Tuesday, July 22, 2014

The Complete Quiyk Draft Rankings

8. TEAM D’AMICO (-2)
C, Vanessa Goh, The Lost Boys
B, Peter Lee, The Lost Boys
K, Zach Luce, UCLA
C, Michael Powell, BU
C, Audrey Wright, UT
B/(C) Mathieu Gregoire, Texas A&M/Lone Star QC
B, Shannon Moorhead, UMiami
C, Kenny Chilton, UT
K, Jacob Heppe, Michigan State
C, Jayke Archibald, QC Boston

Wait, wasn't Jack supposed to share ALL the GM's picks? The only new one I see here is D'Amico's QC Boston teammate Jayke Archibald. 

After a great performance at West Fantasy, Archibald's "stock" is rising dramatically, but D'Amico stopped picking after his tenth-round selection. Unfortunately for Team D'Amico, a severe lack of depth does matter even in fake fantasy drafts. Team D'Amico falls two spots, past Team Wilson and Team Bell, into the cellar.

7. TEAM BELL (+1)
B, Brittany Ripperger, Baylor
K, Brendan Stack, BU
B, Chris Rhodes, Baylor
C/S, Aryan Ghoddossy, UT
C/S, Jeffrey Lin, The Lost Boys
B, Andy Abayan, SB Blacktips
C, Nichole Galle, Lone Star QC
C, Bernardo Berges, UMiami
C, Sam Adlis, Texas A&M
C, Ethan Kapke, Arizona State
C, Erin Mallory, Maryland
C, Sam Roitblat, BGSU
C, Eric Wasser, Michigan
U, Alyssa Burton, Lost Boys
U, David Demarest, USC
B, Melissa Staup, Ball State

Team Bell started in last place and will only move up to seventh, but that is not to say that Bell didn't make some great picks in the later rounds. Arizona State ankle-breaker Ethan Kapke adds terrific speed to Team Bell's lineup, while Eric Wasser and David Demarest bring some much-needed physicality. After drafting Brittany Ripperger fourth overall, Bell continued to show his attention towards female players by taking several of the best female players in the Mid-Atlantic, Midwest and West. Finally, BGSU seeker Sam Roitblat proved once again that he is one of the nation's best seekers at Global Games, but after sixteen rounds, Team Bell still lacks an elite ball carrier and an elite beater. 

6. TEAM WILSON (+1)
C, Sarah Holub, Lone Star QC
B, David Gilbert, Baylor
K, David Fox, Emerson
C, P. Reynebeau, Arkansas
C, J. Reynebeau, Arkansas
K, Jacob Bruner, Baylor
C/S, Adam Robillard, Gee-Gees
B, Ryan Peavler, Tx St
C/B, Amanda Turtles, Lost Boys
U, Eric Reyes, Tx St
U, Porter Marsh, NAU
C, Beissy Sandoval, Baylor
C, Tyrell Williams, Tx St
B, Erin McCrady, Gee-Gees
C/K, Josh Ebbesmeyer, Missouri
K, James Hyder, Perth

In four picks, the tenth, eleventh, twelfth and thirteenth selections, Alex Wilson won my respect back. With Eric Reyes and Tyrell Williams, Team Wilson has a pair of dynamic, physical chasers with a drive-first mentality. Reyes, who redeemed himself on Team USA after a mediocre performance in the World Cup VII finals, is known as one of the most unstoppable forces in the Southwest. Williams was probably the most surprising edition to my World Cup VII All-Tournament Team, but I assure you, his selection was well deserved. Snagging Porter Marsh in the eleventh round while other elite seekers went many rounds earlier was also quite an accomplishment. Beissy Sandoval and Erin McCrady are ok additions, but Team Wilson is still lacking an elite distributor. Players like David Fox, Adam Robillard, Reyes, Williams and even keeper Jacob Bruner are known for their thundering drives, not skillful passing. Ultimately, Wilson's lack of a passer and underwhelming selections of Josh Ebbesmeyer and James Hyder, who was like the tenth best player for the silver-medalist Drop Bears, will keep Team Wilson out of medal contention.

5. TEAM DALLAS: (+/-)
K, Tony Rodriguez, The Lost Boys
B/C, Max Havlin, BU
B/C, Katrina Bossotti, BU
C, Becca DuPont, Texas A&M
S/U, Steve DiCarlo, The Lost Boys
C/K/S, Michael Parada, NYDC
U, Steve Hysick, NYDC
B, Sean Fry, Texas A&M
K/C, Tyler Sessions, Texas A&M
C, Devin Sandon, Rochester
C, Bryan Barrows, Maryland
B, Freddy Salinas, Texas
C, Julia Fillman, Villanova
B, Julie Fritz, Ohio State
C, Pablo Calderon-Santiago, Emerson
C/K, Hugh Podmore, Valhalla

Amanda Dallas continued her stretch of good but not game-changing selections in the later rounds of the Quiyk Draft, leaving Team Dallas in the middle of the table. In North Myrtle Beach, Bryan Barrows delivered an incredibly promising performance, filling in for Maryland's two biggest playmakers, Harry Greenhouse and Matt Angelico. Despite having a roller coaster of a season, Freddy Salinas played his A game at the World Cup, proving to be essential piece for the Longhorns. I also liked Dallas' picks of Julia Fillman and Julie Fritz, who appeared on my World Cup VII All-Tournament. I thought long and hard about flipping Team Dallas and Team Dugie, but in the end, Team Dallas' relative lack of hard-hitting power players and elite tacklers doomed it to fifth place behind Dugie's team.

