse, and beater Max Havlin, and all the superlatives that can be attached to them from their illustrious careers, double as some of the hardest working players in the sport. The tireless effort they put in day in and day out will come in handy when they inevitably face any of the half-dozen contenders looking to end their 32-game winning streak extending back to January of 2016. Until proven otherwise, QCB has the best chance of walking away with a second straight national championship, barring a major injury or suspension deriding one or more of its star players.

The Lost Boys
By Cameron VomBaur

In their sixth season, the Lost Boys remain a powerhouse in the West region. As with past years, the number of losses entering the national tournament can be counted on one hand. This year, there are a mere three: 110*-80 to intracity rivals Los Angeles Gambits at the Tegan and Sara Invitational in January, 100*-60 to longtime basement-dweller Anteater Quidditch at Anthill Funkdown Invitational  in January in a game that saw many stars playing out of position, and 160*-120 to eventual West Regional Champions Arizona State University in the West Regional Championship semifinals. Notable wins include out-of-range victories over the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), Silicon Valley Skrewts, and (vengefully) Anteater Quidditch, as well as in-range victories over UCLA, the Long Beach Funky Quaffles (twice), and Utah State Quidditch Club (twice).

The Lost Boys utilize a side-to-side beating formation, with flawless chemistry between players such as Chris Seto, Amanda “Turtles” Nagy, and Ryan Smythe keeping the defense watertight against many styles of offense. Tackling is a strength among their quaffle players, with Kyle Epsteen, Dakota Bloom, and Justin Bogart among the defenders capable of making stops in the rare instance that their beating does not force a turnover. Offensively, goals are very diversely sourced, with so many skilled and intelligent chasers to spread the ball around to.

Keeper Kyle Epsteen makes a drive at the West Regional Championship featuring the team’s new alternate jerseys | Photo Credit: Chris Rothery
While the Lost Boys’ record was enough to place them in pod one, they do not look to be quite as fearsome as they have been in past years. Teams that they could beat comfortably before are now playing them in range, and if not for the stellar seeking of Justin Fernandez, there might be more talk of a decline for the storied program. However, wins are wins, and Fernandez’s prowess coupled with undeniable talent demonstrate that their 7-3 SWIM record is far from just good luck. While they may be missing a few players from last year’s 4-0 pool record and quarterfinal run, and their résumé is less impressive, the Lost Boys will certainly advance to bracket play and may well make yet another deep Day Two run.

Los Angeles Gambits
By Cameron VomBaur

Since their inception at the beginning of the 2014-15 season, the Los Angeles Gambits have established themselves as the West region’s top dog. This season, despite falling in the West Regional Championship (WRC) final to Arizona State University(ASU), they are clearly the West’s top contender to win it all. The Gambits romped through the West, losing only to the Long Beach Funky Quaffles in November 2016 110*-80 and ASU 270*-220 in February 2017. Only one other intra-region game was even in range, a 110*-80 win over the Lost Boys. At the Threaux Me Something Mister Quidditch Expeaux, the Gambits had two in-range wins over Texas State University - San Marcos and one over Gulf Coast Gumbeaux.

The Gambits have a deep rotation of diversely-skilled chasers: Justine Taylor’s defensive tenacity, Kelby Brooks’ off-ball quickness, and Tyler Ortiz’s strength in driving and tackling. However, despite the wealth of talent in their support chasers, the Gambits’ offense lives and dies with the play of star keeper Tony Rodriguez. His shooting prowess and ability to weave and power through opposing double- and triple-teams are the stuff of legend, but when he is beaten up physically or having an off game, the team lacks someone who can keep the goals coming in anything approaching a comparable manner. Coach/captain Steve DiCarlo and Team USA player Alyssa Burton lead a good corps of beaters, bolstered with the additions of Kevin Horn and Brian Vampola.

