Otherwise a blip on analysts' radar, this year's Lumberjack Invitational was spiced up by the announcement that the Lost Boys will be traveling from Los Angeles to Northern Arizona. Coming off an Elite Eight performance, the Lost Boys added five UCLA players over the summer, boosting them into the preseason top five. There has been lots of buzz about the improvements of Lost Boys' players Tony Rodriguez and Chris Seto, but a majority of the buzz has come from Lost Boys themselves. Now with quidditch mastermind Mitch Cavender, it will be interesting to see if the Lost Boys beating strategy has undergone a makeover. For the Lost Boys to win this tournament, chaser Jeff Lin can't let ASU's sole All-American Alex Makk dominate. In a grudge match between two of the best seekers in the IQA, both Steve DiCarlo and Porter Marsh (as well as each team's beaters) are sure to be on the top of their game.
Best Case: Lost Boys dominate, winning every game by at least 100 points. Steve DiCarlo out-seeks Porter Marsh, Tony Rodriguez looks like the best keeper in the IQA and the Lost Boys justify their #2 ranking in the coaches poll.
Worst Case: The Lost Boys win the Lumberjack Invitational, but lose to either NAU or ASU along the way. Their #2 rankings in the coaches poll seems absurd.
Arizona State, led by Alex Makk, have been mentioned as a possible dark horse at Western Cup V. There's no doubt, Makk is terrific. He's speedy, strong, can tackle and can shoot, however Makk is neither Arizona State's most important, nor most exciting player. Duston Mazzela, a beater who played with Tony Rodriguez's Firemercs champion team, is ready to enter the conversation of the best beaters in the best beating region. The Western Eighth Man analysts seemed to think that beating was an issue for the Sun Devils, but I think a beating corps led by Mazzela has to be a strength.
Best Case: Arizona State upsets the Lost Boys early in the tournament and places second at the tournament. Mazzela and Makk shine.
Worst Case: The loss of keeper Willie Jackson hurts Arizona State's defense a lot and Tony Rodriguez stomps all over ASU. In the rivalry game, NAU snatches victory.
The hosts, NAU, are going to head into a new season hoping that they do not have to rely on Porter Marsh as much. NAU has an athletic chasing corps but too often, they make beginner mistakes like passing it to a chaser who's standing right next to a beater. Forcing long passes and driving into brick walls, NAU's chasers make too many mental errors. The same goes for the beaters. They are flashy, butjumping in the air and pump fakes do not increase accuracy. That being said, NAU's beaters have proved that they can perform in the clutch, especially when the snitch is on the pitch. If it's more of the same for NAU, expect Porter Marsh to be heavily relied upon.
Best Case: If things click for NAU and they live up to their potential, NAU could easily beat the Arizona State and/or grind out a victory against the Lost Boys. NAU places second.
Worst Case: NAU is clearly third best at the tournament and is almost toppled by Arizona or Quid Pro Quo. Porter Marsh only gets two snatches.
Rounding out the field are two more interesting teams: Arizona and Quid Pro Quo. Arizona, who improved greatly in between Western Cup and Beachside Brawl, will look to break out this year. Similarly, Quid Pro Quo definitely has athleticism, but has yet to really perform well in a tournament. They did ok at Rocky Mountain last weekend, but a last place finish might be the fate of the Las Vegas community team at the Lumberjack Invitational.
Trial by Fire
The NYDC Capitalists are making an interesting trip up to Canada this weekend for Trial by Fire. The Capitalists crushed VCU in a series of scrimmages and if they get similar results against Canada's best, the Capitalists will wonder why they didn't just go to Penn State this weekend. Certain players on McGill, Gee-Gees Quidditch, Carleton and Queen's might pose a threat to the #15 team in the nation, but the depth of the Capitalists as a whole should overpower the Canadian teams. Some of the individual matchups will be interesting to watch though. Gee-Gees' Adam Robillard vs. NYDC's Billy Greco for the snitch could be an indicator to whether we'll see the Team USA Greco or the Greco of 2012-13. Keeper Jamie Lafrance, also of Gee-Gees Quidditch will pose a challenge to the NYDC point defenders.
Best Case: The NYDC Capitalists go undefeated and their younger players get lots of gametime and experience.
Worst Case: Still going undefeated, the Capitalists have close calls with several of Canada's top teams and many games are within snitch range.
Uniting as one region and one force to take down the visiting Capitalists are Canada's top teams. McGill, who for a second straight weekend will be facing terrific interregional competition, will hope for better results against the top team in the Mid Atlantic. Gee-Gee's Quidditch, formerly UOttawa, had several players who had prominent fantasy performances including Robillard and Lafrance. The only international team to make the Round of 32 at World Cup VI, Gee-Gees are playing NYDC in pool play for the biggest match of the morning. Following McGill and Gee-Gees are Carleton and Queen's. I expect each of those teams to be more concerned with climbing the ladder in Canada rather than pulling off a shocking upset against NYDC.
Best Case: Great competition is played between the top four Canadian teams and a few of the four teams put up a good display against the Capitalists. NYDC comes back from Trial by Fire as champions, but they come back telling everyone that teams in Canada can really play.
Worst Case: Canada's best teams don't stand a chance against the Capitalists.
Penn State Tournament
A tournament and regional favorite, Maryland lost many pieces to graduation this summer, but also has a strong cast of returning players that performed excellently at fantasy tournaments. A very strong first chaser line that includes Harry Greenhouse, Matt Angelico and Erin Mallory creates an offense that is high scoring and has terrific ball movement. With Ricky Nelson, possibly the best male beater in the Mid Atlantic, Maryland will look to try their "diamond shell" defense without keeper James Hicks in the back.
Best Case: Maryland wins the Penn State Tournament narrowly with just enough defense to hold the other tournament favorites in snitch range. Greenhouse gets the snatch in the finals.
Worst Case: Maryland's defense falls apart without James Hicks and the lack physicality on offense. They are upset by Johns Hopkins in pool play and eliminated in the semifinals.
Ball State, traveling from the Midwest to play the best in the Mid Atlantic (minus NYDC), will bring an official team. Led by Devon McCoy, Ball State brings a lot of physicality and intensity to every game they play. Their transition game is out of control one minute and perfect the next minute. A very streaky team, it will be interesting to see how they will play so early in the season against good teams. Also, seeker Tyler Macy has graduated, so there are doubts about whether Ball State will be able to pull out the close games.
Best Case: Ball State has found a new seeker as well as decent beaters and they get hot just in time for single elimination. Devon McCoy is voted tournament MVP as the Cardinals make a statement for the Midwest.
Worst Case: Seeking and beating are big issues and nothing works for Ball State. They are defeated by Penn State and QC Pittsburgh.
Jason Rosenberg, a physical, athletic chaser who has been in the shadow of Michael Parada for too long is ready for the next level at Penn State. Rosenberg can shoot, pass and drive and can take over the duties at the point for the Nittany Lions. (Yada who?) Beater Scott Axel and seeker Colin Leese-Thompson make me believe that Penn State could win a bunch of close games in crunch time.
Best Case: Penn State wins their own tournament with defeats of Ball State and Maryland. The Nittany Lions have a great player at each position and that trio carries the team.
Worst Case: Depth is huge problem for Penn State. Rosenberg plays well, but only well enough for a 2-2 overall record. Yada is missed.
Other teams to watch include QC Pittsburgh, who dropped off last season and was a pretty mediocre team. NYU and RIT are traveling from the Northeast. Both teams have reputations as clean, but physical teams. Finally, Johns Hopkins will try to reverse the notion that they are dirty team.