4. TEAM DUGIE (+/-)
C/U, Simon Arends, Lone Star QC
C/U, Chris Morris, Lone Star QC
K/U, Daniel Daugherty, BGSU
K/U, August Lührs, USC
S/U, Keir Rudolph, Kansas
B, Scott Axel, PSU
B, Kyrie Timbrook, Skrewts
C, Meredith Taylor, BGSU
C, Joe Wright, Texas A&M
C, Devon McCoy, Ball State
B, Beth Clementi, Tx St
C, Dre Clements, Florida
U, Jason Winn, LSU
B, Christian Dowdle, UT
C, Sam Medney, Maryland
B, Tad Walters, Loyola

In the later rounds of the Quiyk Draft, Hank Dugie continued to be all over the place. Beth Clementi is great snag for Team Dugie, as is clutch LSU beater/seeker Jason Winn. Clementi and Winn would form a fearsome beater pair, capable of occupying and dominating even the most organized beating duos. With Texas' Christian Dowdle, Penn State field general Scott Axel and Team USA's Kyrie Timbrook available as substitutes, Team Dugie has a deceptively strong beating corps. Although Dugie may have reached slightly to get them, Devon McCoy and Dre Clements have proven themselves to be strong players for their school teams and fantasy teams. A fourth-place finish will surely be disappointing for Dugie, but even more disappointing is the fact that the world will never get to read the confident GM's blurb about his prized sixteenth-round pick, Tad Walters.

2. TEAM NATERA (+/-)
K, Stephen Bell, Lone Star QC
B, Mollie Lensing, Lone Star QC
B, Hope Machala, Lone Star QC
U, Sean Pagoada, FF
C/S, Kedzie Teller, QC Boston
C, Keri Callegari, Lone Star QC
C, Hai Nguyen, Kansas
K, Connor Drake, LSQC
S, Andrew Hryekewicz, Texas A&M
C, Kaci Erwin, UT
C, Sean Snipes, Florida's Finest
B, Eric Wilroth, Lone Star QC
C/K, Ryan Davis, UT
C, Tye Rush, Riverside
C, Chris Scholtz, Lone Star QC
C, Chisa Tko-Br Egbelu, Rutgers

2. TEAM CANTO (-1)
K, Augustine Monroe, UT
C, Kody Marshall, Lone Star QC
C, Adam Richardson, UCLA
C/S, Harry Greenhouse, UMD
C/B, Melissa White, LSU
C, Sean Beloff, UMiami
B, Ashley Calhoun, Central Michigan
K/C, Ren Bettendorf, SB Blacktips
B, Alex Leitch, Hofstra University
C, Trent Miller, Baylor
C, Dylan Greenleaf, Baylor
B, Rosemary Ross, Texas A&M
B, Willis Miles, Skrewts
C, Lauren McGarrah, Tx St
C, Alex Makk, Skrewts
K, David Prueter, Central Michigan

Prior to the 2014 FIFA World Cup, I wouldn't have felt comfortable declaring a tie between Team Canto and Team Natera, but now that the United States has embraced the world's game, I hope my readers won't mind that Canto and Natera will have to share the silver. At the top, Stephen Bell versus Augustine Monroe, Kedzie Teller versus Kody Marshall and Mollie Lensing versus Melissa White are all complete toss-ups for me. Team Canto may have a slightly stronger male chasing corps with steals of World Cup VII All-Tournament Teamers Ren Bettendorf and Alex Makk, but Natera assembled a world-class crew of female players and found good value in the later rounds. For instance, Chris Scholtz and Eric Wilroth improved steadily throughout the year, culminating in a solid World Cup performance and Tye Rush has added a West Fantasy title to his Snow Cup victory from January. On Team Canto's side, the influence of Kevin Oelze is evident with two smart Skrewts picks. A male beater with the quality of Willis Miles was a necessity for Team Canto to stay on the podium and Texas State's Lauren McGarrah, who scored twice in the World Cup finals, was a sneaky and good pick. If I could separate these teams I would, but the fact is that both Natera and Canto/Oelze did a great job drafting and could only be topped by quidditch's most famous savant.

1. TEAM HANSON (+2)
C/K, Drew Wasikowski, Texas A&M
B, Chris Seto, The Lost Boys
C/S, Kifer Gregoire, Texas A&M
K/C, Alex Browne, The Lost Boys
C/U, Missy Sponagle, The Lost Boys
C, Brad Armentor, LSU
B, Tim Brestowski, Baylor
B, Rachel Harrsion, Texas A&M
K, Stephen Ralph, UMiami
C, Hannah DeBaets, Tufts
C, Andrew Axtell, Michigan
C, Sam Haimowitz, Texas A&M
U, Brandon Scapa, UCLA
B, Julia Baer, Richmond
C, Alex Pisano, LBFQ
U, Michael Mohlman, Lost Boys

Fantasy drafts are said to be won in the later rounds and even with a knowledgeable field of GMs, Dan Hanson pulled off a comeback for the ages. With flat-out dirty steals of Sam Haimowitz in the twelfth round and Michael Mohlman in the sixteenth, Team Hanson's starting line could essentially combine the season's best chasing corps (Texas A&M) with the season's best beating corps (Lost Boys). Add in the unstoppable duo of Brad Armentor and Andrew Axtell, who were both members of my World Cup VII All-Tournament Team, and I couldn't refuse Team Hanson the title. Hannah DeBaets had a great Global Games, allowing Missy Sponagle to play as a true utility for Team Hanson. Then Team Hanson can still insert UCLA's Brandon Scapa just about anywhere, Tim Brestowski can sub in behind the Lost Boys' beating duo and I haven't even mentioned Alex Browne yet. That's the kind of depth that convinced me that Team Hanson deserved the gold.

That's all for me! Agree? Disagree? Vote in the poll on the right! Who Won the Quiyk Draft, according to you?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Who Won the Quiyk Draft?

It's December 2013. The fall season has ended, but people from all corners of the quidditch community are buzzing. Players, captains, coaches and refs are excitedly submitting applications to become GMs for the First Annual Quiyk Draft, the brainchild of Quiyk Marketing Director Ben Nadeau. Finally, a field of eight GMs are chosen and announced.

In January, the draft begins and my mock drafts end up in the trashcan after only one pick thanks to Alex Wilson's surprise selection of Sarah Holub. After Wilson's baffling pick, the draft became more predictable. Dan Hanson reunited key members from the 2013 TFT runner-up in Drew Wasikowski, Chris Seto and Kifer Gregorie. Beto Natera began his draft with three of his Lone Star QC teammates. Andrew Canto paired Augustine Monroe with Kody Marshall. Yet the show was stolen by Hank Dugie and his confident, fun and memorable blurbs. 

