Saturday, November 30, 2013

The 2013 Iron Bowl and Quidditch

I know I'm only echoing the rest of the sports world when I say, "that was the craziest end of a game I've ever seen." After screaming "oh my god" repeatedly, jumping up and down, and running over to my neighbor's house, I think I've finally calmed down. Amidst the joy of such a miraculous play and seeing that look on Nick Saban's face, I began to think about quidditch.

1. What is our equivalent of a last second field goal return? What is our equivalent of a buzzer beater or a walk off home run? Is it a snitch catch? No. Something about that is different. In quidditch, we can never have one second left on the clock. We can never have that anticipation of a certain final play. We can never have that fraction of a second where there's no action to consider how unlikely it is for one team to win. That doesn't mean there's never a sense of urgency. Picture a seeker alone with a snitch, grappling, in a World Cup elimination game, an opposing beater turns, sprints towards the seeker, and gets ready to release her bludger at the same instant that the seeker frees his hands to reach for the snitchsock. Now imagine if we could freeze time right there. But that's not possible. While I love the excitement of a snitch catch, it doesn't compare to the end of the Iron Bowl 2013. The closest thing we've had was the controversial last play of Firemercs 2.

2. Can somebody please get these SEC schools playing competitive quidditch? In almost every state in the country, the biggest universities have quidditch teams. Why has a competitive team still not sprouted up at Alabama or Auburn? With football bred into the culture there, quidditch teams from Alabama and Auburn would be really good after a few years. Considering the huge success of other big universities in Florida, Louisiana and Texas, it seems like something should be going on in the Heart of Dixie.

3. Remember how annoying it was when for the second year in a row, Texas and Texas A&M ended up in the same section of the World Cup bracket? Well, being in the SEC is like being in the same section of the bracket with teams from your region every year. Similar to Texas and Texas A&M, many believe that the top two teams in the SEC are the best in the country, but it's almost impossible for them to meet in the championship game.

4. Don't get caught with the wrong personnel on the field. Alabama had a kicker, a holder and nine lineman on the field for the final play. Not one of those players was prepared to chase down a speedy returner. One thing I don't see nearly enough in quidditch is teams substituting to find the right personnel. If I was coaching a team and an opposing player was causing trouble, I'd constantly be thinking 1) what is this player's weakness 2) which player in my lineup can best exploit this weakness. If a coach does not react to an opposing player getting hot with a good substitution, the team could find itself down by 30 points very quickly.

5. Can we have rivalry week in quidditch?! Would it even be that hard? Many rivals are in the same state or even the same city. All it would take is some organization over Facebook and a few teams to get the ball rolling. With regionals at the end of the season in the fall, rivalry week could be around mid March, as a last chance for teams to test themselves before heading off to World Cup. I can imagine obsessively following @IQAScores for scores coming from across the nation. UCLA vs. USC, NAU vs. ASU, Texas vs. Texas A&M, BGSU vs. OSU, Emerson vs. BU, Villanova vs. Maryland, Miami vs. Florida's Finest. It would be so great.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Seven Super Matchups on Nov. 23-24

This article is nowhere near as professional as I would like, but I figured I had most of it done and wanted to get one last preview out. Also, uncertain rosters, venue switches and tournament cancellations had me going back to this article to edit each time I was about to publish it. After I finish my Weekend that Was column on the IQA website after this weekend, I'm intending to shift far away from previews and recaps on this blog. I've been brainstorming a lot and have ten or so cool articles in the planning stages. While The QuidKid in November can be characterized by late Friday night previews, December's QuidKid is going to be packed. Enjoy these final thoughts and predictions. 

7. Thundercats vs. World Cup VII Qualification
With only a couple games under their belt, Thundercats Quidditch will enter their first Western Cup with a decent shot at nabbing one of the eleven slots allotted to the West and qualifying for World Cup VII. Two weeks ago, at Next Best West Invitational, the Thundercats improved greatly as the tournament went on, finally beating a depleted, but favored Santa Barbara Blacktips squad on a snitch catch. With athletic beaters Logan Trudell and Brandon Rylee gunning bludgers all over the pitch, space is cleared for the Thundercats' offensive playmakers to, well, make plays. And Austin Carmouche and Nebraska Huggins don't just make regular, old, boring plays, the Thundercats' star quaffle players make exciting, flashy, fire-the-crowd-up plays!

