I'm starting a new series where I'll go region by region and evaluate the top storylines going into the 2013-14 season.
UCLA is going to be a completely different team next year. UCLA has long been known for superb beating led by Asher King Abramson and Kara Levis, execellent female chasers such as Vanessa Goh and Missy Sponagle, and great passing with players like Alex Browne, Jeff Lin and Jake Tieman. All of the aforementioned players will be gone next year. New recruits are going to have to step into the shoes of some of the best players to ever take the pitch. Quality role players, who gave UCLA the depth any team needs to reach the World Cup finals will also be departing. So, what familiar faces will put on a Bruins jersey next year?
Let's start with Zach Luce. Luce was dominant at the World Cup, scoring 70 points against Baylor in the semifinal. Luce drives to the hoop at will, weaving through the defense. He can create his own scoring chances, and his shot is very accurate. I think we can expect UCLA's half-court offense to be a lot of Zach Luce. Korey Osto and Katelynn Kazane will also be offensive contributors. On defense, Adam Richardson should return to being UCLA's primary point defender.
USC had a lot of trouble with injuries this past season, but I think they have developed an amazing three-some of male keepers/chasers. August Lurhs, David Demarest and Harrison James are big, physical and know the game. The Big Three keep getting more experience and if they can add role players around them, USC will be favorites at WCVII and WCVIII. You see, Lurhs and Demarest will only be juniors next year and James will be a sophmore.
USC also needs the Big Three to lead the team. Captain Nicté Sobrino, who has my vote for captain of the year, is graduating. There is also the slim possibility that the Trojans could lure Remy Conatser back to quidditch and the Big Three could become the Big Four.
The community teams in California are perhaps the best in the world. The Lost Boys and the Silicon Valley Skrewts have already established themselves as elite community teams and the biggest challengers to UCLA and USC, but expect the Santa Barbara Blacktips to join that league. Led by captain Evan Bell, keeper Chris Lock and beater Brian Vampola, 2013-14 could be the Blacktips' breakout year. Our first look at the Blacktips in a while will come May 18th at the Beachside Brawl.
I wouldn't expect a back-up keeper playing behind August Lurhs to get that many minutes in his sophomore year, but Harrison James will. James' specialty at World Cup was defense. He is an outstanding shot blocker and nearly impossible to score on. When opposing teams would center their strategy completely around Lurhs at WCVI, USC would take him out and put James in. For James to become a truly elite player, he needs to improve his passing and field awareness on offense. I'd also expect James to log some minutes at chaser next year.
Team To Watch
Sierra College intrigues me. They were widely praised after attending their first major tournament, the Cinco de Mayo Cup. Sierra was physical but clean and described as great athletes. My hope is that Sierra will make some more appearances at tournament in 2013-14 and improve their strategy, experience and understanding of the game.
Where will UCLA's graduating seniors go? These players love quidditch too much to just forget about it. The question is which community team will they be playing for. If they choose to stay in the Golden State, both the Lost Boys and Skrewts would be eager to welcome them into the red and black.
Can the Big Three stay healthy, recruit role players and lead USC? The future of USC quidditch lies in the Big Three's hands. (Demarest, Lurhs, James) It's up to them to build the program into a juggernaut and they have to stay healthy.
Can the Arizona/Utah teams keep up with California? The first step for these Rocky Mountain teams, is either to travel to more California tournaments, or start hosting/competing against each other more often. The distances they have to travel to play quidditch though are really just unfair.
3. Lost Boys
*An incorrect earlier version of this article stated that chaser Michael Montgomery was one of the Blacktips' key player. Montgomery will be leaving the team.