As the draft went on, public interest waned and with World Cup VII approaching, the GMs stopped making picks. Luckily, the draft did not halt mid-round, leaving us when eight teams of nine players. Here's my take on the best and the worst teams, factoring in all that we learned at World Cup VII.

8. TEAM BELL:
B, Brittany Ripperger, Baylor
K, Brendan Stack, BU
B, Chris Rhodes, Baylor
C/S, Aryan Ghoddossy, UT
C/S, Jeffrey Lin, The Lost Boys
B, Andy Abayan, SB Blacktips
C, Nichole Galle, Lone Star QC
C, Bernardo Berges, UMiami
C, Sam Adlis, Texas A&M

At the beginning of the Quiyk Draft, Evan Bell cast himself as the great omniscient psychologist of the quidditch community. "I understand people," Bell said. "I know what people will want to see, what team strengths will make people vote for my team." Unfortunately for Team Bell, what people want to see is a team full of players that overachieved at World Cup VII. Besides Aryan Ghoddossy, Team Bell is lacking those overachieving players. Brendan Stack could not lead BU past regional rivals Emerson. Brittany Ripperger and Chris Rhodes were overshadowed by outstanding performances from David Gilbert and Tim Brestowski. Andy Abayan was plagued by inconsistency and Bernardo Berges, a player that I was very excited to see at World Cup, ended up playing a small role for a Miami team that never really got going.

7. TEAM WILSON:
C, Sarah Holub, Lone Star QC
B, David Gilbert, Baylor
K, David Fox, Emerson
C, P. Reynebeau, Arkansas
C, J. Reynebeau, Arkansas
K, Jacob Bruner, Baylor
C/S, Adam Robillard, Gee-Gees
B, Ryan Peavler, Tx St
C/B, Amanda Turtles, Lost Boys

Although Alex Wilson's picks became somewhat of a punch line in #IQAForums, I have Team Wilson sneaking in at number seven. Jacob Bruner, David Fox and Adam Robillard each had respectable tournaments and the Reynebeaus helped Arkansas put up a great fight against Texas A&M. The tandem of David Gilbert and Ryan Peavler, a duo I have united for my Navy Blue team at THE Fantasy Tournament, might be the strongest in the Quiyk Draft. However, Amanda Turtles did not have the best World Cup, the selection of Sarah Holub at number one overall still puzzles me and I have lots of trouble imagining Wilson's chaser line performing cohesively.

6. TEAM D’AMICO:
C, Vanessa Goh, The Lost Boys
B, Peter Lee, The Lost Boys
K, Zach Luce, UCLA
C, Michael Powell, BU
C, Audrey Wright, UT
B/(C) Mathieu Gregoire, Texas A&M/Lone Star QC
B, Shannon Moorhead, UMiami
C, Kenny Chilton, UT
K, Jacob Heppe, Michigan State

Team D'Amico looked solid going into World Cup, but it had a very mediocre showing in North Myrtle Beach. First, Zach Luce hasn't been nearly as dominant without the services of former UCLA beater Asher King Abramson and several other members of UCLA's Class of 2013. Second, many of Team D'Amico's chasers perform better in fast-paced, transition offenses. Since Luce prefers a slow, methodical offense, I have trouble imagining good chemistry from Team D'Amico's chasing corps. The UT duo of Audrey Wright and Kenny Chilton are two bright spots, as each helped guide the Longhorns to back-to-back championships and despite a Round of 32 exit, Peter Lee and Vanessa Goh are still some of the most talented players at their positions. 

5. TEAM DALLAS:
K, Tony Rodriguez, The Lost Boys
B/C, Max Havlin, BU
B/C, Katrina Bossotti, BU
C, Becca DuPont, Texas A&M
S/U, Steve DiCarlo, The Lost Boys
C/K/S, Michael Parada, NYDC
U, Steve Hysick, NYDC
B, Sean Fry, Texas A&M
K/C, Tyler Sessions, Texas A&M

Before World Cup, Team Dallas was my favorite to win the Quiyk Draft, but World Cup VII did not treat Team Dallas well at all. Despite a strong performance from Tony Rodriguez, the Lost Boys were bounced in the Round of 32 when fifth-round pick Steve DiCarlo failed to catch the snitch. BU's duo of Max Havlin and Katrina Bossotti were matched by Willis Miles and Kyrie Timbrook of the Silicon Valley Skrewts in the Sweet Sixteen and in the Elite Eight, strange beater game tactics led to BU's loss to Emerson. Although Texas A&M and NYDC fell short of expectations, players like Becca DuPont, Tyler Sessions, Sean Fry and Steve Hysick still had good tournaments. Without those solid showings from Rodriguez, Hysick and the A&M players, Team Dallas could've fallen further.

4. TEAM DUGIE:
C/U, Simon Arends, Lone Star QC
C/U, Chris Morris, Lone Star QC
K/U, Daniel Daugherty, BGSU
K/U, August Lührs, USC
S/U, Keir Rudolph, Kansas
B, Scott Axel, PSU
B, Kyrie Timbrook, Skrewts
C, Meredith Taylor, BGSU
C, Joe Wright, Texas A&M

While Hank Dugie's blurbs introducing his players made the Quiyk Draft worthwhile, Team Dugie has found the middle of the table in my rankings because its players did little to hurt or help their "stock" at World Cup VII. Watching Simon Arends, Chris Morris and Dan Daugherty at World Cup VII, it was clear that each player still had the same strengths and weaknesses as before the tournament. August Lührs did not appear at World Cup and Keir Rudolph had a predictably inconsistent performance. Scott Axel and Kyrie Timbrook played well, but weren't world-beaters, if you'll excuse my pun. Overall Dugie drafted a solid team, but even persuasive blurbs couldn't hide the questionable decision to take two seekers and the lack of an elite beater.