Keeping the energy level high will be key for the Thundercats as they work through a pool play schedule of Riverside, USC, California and Stanford. A dominant win over Riverside would be a great way to launch the Northern California community team into a tough game against USC, but most likely, the Riverside match will come down to a snitch catch. Following that game, regardless of the outcome, the Thundercats will have to prepare mentally for USC. Trudell and Rylee have to know that the Trojans will capitalize on every single errant beat or lapse of focus. Unless the Thundercats can pull off an upset of the ages, they will face a vital game against Cal a little bruised and down. 

Player(s) to Watch Carmouche and Huggins' attendance is up in the air right now. I wrote what is above right after pools were drawn because I was so excited in hoping that the Thundercats would qualify. What was written above assumes that the two players will be at the Arizona Sports Complex tomorrow and Sunday. Finding out that Carmouche and Huggins could miss the tournament was a real bummer, but I still think I might get see them in Myrtle Beach. If one of the two is able to go to the fifth Western Cup, the Thundercats are still in good place to fight for qualification, especially if they keep Trudell and Rylee anchoring the beating corps. From Facebook, it looks like at least Huggins is in Arizona for the tournament.

6. Villanova vs. Penn State
Villanova and Penn State, two storied Pennsylvania teams, always seem to meet in major tournaments, so it was no surprise when Nova and PSU were drawn into the same regional pool for the second year in a row. Penn State started the season with a terrific performance at their own Nittany Lion Cup, finishing second to Maryland, and looked to be the clear third best team in the region. But, a broken foot suffered by star chaser Jason Rosenberg set the Nittany Lions back a few steps. At Turtle Cup III, Penn State was blown out 160*-80 by Villanova in the quarterfinals. Lacking the finishing presence to punch goals in at the offensive end, Penn State looked like a completely different team.

But now, after a few weeks to figure out how to strategize and make their offense function without Rosenberg, Penn State will be back and eager to avenge the Turtle Cup loss in pool play at MARC. Villanova comes into MARC as not only the defending champions, but also a team that looked very good at Turtle Cup. 

Player(s) to Watch Villanova chaser Julia Fillman is key to the Wildcats' matchup against Penn State. I expect aggressive Penn State beaters Scott Axel and Folahan Akinyemi to apply heavy pressure against Villanova's point players. With potentially distressed point players, Fillman needs to have good positioning and be prepared to receive inaccurate passes. In addition, Penn State's female chasers are not as strong as some of the other female chasers in the region, so Fillman has the ability to expose that weakness and score some decisive goals.

5. Paris Phénix vs. Paris Frog
One of the big pluses of writing the Monday Snitch and the Weekend that Was for the IQA website over the past few months is the fact that I've had to cover European tournaments that otherwise I wouldn't have heard about. I've gotten to talk with people from France, Italy and Belgium about the hierarchy of teams in Europe and their unique strategies. The bracket at the Brussels Muscles Invitational sets up a potential rivalry match between the Phénix and the Frogs early in the tournament and later in the final if both teams should defeat foes from France, Belgium and Spain. So, while a high-stakes Paris derby might go unnoticed in the United States, I'm pretty interested to see the results!

Paris Phénix were the fan favorite team at World Cup VI, awing with athletic play and exciting antics. Chances are most people who were in Kissimmee checked out at least one of the Phénix's games. They will remember a team with lots of height and good chemistry between the star players. However, the Phénix only earned World Cup VI qualification with a 50*-20 over the Frogs at European Regionals early last year. Since then, the Frogs have improved greatly. Showcasing their big, athletic, hard-hitting style of play at an Italian tournament in May, the Frogs rolled over the competition playing stout defense and holding bludger control. With a majority of their players also playing rugby and a captain who plays professional ice hockey in France's second female league, foul trouble and a lack of understanding of some contact rules seemed to be the Frogs biggest weakness. The Frogs have shown, slow, but steady improvement in that area too.

Player(s) to Watch I'm not certain that he is still on the team (I also don't have any reason to doubt that he isn't), but one of Paris Phénix's most impressive players that I saw was chaser/seeker Maurice Ghazi. Ghazi wore "Tarzan" on the back of his jersey and recorded snatches to defeat Oklahoma State 80*-70, to send the match against Rochester to overtime, and mistakenly suicided against Bowling Green State when confused about the score. Ghazi's physical grappling, strength and bursts of energy make him a huge asset to the Phénix if the game is in snitch range.