Star keeper Tony Rodriguez makes a play at the West Regional Championship. | Photo Credit: Chris Rothery
Much was made of the Gambits’ collapse in the WRC final, having led out of range for a period and making multiple gaffes in the beating game during snitch-on-pitch. While this would appear to be a trend, with similar games in years past, the Gambits have managed to close games at a respectable clip. The ASU loss was only the Gambits’ second game in which the snitch lasted until the first handicap at 23:00 (the other was a blowout 110-50* win over the Silicon Valley Vipers). With the addition of Margo Aleman and a phenomenal seeker bench consisting of Edgar Pavlovsky, Eric Dreggors, and Rodriguez, seeking is undeniably a strength, though ASU certainly exposed flaws in strategy after the seeker floor. After falling in the quarterfinals last year and the Round of 16 the year before, the Gambits will look to run through their pool and advance further than ever before in the bracket, and they are more than capable of becoming USQ champions.

University of Texas at San Antonio
By Miguel Esparza

Editor’s Note Miguel Esparza is a player for UTSA

The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) has had a rollercoaster of a season with wins over top teams such as Texas Quidditch, Oklahoma State University, and Texas A&M Quidditch; UTSA also took second at the Lone Star Invitational. It has also laid an egg at the 4th A&M Classic, been blown out on its home field by Baylor University, and has consistently struggled to put teams away that it should easily dispatch. Despite all the ups and downs, UTSA had a strong performance at the Southwest Regional Championship. The team went 3-1 in pool play and won its first game of bracket play, qualifying for US Quidditch Cup 10.

Chaser Daniel Williams at Alamo Cup | Photo Credit: Miguel Esparza
If UTSA is going to make a run at US Quidditch Cup, it will most certainly be kickstarted by veteran beaters Jonathan Garcia and Doug Tran, who time and time again clear the way for the lightning fast Elias Martinez and Daniel Williams. The keeper/chaser duo have a signature ability to counterattack that few teams can match, and they are instrumental in the success of the duo’s offensive attack. Garcia and Tran effortlessly turn the dial to 11 during snitch on pitch. The pair routinely makes sensational beats, plays, and decisions during the critical period. Reigniting the fire that team captain Taylor Tracy has worked hard to cultivate and instill in the team this season, this ragtag crew has responded to this year’s adversity, peaked at the right time, and performed when it truly mattered. Depending on which UTSA shows up, it could either make a run in bracket play or crash out on Day One.

University of California Los Angeles
By Austin Sharp

With the results of the West Regional Championship, it is clear that the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) came into the tournament ready to show off its hard work this season. On Day One, UCLA used its cohesion to emerge 4-0 with out-of-range wins over Cal Quidditch and the Fighting Farmers of Arizona, two teams who could have reasonably won the pool. Despite the skill of its opponents, UCLA dispatched them with an efficient and synergistic game plan that utilized its roster of capable players. While captains Brett Ambrose and Javier Cervantes have trained the team to have a clean gameplan, UCLA has had trouble coming away with the win against teams who kept the quaffle game close or adapt to disrupt its strategy. Despite this, UCLA is in a good spot to make waves at US Quidditch Cup 10.

Keeper Grant Rose dunks the quaffle while blindfolded by his headband at the West Regional Championship | Photo Credit: Chris Rothery
UCLA will enter US Quidditch Cup 10 as a pod three team, setting it up for a 2-2 pool play finish and a secured spot for Day Two, though this result is not a given. UCLA will have to operate to its strengths as a team to accomplish favorable results. To secure wins over its pod four and five opponents, UCLA’s quaffle game, centered around ball carriers such as Grant Rose, will need to rely on  supporting chasers in Elizabeth Allendorf, Kevin Gallagher, and Roberto Mosqueda and quick goals to drive games out of range. For its matches against the pod one and two teams in its pool, UCLA will need its beater corps, featuring veterans Lauren Fitzgibbon and Nicole Finegan, as well as newcomers such as Jacob Metevia, to maintain control of the game and give its seekers time to catch. UCLA is a team built on a solid foundation of players who operate an efficient and powerful game plan, and its success at US Quidditch Cup 10 will depend on its ability to execute its team strategies and counteract disruption.

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