3. TEAM HANSON:
C/K, Drew Wasikowski, Texas A&M
B, Chris Seto, The Lost Boys
C/S, Kifer Gregoire, Texas A&M
K/C, Alex Browne, The Lost Boys
C/U, Missy Sponagle, The Lost Boys
C, Brad Armentor, LSU
B, Tim Brestowski, Baylor
B, Rachel Harrsion, Texas A&M
K, Stephen Ralph, UMiami

Team Hanson's top three picks might have won silver at the most recent THE Fantasy Tournament, but Drew Wasikowski, Chris Seto and Kifer Gregorie will have to settle for bronze in my rankings of the Quiyk Draft. First, let's be clear that Wasikowski gets a pass for his teammates' shortcomings much like Neymar at the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Second, how in the world did Hanson get Brad Armentor in the sixth round?! With the best value pick of the entire draft, plus solid value picks of Missy Sponagle, a top three female utility player, and Tim Brestowksi, Baylor's second best beater at World Cup VII, I can almost forget that Texas A&M and the Lost Boys were supposed to meet in the final of World Cup VII. (Almost.) Team Hanson gets third.

2. TEAM NATERA:
K, Stephen Bell, Lone Star QC
B, Mollie Lensing, Lone Star QC
B, Hope Machala, Lone Star QC
U, Sean Pagoada, FF
C/S, Kedzie Teller, QC Boston
C, Keri Callegari, Lone Star QC
C, Hai Nguyen, Kansas
K, Connor Drake, LSQC
S, Andrew Hryekewicz, Texas A&M

As previously mentioned, Beto Natera began his draft with a healthy dose of his Lone Star QC  teammates and then threw in a couple more for good measure. Natera's gamble paid off as Lone Star looked like one of the best teams in North Myrtle Beach, despite its quarterfinal exit. Seventh-round pick Hai Nguyen was an integral part of Kansas' possession-based stalling, but ninth-round pick Dirk Hryekewicz failed to come up with the snitch against Texas, Lone Star or Kansas. While I am using World Cup VII as the measuring stick for the rest of this article, the 2014 IQA Global Games will be the true test for two-time Team USAers Kedzie Teller and Sean Pagoada. Whether Teller and Pagoada, two players who are forced to carry their community teams, can fit seamlessly alongside a squad of stars will determine whether I snubbed Team Natera with the silver medal.

1. TEAM CANTO:
K, Augustine Monroe, UT
C, Kody Marshall, Lone Star QC
C, Adam Richardson, UCLA
C/S, Harry Greenhouse, UMD
C/B, Melissa White, LSU
C, Sean Beloff, UMiami
B, Ashley Calhoun, Central Michigan
K/C, Ren Bettendorf, SB Blacktips
B, Alex Leitch, Hofstra University

My Quiyk Draft gold medal goes to Andrew Canto, meaning keeper and first-round pick Augie Monroe can add another trophy to his vast collection. Canto miraculously paired Monroe with his former UT teammate Kody Marshall, who had a terrific World Cup for Lone Star QC. Although he did not play at World Cup VII due to an injury, Harry Greenhouse's "stock" was higher than ever this spring and will continue to rise if the Maryland utility can be a key component for Team USA in Burnaby, BC. Both members of my World Cup VII All-Tournament Team, Melissa White and Ren Bettendorf were huge steals for Canto. The rest of Team Canto compliments its stars very nicely. For instance, hard-hitting Hofstra beater Alex Leitch would work terrifically with White and Adam Richardson could rotate point defense with Kody Marshall. 

That's all for me! Agree? Disagree? Vote in the poll on the right! Who Won the Quiyk Draft, according to you?

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Top Five Shocking Quidditch Routs

With Germany's shocking, unbelievable, embarassing, cruel, 7-1 defeat of host nation Brazil in Belo Horizonte today, here's a look back at some of the most stunning routs in quidditch history.

5. Lone Star QC 120--Baylor University 70* (OT)
Southwest Regional Championship Semifinals
Sunday, 23 February 2014
Tulsa, OK, USA

The fact that Baylor's 120-70* loss to Lone Star QC at the most recent Southwest Regional Championship can make a list of Top Five Shocking Quidditch Routs shows that huge blowouts of respected teams aren't common in quidditch. After sending the tightly contested semifinal to overtime with a snitch catch, Baylor moved its beaters to the snitch, paving the way for six Lone Star goals in five minutes. Kody Marshall provided the initial spark for Lone Star, bringing down Baylor keeper Jacob Bruner twice and scoring a goal that would make Lionel Messi proud. From that point, Stephen Bell took over, recognizing that without its beaters, Baylor had no chance to stop him in transition. Following such a low-scoring stalemate in regulation, Lone Star's explosion of goals in overtime had me sitting on the edge of my couch

4. Baylor University 150*--University of Texas 40
Diamond Cup Semifinals
Saturday, 1 February 2014
San Marcos, TX, USA

With Diamond Cup video available thanks to Alex Wilson, I was able to analyze Baylor's smackdown of the reigning world champs. Below is a paragraph from the article. For the full analysis, click here.

"The UT team that took the field against Baylor performed unlike any UT team I've seen before. Whether it was the high-pressure Baylor defense or some unrelated inside issue, there was a noticeable lack of whatever-made-UT-so-great-last-year. Baylor caught the Longhorns off guard badly at the beginning of the game, jumping out to a huge lead--on the scoreboard and emotionally. Maybe fatigue from a grueling schedule finally caught up to the reigning world champions, but UT never bounced back. The defense seemed lackadaisical at times, with some failed tackles and too much standing around. Baylor's beaters completely outclassed UT's beaters, a discouraging performance for a group that seemed to be making progress. Newer players who came in later in the game like mid-drift chaser Paden Pace showed aggression and motivation, but sloppiness translated to illegal contact and cards."

3. Santa Barbara Blacktips 190*--NYDC Capitalists 100 and University of Michigan 180*--NYDC Capitalists 100
World Cup VII
Saturday, 5 April 2014
North Myrtle Beach, SC, USA

Following World Cup VII, I wrote Worlds Away From Kissimmee: The Pool of Death detailing the events in Pool 6. Below are a couple of paragraphs from the article. For the full piece, click here.