4. NYDC Capitalists vs. Pool of "Unfinished Business"
Many top teams contending for a regional title would have been a little annoyed to draw a pool with three World Cup VI qualifiers and solid second tier team in the region. An even higher percentage of teams contending for a regional title (especially teams that are recovering from injuries) would have been annoyed to find out that one of the teams is Johns Hopkins, a team that has garnered a reputation for playing dirty. The NYDC Capitalists, a favorite to win the Mid Atlantic Regional, are not one of those teams. Capitalist keeper James Hicks thanked the "Mid Atlantic Regional Gods" after the pool drawing in a Facebook status update. 

NYDC seems very eager to work through a schedule that includes UNC, Johns Hopkins, VCU and QC Carolinas. While UNC will probably be the Capitalists' only challenge, games against Johns Hopkins and VCU could get pretty chippy. With some lesser known players that can definitely deliver a big hit, the Capitalists pool play schedule will get them playing physically and tenaciously. If they can carry that extra physicality all the way through the brackets and into a finals matchup versus Maryland, NYDC could have a valuable edge over the Terps.
Player(s) to Watch This is definitely cheating here, but in this matchup, I'm going to be watching UNC's defense very closely. The Tar Heels function excellently on offense when all of their pieces are in place, and are able to trade goals with the Mid Atlantic's tier one teams. Right now, their defense is what's preventing them from becoming a tier one team. It's not physical enough and doesn't apply pressure quick enough, allowing opposing offenses to ease into a nice rhythm. Maybe playing in the physical pool of death will have the Tar Heels playing better defense for their 10:00 Sunday game against NYDC and crucial qualification games later in the day. 

3. Texas vs. UTSA
Even though we only got a snippet of the Texas-UTSA game at Lone Star Cup, all six minutes were amazing. Only one game that I've seen this year (in person or on video), exceeded the level of intensity of those short six minutes. Two weeks later, we are going to be treated to another matchup between the Longhorns and the Roadrunners--and hopefully someone will capture it on video! Texas is getting it together, and I'm seeing less, although still some, bad decisions from their beaters on defense. The heart of the team has gotten used to playing in a bigger leadership role and staying out on the field for more minutes.

Moving on to UTSA. I often define "potential" as how many players there are on a team whose names are not currently known, but are going to be known across the nation by the end of World Cup VII. Right now, UTSA leads the world in "potential." I've heard great things about their players, and watching the gamefilm against Texas showed me that UTSA is the real deal. To me, many of the names are familiar, but I can't necessarily match names to the player. What is very clear though, is the fact that UTSA has the talent to win World Cup VII and are just strategically behind a team like Texas. Which leads me to...

Player(s) to Watch I hope Texas will give some of their new players more significant minutes against UTSA this weekend. If the UT recruits can't keep improving at a high rate, UTSA is going eventually pass Texas. With terrific competition at a small conference meet, this weekend could be a great chance for the Texas captains to throw the newbies into big-game situations as a preview for what will be expected of them in the spring.

2. Lost Boys vs. UCLA vs. NAU
In Western Cup's Pool D, the Lost Boys, UCLA and NAU will all meet. Still undefeated after withstanding tests from both teams, the Lost Boys head into Western Cup V as the clear favorites to win on the back of physical, smart, impenetrable beater play. Former UCLA chasers Vanessa Goh and Jake Tieman are playing the best they've ever played for the red and black community team, especially Goh who is now (in my mind) undisputedly the best female chaser in quidditch. UCLA will have their new recruits this weekend, unlike at the SCQC Fall Tournament, where returning B teamers had to fill the Bruins' vacant roster spots. And NAU, predicted to burst into the West's top three at this tournament, will be playing in their home state.

While I had written a few paragraphs about how bad weather could help NAU hand the Lost Boys their first loss, Western Cup V will become the first regional championship to be played indoors. If the Lost Boys were less cocky, I could imagine they breathed a sigh of relief at the news. With turf fields, dry, balmy conditions, and no wind, the Lost Boys are perfectly set up to run the table this weekend.