"The minutes passed. The Blacktips piled on the goals. As Bettendorf and the other Blacktips played outstanding transition defense, the Capitalists' transition defense deteriorated terribly. Ultimately, the Capitalists weren't killed by Bettendorf, but by their own lack of urgency on defense in transition. A set, ready defense does wonders against an inexperienced chasing corps and NYDC failed to provide it. The Blacktips lead reached 150-70 at its height and although Parada subbed in and scored three goals before the snitch catch, it proved to be too little, too late.
Even sitting in the nosebleeds with divided attention, the emotion and body language of both teams was clear. The Blacktips were ecstatic and NYDC felt distant. Distant from my position in the bleachers. Distant from their outstanding performances at Turtle Cup against Emerson and Tufts. Distant from the team I thought they were. With their 90 point loss to the Santa Barbara Blacktips, NYDC had dug themselves into a hole." (NYDC Capitalists vs. Santa Barbara Blacktips)

"
What followed was a war of attrition. Neither team played close to perfect. The beginning of the game was a slugfest. Amazing feats of athleticism were followed by bonehead mistakes with a healthy dose of sloppiness in between. Sometimes, only luck separated a successful possession from an unsuccessful possession. When the stalemate finally broke, ushering in an onslaught of goals, NYDC desperately tried to hold on and keep the game in snitch range. The atmosphere was a mixture of pandemonium and hypnosis. Regional affiliations were obvious and the warm Southern air carried the cheers and groans of crowd. But at the same time, what was unfolding on the field was stunning. Where had this Michigan team come from? What was wrong with the Capitalists?


The rest of the game--snitch Kyle Carpenter fending off the seekers, vicious beater battles around the snitch, Michigan opening up a lead--was a blur for me. With regional bias, personal relationships, and not wanting to be proved wrong (I had NYDC as my longshot Final Four team), it was admittedly hard for me to be impartial." (NYDC Capitalists vs. University of Michigan)

2. Marquette University 40--Middlebury College 0 
World Cup V
Sunday, 13 November 2011
New York, NY, USA

If only, if only. 

In what has gone down as the greatest "what if" in the history of quidditch, an opening round bracket play game at World Cup V between Marquette and Middlebury was called off after a mistake in the bracket was discovered. Marquette had seized a 40-0 lead and showed no signs of allowing Middlebury back into the game. The atmosphere was absolutely electric and strongly pro-Marquette. Every goal by the Golden Eagles was met with a deafening roar and the Midwest side was growing more and more confident. The four-time defending champions were dropping passes, turning over the ball and athletically outmatched. Then, the game was interrupted and confusion gave way to anger and disbelief among the spectators. Just like that, minutes away from certain death, Middlebury had been given a reprieve. Instead of suffering an embarassing defeat in its final World Cup game, Middlebury rallied and won the World Cup, going out on top.

1. University of Texas 200*--Texas A&M 40
World Cup VI
Sunday, 14 April 2013
Kissimmee, FL, USA

I had to think about the other ones, but Texas' quarterfinal rout of Texas A&M at Austin-Tindall Park was the clear number one on this list from the moment I began brainstorming. The intensely physical but beautiful style of play debuted by Texas was something the IQA had never seen before. Despite 0 goals from stars Augustine Monroe and Kody Marshall, UT put 200 points on the board. With a virtually unknown Simon Arends leading the way with five goals, eight different Longhorns scored against the consensus number one team in the country. In addition, UT's beating corps held bludger control for 95% of the match and repeatedly thwarted any semblance of offense from Texas A&M. 

Texas A&M's veterans used the humiliating defeat as motivation to take the 2013-14 Aggie squad to a new level. Flaws in Texas A&M's strategy were fixed and new players were recruited and trained, but ultimately, Texas A&M fell to Texas again at World Cup VII.

For an extremely motivated Texas squad, the mind-numbing defeat of Texas A&M was a major stepping stone towards its World Cup VI goal of complete and total domination. The Longhorns' display of athleticism, teamwork and skill against A&M helped them earn a reputation as a team that deserved to be celebrated.

Friday, July 4, 2014

WCVII All-Tournament Team: Male Chasers

Making an All-Star Team solely based on the World Cup is always a challenge, but with 48 frantic hours in North Myrtle Beach contradicting an entire season's worth of knowledge, the process has only become more difficult. Comparing players who played eight or nine games with players who played three or four fewer games than their counterparts is also tricky. The success of a player's team is a huge variable during bracket play; a streak of wins can give players a fantastic stage to shine on, but a sudden loss can end a player's tournament instantaneously. Naturally, more weight is given to great performances in close games against tough opponents, but bringing in strength of schedule is always walking a thin line. However, like I did for World Cup VI, I've attempted to compose a team of the players at each position who had the best performances at World Cup VII. I will be releasing the team in three parts by position. The first installment featured the best keepers and female beaters. The (belated) second installment, focusing on male chasers, is below.

Male Chasers
Aryan Ghoddossy--University of Texas
One of my justifications for not giving the number one keeper spot to Texas keeper Augie Monroe was that UT's chasers stepped up big time, lightening the responsibilities of Monroe. Aryan Ghoddossy, who improved to 17-0 in IQA World Cup games for his career, was chief among the overachieving UT chasers. World Cup VII proved to be the perfect storm for Ghoddossy. Early exits from tournaments, beater game woes and bad UT offensive strategy had prevented Ghoddossy from fully blossoming into an "MPV' during the regular season. In Texas' blowout loss to Baylor at Diamond Cup, Ghoddossy's great wing chaser talent was virtually invisible. 

Helping Texas unexpectedly snag a second consecutive World Cup title, Ghoddossy burst back on to the scene in a big way. With resilience and strength, Ghoddossy weaved through all different types of defenses and avoided costly turnovers that sometimes plague players with a drive-first mentality. Perhaps most importantly, Ghoddossy stuffed the box score with goals and assists. Against Baylor, Texas A&M and Texas State, the UT sophomore chaser matched Monroe's goals (four) and assists (two) with significantly fewer touches. Ghoddossy was especially key against rivals Texas A&M, scoring three goals and notching one assist.

While, with the departure of Monroe and no home-field advantage at World Cup VIII, Texas' odds to three-peat have to be low, Ghoddossy's potential for jaw-dropping performances will always give the Longhorns a chance. In the meantime, we can look forward to THE Fantasy Tournament 2014, where Ghoddossy will look to defend his MPV crown in the company of Stephen Bell and Kody Marshall.

Ren Bettendorf--Santa Barbara Blacktips 
Santa Barbara Blacktips chaser Ren Bettendorf came into his first IQA World Cup with lots of hype and despite an early exit for the Blacktips, Bettendorf clearly exceeded his high expectations. Prior to the World Cup, the Blacktips' "OT3" offense, featuring Bettendorf, Ben Harding and Chris Lock, had elevated the California community team to the West's top tier with even scoring and teamwork. However, at World Cup VII, Harding and Lock sustained injuries and were forced to play at less than 100%. Answering the call to lead the Blacktips, Bettendorf dominated using a moderately-paced transition game, the weapons around him and a knack for scoring goals.

While there is nothing flashy about his game, Bettendorf's offensive greatness is in no way subtle and has earned praise all season. For me, the clincher for Bettendorf's spot on this All-World Cup VII team was his defense. Against NYDC, Bettendorf had a series of open field tackles on fast-breaking NYDC players. Thanks to Bettendorf's hustle and execution, NYDC's offense was slowed to a halt and Santa Barbara jumped out to a huge lead. Against the multi-dimensional offensive attacks from Austin Quidditch (Pool Play) and Penn State (Play-In Round), Bettendorf stepped up in the keeper zone and fended off shots from every angle. With versatility on offense and defense, Bettendorf, who is leaving the Blacktips according to my Departing Players Database, will be an invaluable addition for his new, 2014-15 season team.

Brad Armentor--Lousiana State University
It's hard to date exactly when the Brad Armentor hype train left the station (for the second time in his long career), but the 5'9", 190-pound locomotive hit its top speed in the Round of 32 at World Cup VII, defeating the second-seeded Lost Boys in an epic showdown. Although I got to see Ghoddossy, Bettendorf and others play more, Armentor was the one obvious All-World Cup choice for me because a game like Lost Boys-LSU will forever be seared into my memory. 

After leading LSU through Tufts, the Gee-Gees and Stanford, Armentor scored six goals against the Western Regional Champions, five of which were unassisted. In total, Armentor shot 54% (6/11), with only three forced turnovers. Armentor would start his drives near half court, cutting and juking to shake off the Lost Boys point defenders. Two spins, a bludger block and five changes of direction later, Armentor still had the same explosiveness to power through the final line of the Lost Boys' defense. What was most impressive to me was that almost every single one of Armentor's shots were closely contested. He was often off-balance and receiving hits from two different players as he released the quaffle. Making shots from his knees and around the outstretched arms of Tony Rodriguez, Armentor's deadly scoring ability against the Lost Boys will definitely be one of my lasting memories of World Cup VII. 

Andrew Axtell--University of Michigan
While the three players above received considerable attention in the weeks leading up to April 5th and 6th, Andrew Axtell and his Michigan squad were mostly dismissed, as I described in Worlds Away From Kissimmee: Pool of Death. Facing a schedule of Austin Quidditch, the Santa Barbara Blacktips and the NYDC Capitalists, Michigan certainly wasn't expected to turn themselves, a quarterfinalist at the Midwest Regional Championship, into a 4-0, seventh seed heading into bracket play at the IQA World Cup.

Although I believe the biggest change for Michigan was the increase in production and physicality of their second and third lines, Axtell turned in an MVP performance as Michigan's "clean-up hitting slugger." Lines featuring chasers like Malek Atassi and Eric Wasser would wear defenses down with heavy pressure, but would settle for a goal or two per shift. Then, Axtell would storm into the game and use his extra speed and strength to pour on the goals. To continue with my baseball analogy, Atassi and Wasser loaded the bases, but Axtell hit the grand slam. Point defenders and keepers would have no answer for a rejuvenated Axtell, his tireless driving and killer second-chance points. 

Although Axtell and several other prominent Wolverines are listed in my Departing Players Database, I expect the Michigan star to return to the pitch in some way during the 2014-15 season. With Ohio State growing more confident, Dan Daugherty preparing for his senior-year campaign at BGSU, Kansas' beater game flourishing and the addition of Blue Mountain QC, Axtell will need to build on his positive performance at World Cup VII to separate his team from the crowded Midwest.

Tyrell Williams--Texas State University
Texas State might have advanced all the way to the World Cup final on Sunday, April 6, but its star quaffle player, Eric Reyes, did not have the best day. Against Ohio State and UT, Reyes' bulldozing drives were thwarted by swarming chasers and quick beaters. With Reyes struggling, chaser Tyrell Williams stepped up to fill the role of the Team USA selection. Williams repeatedly drove through the heart of the opponent's defense, shaking off defenders and drawing in the defense. In the quarters, semis and final, Williams tallied seven goals and three assists to lead his team. Williams provided the energy his team needed to advance to the World Cup finals, scoring impressive goals at pivotal moments. Williams was also a fixture on Texas State's proficient fast break.

If Texas State is going to compete with the Southwest's Big Four during the 2014-14 regular season, Williams is going to have to continue his offensive consistency and reliability. 

Alex Makk--Silicon Valley Skrewts
Without Arizona State transfer Alex Makk, the West likely would have been completely shut out of the Sweet Sixteen. Seizing openings created by the Skrewts' elite beating corps, Makk thrived as the focal point, sole playmaker and star of the Skrewts offense. Inevitably, Makk shares many of the same characteristics as his fellow WCVII All-Tournament Team Chasers, but his speed and agility are unmatched. Capable of delivering stinging hits on defense, Makk's flying tackles were feared by attacking players and he proved to be invaluable when beater play broke down. 