Player(s) to Watch NAU's heavy hitters, who I hopefully will be able to name by the end of this weekend. While the Lost Boys are adept tacklers and know how to handle physicality, they don't have as many big hard hitting guys as NAU on their chasing lines. An overarching theme for the future of quidditch that I am watching closely is technicality sound, experienced tacklers versus new, big chasers with contact sport backgrounds. The Lost Boys and even UCLA on the technical side versus NAU on the pure physicality side will demonstrate this. UCLA's new players might not be used to physicality NAU offers, so if there is ever a time to use physicality as intimidation, it's when a team is desperate for a win and a decent bracket play seeding at a regional championship.

1. Maryland vs. NYDC Capitalists
For the second weekend in a row, a regional championship on the East Coast looks like it will inevitably come down to a coin flip between two teams. In the Mid-Atlantic, these teams are last year's MARC runner-up Maryland and new community team NYDC. The teams have yet to meet this season and each only have a single loss. They have a few common opponents, most notably Emerson at Turtle Cup. While the Capitalists beat the eventual tournament champions, they needed two snitch snatches to do so. Maryland was leading Emerson by twenty points when Tyler Trudeau sent the Lions on past the Terrapins. 

Both teams looked good and bad in similar ways. Aggressive beating is a common weakness, as the beaters on both teams like to stay in their comfort zone. I see pluses in the half court offense and half court defense. Efficiency and ball movement are demonstrated by UMD and NYDC, with the edge going to UMD. NYDC has a few more single playmakers, which could benefit them in clutch, chaotic, snitch on pitch situations.  Like last year's final between Maryland and Villanova, Maryland-NYDC is predicted to end in snitch range. The finals snitch is going to need to have the game of his life, if he's going to hold off such great seekers.

Player(s) to Watch Harry Greenhouse as a seeker. NYDC's deep, experienced seeking corps should be favored in this game, with Billy Greco going for his second consecutive MARC winning snatch. But, as soon as NYDC forgets about or underestimates Greenhouse, they will turn around and see him with the snitchsock hoisted above his head. If Greenhouse is going to out-duel the combination of Greco, Mo Haggag, Steve Minnich and Freddy Varone, it's going to be on a forceful charge in the first few minutes of snitch on the pitch play. So, when chaos erupts, as much as you might want to watch who's coming in first as a seeker for NYDC, or how the beaters react, keep your eyes glued on Greenhouse.

Western Cup V
Quarterfinals Lost Boys def. Blacktips, ASU def. USC, UCLA def. LBFQ, NAU def. Skrewts
Semifinals Lost Boys def. ASU, UCLA def. NAU
Finals Lost Boys def. UCLA

WCVII Qualifiers Lost Boys, UCLA, USC, NAU, ASU, Skrewts, LBFQ, Blacktips, Crimson Fliers, Cal, Stanford

Quarterfinals Maryland def. Johns Hopkins, Penn State def. Richmond, NYDC def. Pitt, Villanova def. UNC
Semifinals Maryland def. Penn State, NYDC def. Villanova
Finals NYDC def. Maryland

World Cup VII Qualifiers NYDC, Maryland, Villanova, Penn State, Richmond, UNC, Johns Hopkins, Rutgers, Virginia

Brussels Muscles Invitational
Semifinals Paris Frog def. Belgian Qwaffles
Finals Paris Frog def. Paris Phénix

I-35 San Antonio Conference Opener
UTSA def. Texas

Friday, November 15, 2013

Previewing Northeast Regionals

Crashing the Party
The regional championship may be far away from Boston, but the traditional powerhouse Boston teams are the clear favorite this weekend. After QC Boston, who despite having their share of problems, are still a very talented team and Hofstra, who's fantastic beating could make up for their lack of offensive sophistication, then the Northeast is very, very wide open. From what I see, there are about seven World Cup bids up for grabs this weekend for about fourteen teams. Three spots in the quarterfinals plus, if seeding works out, a chance for a hot team to sneak into the semifinals, and sorting out the teams contending for a bid becomes a lot more interesting. Since I don't know nearly enough to analyze all fourteen teams, here's who I like this weekend.  
Photo by Michael E. Mason/IQA Staff
Macaulay: Speed. Smart play. More speed. Teamwork. Trusted Players at all Positions. Decent Depth. Good Leadership. Clutch Seeking. Macaulay should shine among the second tier teams in the Northeast, with their style of play overwhelming slower, less-developed teams. Whether Macaulay can hang with the Boston teams is a completely different question, but with an easy pool, Macaulay should head into day two as confident pool winners. 