Ultimately, Makk's explosive speed and agility allowed the Skrewts to add a counterattack to their arsenal. With the fast break, and its prospect for easier, uncontested goals, the Skrewts could conserve energy and limit long, laborious offensive possessions while still putting points on the board. Makk's fast break was a new, useful weapon for the Skrewts, who advanced further than ever before at a World Cup. Giving Makk the reigns to counterattack and play glorified hero-ball in the half court, a role he clearly loves and excels at, has opened the door for a new era in Silicon Valley.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

The Northwest: In Defense of USQ

Note: The following does not represent the opinions of USQ.
Photo by Kat Ignatova
The birth of the Northwest region, a section of the expansive West that has stagnated thanks to extreme isolation, has been met with unexpected controversery. Obviously, the creation of a new region and the promise for a regional championship requires significant resources. Some have questioned whether the Midwest, which will likely face a regional with upwards of 30 teams, needed a split more. My best guess is that USQ Management looked long and hard at splitting the nation's heartland before realizing that a split would be more challenging and less rewarding than it appeared (especially with Peoria's bid for the Midwest Regional Championship being withdrawn). 

I talked to Logan Anbinder, the first regional director of the Mid-Atlantic, about the challenges of creating and developing a new region from exisiting regions. "One challenge is creating a unique regional identity,"Anbinder said. "Players identify strongly with their own regions, and creating a new identity for a new region is important not only for the extant teams, but to build a culture that fosters new team growth."

The current Midwest region has developed one of the strongest regional identities in USQ and teams from Ohio to Kansas seem to identify strongly with the Midwest. That has never been the case with the  Northwest. No Northwest team has ever cheered "West Coast, Best Coast!" at a World Cup to support a fellow West team. Every Midwest team has screamed "COOOOORNNNN" at a World Cup to cheer on their regional rivals. Very few Northwest teams have even attended a West Regional Championship or Western Cup. The Midwest has seen champions from both extremes of the region in Kansas and BGSU. 

USQ all-but-assured that the Midwest split will occur next summer, giving the organization tons of time to prepare for the addition of a larger, more demanding region. For a league that hasn't added a region since Middlebury was the dominant power, starting modestly--with the small, happy-to-just-be-remembered Northwest--seems very smart. The Northwest will need significantly fewer volunteers to serve its teams than a Midwest split woud require. While some feel the Northwest has been given special treatment because USQ COO Alicia Radford lives in Seattle, the "special treatment" (or "conspiracy" depending on who you talk to you) really makes perfect sense for the organization. Having USQ's COO available to guide the new region makes the addition an even safer investment. 

The timing of the Northwest's birth is key too. Last summer, Seattle hosted QuidCon and this summer, Global Games will come to Burnaby, BC. "The time between QuidCon 2013 and Global Games 2014 has seen a lot of growth in this region," said Eric Andres, the founder of Emerald City Admirals Quidditch, "and I think those who attend Global Games will benefit greatly from seeing our sport at its highest caliber."

Waiting until next summer to create the Northwest would have been a terrible waste of QuidCon 2013 and the Global Games because even if new teams sprouted up, geography and travel distance from West tournaments would continue to doom teams' desire to play competitive quidditch. New teams would have popped up and then disappeared very quickly. The new Northwest regional staff will ensure that new teams have the opportunity to play in tournaments at reasonable travel distances, play in a regional championship, compete for berths to World Cup VIII and "get hooked" on quidditch. 
Photo by Kat Ignatova
The final thing to remember is that USQ Upper Management has to prioritize the growth of the sport. The growth of the sport leads to more due-paying members, which leads to a larger budget, which leads to the possibility of adding more regions and regional championships, more paid staff and better events. Additionally, Upper Management now depends on the growth of the sport for their job and salary. 9/10 corporations would have made the same decision. The Northwest is a terrific market that USQ has struggled to tap in to with the current regional structure. The people in Oregon and Washington have already flocked to sports like ultimate and Major League Soccer. The culture in the Northwest is ideal for the growth of quidditch. 

So yes, the Midwest Regional Championship will probably be crowded this year and will present a huge challenge for its volunteers and first-year RD Alex Scheer. USQ should be able to pour extra resources into the Midwest Regional Championship to ensure its success. Scheer and the Midwest certainly deserve that. However, I'm confident that having an extra year to prepare for the Midwest split will be as valuable to USQ as having an extra year to prepare for World Cup VI, the IQA's first spring World Cup, was and that the Northwest will have a successful inaugural season.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Collegiate Rugby Sevens and US Quidditch

This weekend, 20 men's rugby sevens teams played for the Collegiate Rugby Championship (CRC) at PPL Park, the home of the Philadlephia Union in Chester, PA. As someone who is drawn to learning about unusual sports, I've enjoyed watching the CRC on NBC and NBC Sports. However, lucky for you, my small knowledge of rugby sevens often led to my mind drifting and thinking about quidditch. 140 characters was not enough to hold all my thoughts. 
 
Photo by Collegiate Rugby Championship

What's In A Name?
The transition from the IQA to US Quidditch might have been a little shocking at first, but I am confident that it will be the right decision on many levels. Not only will US Quidditch be able to focus more time and resources on US quidditch players, but with a name similar to established organizations like USA Rugby, I am hoping the change will also boost respect for quidditch among other established sports governing bodies. 

I remember being very excited to hear that the 2013-14 membership program had been modeled after organizations like USA Rugby, USA Lacrosse, US Gymnastics and USA Track and Field. I hope US Quidditch continues to follow in the footsteps of these organizations. In my opinion, Membership should just be the beginning. In the following years, I expect other US Quidditch departments to take cues from USA Rugby and company, all highly successful governing bodies for non-"Big Four" sports.
Photo by Collegiate Rugby Championship
Administering Many Divisions
Recent dialogue in the quidditch community has suggested that a split between college and community teams is imminent. In addition, some have predicted that quidditch will need to split into separate weight classes as the sport attracts bigger players. When we get there, the advent of new divisions will raise many questions for US Quidditch. USA Rugby has proved that handling many different sectors of a sport is possible.

USA Rugby has over 115,000 members, with 1,200 high school teams, 900 college teams, 700 senior club teams, and 400 youth teams. At the college level, USA Rugby administers competition in both 15-player and 7-player rugby for both men and women. I would guess that similar divisions exist at the high school and senior club levels. When quidditch splits into different divisions, US Quidditch should look towards USA Rugby.
Photo by Collegiate Rugby Championship
A Faster Game
Like quidditch, rugby is a full-contact sport where tackles do not signal a stoppage of the clock. Mixed with its physicality, rugby sevens' fast-paced and fun-to-watch gameplay is likely what makes it attractive to NBC. At World Cup VII, we saw many games that were significantly slowed by stoppages due to physical contact infractions. Quidditch games were often mired in stoppages and confusion. 

One of the things that contributes to rugby sevens' lightning-fast gameplay is the respect all players show to their opponents and the referee. Despite the presence of 6'7", 250 pound behemoths, the referee is the clear and unquestioned enforcer on the rugby pitch. The referee is constantly communicating with players and imposing his will on the game. Through several hours of games, not once did I see a player stop and argue with a referee at the CRC. 
Photo by Ben Holland

The behavior of players and coaches at World Cup VII was truly detrimental to the game of quidditch. I saw players getting in the faces of referees, captains charging out onto the pitch and referees overwhelmed by onslaughts of criticism. Although this behavior is frequently seen in basketball, quidditch is not an established sport like Dr. James Naismith's game. For new viewers unfamiliar with the game, arguing comes off as immature and stupid. New viewers want to watch players play quidditch, not argue about confusing and complicated rules. Rugby recognizes this and fosters a culture of respect on the pitch. Assuming the quality of referees continues to improve, head referees should be entrusted to make more decisions and direct gameplay with the clock running. Giving referees this power would limit chances for arguments, speed up games and keep new viewers captivated.
Photo by Collegiate Rugby Championship
Finally, rugby sevens seems to have a system for when an offensive player is brought down and retains possession of the quaffle. The defensive player is forced to release the tackled player and several offensive players rush over to the tackled player, take the rugby ball and restart the attack. Especially when beaters are preoccupied, a routine tackle in quidditch can result in a messy scrum. After being released by the defensive player, the offensive player would have to hand the quaffle over to a teammate. Since defending chasers and keepers couldn't create a scrum, beaters would have to be more alert and pounce on a tackled player more quickly. Pressure from beaters to hand off the quaffle would force tackled players to make quicker decisions and keep gameplay moving.
Photo by Nicole Harrig
A New Slate of Events 
By the time US Quidditch reaches its five-year and 10-year birthdays in 2019 and 2024, I hope it will have revamped its end-of-year events. Using USA Rugby's model, my proposal builds in a Collegiate Quidditch Championship to attract the attention and money that the Collegiate Rugby Championship has attracted. Before I explain my new events and adjustments to current events, let's review the Collegiate Rugby Championship.

What? The CRC is the championship for collegiate men's rugby sevens. Games are about 15 minutes and the tournament has pool play followed by bracket play. Who? The CRC is contested between 20 teams from across the country divided into five pools of four teams. Some teams qualify through regional championships and some teams are invited based on the quality school's rugby program. When? The CRC takes place in late May/early June over a three-day period. Pool play happens on Friday and Saturday and bracket play occurs on Sunday. The CRC is awarded after the graduations of most of the participating universities. Where? Since 2011, the CRC has been played at PPL Park, the 18,500-seat home of the Philadelphia Union, a 2009 expansion team in Major League Soccer. In its inaugural year (2010), the CRC was played at Columbus Crew Stadium, the stadium of another MLS team. Only one game occurs at a time.

With some modifications, I had a vision that 5-10 years down the line, US Quidditch will have their own Collegiate Quidditch Championship.

What? The CQC would be the championship for the highest level of collegiate quidditch. The tournament would have pool play followed by bracket play. Who? The CQC would be contested between 32 teams from across the country divided into eight pools of four teams. All teams would qualify through new "collegiate" regional championships (organized by USQ). When? It's not possible right now, but I hope that in 5-10 years, the end of the academic year won't have to be the end of the season for elite collegiate quidditch teams. Lined up with the CRC and the NCAA Lacrosse Tournament, late May/early June would be a great time for the CQC. In addition, with classes finished, a three-day tournament would be possible. Pool play would happen on Friday and Saturday and bracket play would occur on Sunday. Where? For the CQC to garner television and advertisement interest and therefore allow US Quidditch to grow like USA Rugby has grown, the CQC would have to take place in a stadium. There are hundreds of college football stadiums in the United State that seat more than 10,000 fans. Anyone of the 13 soccer-specific stadiums for MLS teams in the United States are also intriguing options. Football and soccer fields could each fit at least two quidditch pitches, with one at each end.
Photo by Kat Ignatova
With the beginning of the Collegiate Quidditch Championship, a Community Shield of Quidditch would be born. Like the CQC, CSQ would be organized by US Quidditch.

What? The CSQ would serve as the championship for the highest level of club quidditch teams. The tournament would have pool play followed by bracket play. Who? The CSQ would be contested between 16 community teams from across the country divided into four pools of four teams. All teams would qualify through new "community" regional championships (organized by USQ). When? The CSQ would take place a week after the CQC. Pool play would happen on Saturday and bracket play would occur on Sunday. Where? Unlike the CQC, which would seek to garner television and advertisement interest, the CSQ would not seek mainstream relevance. The CSQ would be contested in American parks or sports complexes like the facilities in Kissimmee and North Myrtle Beach.  

Photo by Ben Holland
Even with the start of the CQC and CCQ, the IQA World Cup would not cease to exist. In fact, under my vision, World Cups XII and XIII wouldn't be much different from World Cups VI and VII. The IQA World Cup would be organized by the new IQA, with assistance from the national leagues.

What? The World Cup would continue to be a tournament open to all official college and community teams from all countries. The tournament would have pool play followed by bracket play. Who? The World Cup would be contested between 80 official teams from across the world divided into 16 pools of five teams. The World Cup would still require qualification through "open" regional championships (organized by the IQA). College teams playing in the CQC would have the chance to qualify for and play in the World Cup. Community teams playing in the CSQ would have the chance to qualify for and play in the World Cup. When? The World Cup would stay in early April, a perfect time for most quidditch players. Where? The World Cup would be held at parks like Austin-Tindall Park or North Myrtle Beach Park and Sports Complex. Due to the high concentration of teams in North America, the IQA World Cup would be held in the United States or Canada most frequently. However, a European or Australian World Cup would not be off limits.