New York Badassilisks: After failing to qualify for World Cup VI (D1) and the poaching of their most athletic players by NYDC, it looked as though the Badassilisks might fade into obscurity. And that would be an absolutely terrible thing to happen to such a likable, friendly team. Thank God New York City is a hub for college graduates. Chaser Matt Stone, who lead SUNY Geneseo to qualification last year, and Matthew Zeltzer, a long time clutch seeker for Vassar are prime examples of the NYC community team's recruiting efforts. Adding in the new players, several of which I've heard are pretty good, I like the Badassilisks to comfortably secure a ticket to Myrtle Beach.

Harvard: Like the Badassilisks, Harvard surprisingly did not make World Cup VI (D1) even after competing in close games with the other Boston teams in early fall of last year. Harvard has apparently recruited well and has players who have been getting lots of praise. If quidditch is to grow, failing to qualify for World Cup shouldn't be a death knell to a program and Harvard needs to prove this.
Photo by Michael E. Mason/IQA Staff
Time for Tufts??
Making it to the finals of Turtle Cup III was a huge breakout performance for the Tufflepuffs. For the first time since World Cup IV, Tufts is being mentioned in the national picture, but is still on the outside looking into the group of elite teams. With a young, energetic chasing corps and talented, smart beaters, Tufts will be looking for that one signature win this weekend that going to get everyone on board the Tufts hype train. What Tufts lacks in experience, they make up for in energy. Seemingly all season, a great Tufts vs. BU or Emerson game has been so close to happening. At the MQC/SNEQC season opener, an overtime loss to McGill and cut quarterfinals took away our chance to see Tufts potentially face off against the perennial Northeast powerhouses. The Turtle Cup III finals would have been great if Tufts hadn't just played a marathon game. The MQC conference matches are interesting, but incredibly annoying from the point of view of an analyst. The level of intensity isn't the same as a tournament.

Could this weekend finally be the chance where Tufts meets Emerson or BU in a high-stakes regional bracket play game? In a year where the Northeast's second tier teams are down, yes. That's very likely. Can Tufts pull off the upset? ...Maybe. Tufts seeker BJ Mestnik has really blossomed into the seeker Tufts has needed this season, and caught snitch Harry Greenhouse in the aforementioned marathon game against NYDC at Turtle Cup. Mestnik will not be able to make Northeast Regionals. With a game against Emerson or BU almost certain to be in snitch range, Tufts will need to compensate for the loss of Mestnik. Tufts has lots of athletes who have seeked before, but haven't found a ton of success. Being able to grab the snitchsock is all the matters in this case. What might save a Mestnik-less Tufts is their beating when the snitch is on the pitch. Tufts beaters are absolutely outstanding at not giving opposing seekers time alone with the snitch. Keeping his composure, beater Matthew Cardarelli is able to completely clear areas of opposing beaters and seekers with gutsy, but accurate beats. If Tufts is going to pull off a major upset this weekend, Cardarelli and other beaters Mike Sanders and Nora Mueller are going to need to have the game of their lives. They can't lose focus once, as they have to make the job very easy for Tufts' seekers. Big win at regionals or not, the Tufts hype train will definitely arrive in North Myrtle Beach on April 5th. 

Best Case: Tufts wins Northeast Regionals with wins over Emerson and BU on snitch catches. Quaffle players like a Steve Mullahoo, Max Leonhardt and David Stack are able to keep up with the fast BU offense and get by the physical Emerson defense. Great beating opens the door for two consecutive catches for Tufts.

Worst Case: Tufts falls to either Emerson or BU in an out of snitch range semifinals game. The Emerson defense shuts down Tufts or BU runs all over them in the fast break.

QC Boston Faces Pool of Death
From a competitive stand point, QC Boston should be really hungry for an impressive win this weekend. Drawing the Northeast Regional pool of death was a blessing and curse for the Massacre. Rochester didn't do terrifically at Turtle Cup, but if chaser Devin Sandon can play through injury, Rochester is an experienced team with a great offensive playmaker. New Haven keeper Brandon McKenzie is far from the type of player you would expect out of a tier three Northeast team, and QC Boston will have to work to defend him. Hofstra has both a fearsome beating corps and power keeper Jaime Colon, and poses a threat to knock off the Boston community team. If QC Boston can get through this pool, they'll be going into day two with a ton of confidence. If this happens, chances are new pickup Matt Lowe, the former Emerson chaser, has fit right into the Massacre's attack and is getting on the scoresheet. However, the are a few reasons I don't like QC Boston's matchup with Hofstra.

I believe Hofstra can really expose QC Boston's weaknesses. The Flying Dutchmen beaters are capable of taking over this pool play matchup. Hofstra star beater Alex Leitch is known for physical play that is on the verge of reckless. This is why I wouldn't be surprised if star Massacre beater Kara Levis, who has been rehabbing an injury, plays minimally against the havoc-wreaking Leitch. Partners of Leitch, as well as a very competent beating duo themselves are Theresa Buchta and Mike Iadevaia. Using the "one and a half" strategy, Hofstra should be able to hold bludger control against QCB. 
Photo by Michael E. Mason/IQA Staff
But this doesn't add up you are saying! QC Boston's chasing corps has like 30 combined years of quidditch experience and Hofstra's quaffle players seem to be mostly newbies. For some reason, QC Boston's offense hasn't come together like we expected it to. From what I've heard, as well as what I observed from Peter Lee's film from some low-key MQC games, the Massacre's offense isn't a quick, precise, well-oiled attack with an emphasis on passing and movement. They aren't using their physical and strategic talent to its full potential. This is why Hofstra has a chance. With superior beaters, a chasing corps that may not be completely outclassed at this point in the season, and Jaime Colon, the Flying Dutchmen can keep this one in snitch range and maybe snatch a victory. 

QC Boston
Best Case: QC Boston finally looks like they are getting it together and with all the non-injured pieces in place, the Massacre easily defeat Hofstra and advance to the semifinals. Their passing game elevates and suddenly, QCB is making four or five passes per possession, instead of one or two. In the semifinals, the Massacre stay in snitch range of either Emerson or BU.

Worst Case: Unable to deal with Alex Leitch, the Massacre lose to Hofstra causing them to receive a lower bracket play seed. As a result, QCB meets one of the other Boston teams in the quarterfinals and loses.  

Best Case: With a great win over QC Boston, Hofstra returns to the Northeast regional semifinals. Top-notch beating and improved support chasers make the difference for the Flying Dutchmen.

Worst Case: Hofstra loses to QCB and is eliminated in the semifinals. Lack of good support chasers makes opponents' defensive jobs simple: as long as they can stop Colon, they can win.

Another Coin Flip
I can talk about the NYC teams, Tufts, Hofstra and the Massacre all day, but all signs point towards another epic, instant classic showdown between Boston rivals Emerson and BU. As video of team after team from the Midwest, South and Mid Atlantic surfaces, the teams in the video are torn apart by Southwestern and Westerners and labeled as inferior. Great film hasn't surfaced yet of BU or Emerson, but everyone who's sick of Southwest/West dominance is hoping that when the people in the western half of the United States see BU and Emerson in regionals form, they will be impressed. 

BU is a quintessential long passing and fast break team. With long bodies at chaser and keeper, the Terriers are able to intercept a lot of passes, making up for their lack of great defensive physicality. Emerson doesn't play pretty offensively, so even if decent film of them surfaced, many would quickly point to instances of sloppy passing and boot the Lions out of the top ten. 
Photo by Michael E. Mason/IQA Staff
What works for Emerson is a tight, gritty, defense. They don't display textbook Southwest tackling, but grind out strips, hustle for loose balls and stay organized in their zone defense. This year's Emerson team has a ton of heart and dedication--they are going to leave it all on the line to avenge their finals loss last year and take the crown. It is said that teams that like to play in the fast break don't like it when their opponents also push into the fast break. If David Foxx can shove an effective, goal scoring fast break right back into the face of BU, Emerson has a chance to stay in snitch range. Then, it's up to the seekers and the beaters. It seems dead even in the seeking game with BU having slightly better beaters and Emerson having the better seeking rotation, especially if Foxx is inserted. And that's where we get another coin flip. If you're pumped for another BU-Emerson showdown, reread Ben Nadeau's post-NERC reflections from last year, What A Rivalry a Means to Me.
Photo by Michael E. Mason/IQA Staff

Best Case for BU/Emerson: Win Northeast Regionals.

Worst Case for BU, Emerson and practically everyone except Tufts: One of these teams does not make it to the finals. Something just wouldn't seem right.

My Prediction
Quarterfinals: BU def. NYU, Emerson def. New York Badassilisks, Tufts def. Hofstra, QC Boston def. Macaulay
Semifinals: BU def. QC Boston, Emerson def. Tufts
Finals: BU def. Emerson

World Cup VII Qualifiers: BU, Emerson, Tufts, QC Boston, Macaulay, Hofstra, New York Badassilisks, Harvard, NYU, Rochester, RIT, UMass

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Quidditch Coaches Poll 11/13

World Coaches Poll
1. Texas A&M University (387)
2. Lost Boys QC (326)
3. Baylor University (318)
4. Lone Star QC (311)
5. University of Texas-Austin (298)
6. Boston University (215)
7. Emerson College (199)
8. University of Texas-San Antonio (190)
9. Bowling Green State University (157)
10. NYDC Capitalists (90)
11. University of Kansas (80)
12. University of Maryland (78)
13. University of Southern California (76)
14. University of Miami (75)
15. University of California-Los Angeles (74)

Top Five Others Receiving Votes: Texas State University (53), University of Arkansas (40), Michigan State University (31), Tufts University (21), Florida's Finest (18)

Regional Coaches Polls
Mid Atlantic
1. NYDC Capitalists (23)
2. University of Maryland (22)
3. Villanova University (13)
4. Pennsylvania State University (11)
5. University of Richmond (4)

1. Bowling Green State University (41)
2. Michigan State University (31)
3. University of Kansas (29)
4. Ball State University (24)
5. Ohio State University (6)

1. Boston University (34)
2. Emerson College (29)
3. Tufts University (19)
4. QC Boston: The Massacre (14)
5. University of Rochester (5)

1. University of Miami (38)
2. Florida's Finest (31)
3. University of Florida (27)
4. University of South Florida (15)
5. Florida State University (4)

1. Texas A&M University (35)
2. Lone Star QC (26)
3. Baylor University (21)
4. University of Texas-Austin (16)
5. University of Texas-San Antonio (6)

1. Lost Boys QC (30)
2. University of California-Los Angeles (20)
2. University of Southern California (20)
4. Northern Arizona University (13)
5. Arizona State University (7)

Voters: Brad Armentor (Lousiana State University), Sean Beloff (University of Miami), Patrick Callanan (University of Rochester), Mitch Cavender (Lost Boys QC), Jeremy Day (University of Richmond), Clay Dockery (New York Badassilisks), Hank Dugie (Cougar Quidditch), Chisa Tko-Br Egbelu (Rutgers University), David Fox (Emerson College), Craig Garrison (University of Texas-San Antonio), David Gilbert (Baylor University), Allick Jorgensen (University of Central Florida), Cody Narveson (University of Minnesota), Michael Parada (NYDC Capitalists), Jordon Parisher (Texas State University), Brandon Scapa (Universtiy of California-Los Angeles), Landon Smith (Tennessee Technological University), Colby Soden (University of Kansas), Ethan Sturm (Tufts University), Tyler Walker (Ball State University), Tad Walters (Loyola University), Drew Wasikowski (Texas A&M University), Alex Wilson (University of Arkansas); Only Regional Votes Cast: Nick Beacher (Stony Brook University), Evan Bell (Santa Barbara Blacktips), Cooper Davis (Northern Arizona University), Tim Derrick (University of Florida), Blain Falone (University of South Florida), Ian Hoopingarner (Michigan State University), Kyle Jeon (New York University), Nicolas Kubicki (University of Southern Mississppi), Erin Mallory (University of Maryland), Max Miceli (University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill), Brain Nackasha (Eastern Florida State University), Ben Nadeau (QC Boston: The Massacre), Sean Pagoada (Florida's Finest QC), David Prueter (Central Michigan University), Alex Scheer (University of Toledo), Sarah Sherman (University of Southern California), Shenuque Tissera (Macaulay Honors College at CUNY), Tristan West (San Jose State University);

Friday, November 8, 2013

Upset Alert from Tallahassee to Toronto

Renegade Cup, Kitty Cup and Canada Cup will bring together a total of 42 quidditch teams from Tallahassee to Toronto this weekend for a quality weekend of competition. While Renegade and Kitty are scattered with mercenary and unofficial teams, Canada Cup will be the second regional championship of this year, with 4 spots available for World Cup VII. Favorites have been picked to win each tournament, but I'm predicting that we will have a very surprising weekend full of upsets east of the Mississippi.

Renegade Cup
The third Florida Quidditch Conference meet of the season, Renegade Cup, hosted by Florida State, has a field of twelve teams, some from outside of the Sunshine State. Florida's Finest, finalists in both previous FQC meets, are the favorites to take the Renegade Cup title. However, the Flamingoes will be without keeper Austin Clooney and chaser Christina De Nicola, as well as their second string players at those positions on the depth chart. Clooney and De Nicola have put in valuable minutes and scored quite a few goals this season, so they will be missed. Florida's Finest shouldn't worry about personnel too much though, as they will have a full, 21 person roster headlined by Sean Pagaoda and Sean Snipes.

The potential troubles on the pitch for Florida's Finest will begin in pool play. The Flamingoes have a difficult pool with Florida State and the College of Charleston. FSU traveled to the Wolf Pack Classic and got a taste of the Southwest last month. The Seminoles were able to keep the score respectable against LSU, but fell 60*-10. Now, after a month to adjust and correct, Florida State could pose a threat to Florida's Finest. College of Charleston is coming off a tournament victory as the South Carolina team recently won the Gold Rush Cup. Although there were no major teams in attendance, Charleston came out on top of a 12 team field. Now, playing against more teams from their own region, Charleston will face more tests. Back to Florida's Finest. While I expect Florida's Finest to win all three pool play games, FSU and Charleston will keep the scores close possibly preventing Florida's Finest from securing the number one seed. Look for UF or USF to start bracket play on top.
Photo by Isabella Gong/IQA Staff
While other teams can keep scores close, at the end of the day, Florida is the only team that has a chance to beat the Flamingoes. In the finals of Titan's Fury on September 22nd, Florida's Finest defeated UF 80*-30. The Gators showed that they can stay in snitch range of Flamingoes and after a trip to New Orleans, UF could have changed some strategy. There's a completed pass on every possession for UF as chaser Dre Clements likes to pass the quaffle back and forth with another chaser as the Gators cross the half pitch line. Developing a rhythm, it's sometimes difficult to defend this dual point guard system, especially with the speedy and clever Clements. I like the Gators to spring an upset on Florida's Finest in the finals and become the third tournament winner in three FQC tournaments this season.

My Prediction
Semifinals Florida's Finest def. South Florida, Florida def. Florida State
Finals Florida def. Florida's Finest

Kitty Cup
In Blacksburg, we have another case of a community team being undermanned for a tournament that otherwise would be an easy victory. The NYDC Capitalists, were only going to be able to send 13 players to Kitty Cup after several players sustained injuries at Turtle Cup III on October 26th. Merging with three players from the upstart team at George Mason, the thirteen Capitalists and three Patriots (that is the mascot for George Mason, obviously! haha) will play under the name of the DYNC Communists this weekend. While the Communists have been labeled as the favorites due to the presence of keepers James Hicks and John Gaffigan, it is not going to be an easy tournament victory for the Communists.
Photo by Isabella Gong/IQA Staff
Into the spotlight steps Richmond and UNC. Richmond and UNC play with very different styles, but are rising through the ranks in the Mid Atlantic and are both dark horse picks to make a surprising semifinals or finals appearance at the regional championship in two weeks. Richmond plays slower on offense, with good ball movement, control and positioning while UNC pushes into the fast break sometimes going out of control. The Tar Heels rely heavily on their star chasers and keepers to be playmakers while the Spiders get many of their chasers on the scoresheet in an offense run by keeper Jeremy Day. Richmond's beating strategy is patient and smart, while depending on personnel, UNC's can be incredibly aggressive and fearless.

Richmond should be able to get by Virginia and Appalachian State pretty easily could secure the number one bracket play spot. With a tournament field that, barring teams coming out of nowhere, looks like it is lacking in the depth category, a #1 seed is going to advance to the finals with maybe one or two minor challenges. UNC has a tougher road, as they will play the DYNC Communists and VCU in pool play. With Ed Bartels returning to the Tar Heels lineup this weekend, I think Carolina is poised to meet DYNC twice at Kitty Cup. And, I think they can win one of the games. Whether UNC gets their first signature win in pool play, or the later rounds of bracket play, the UNC hypetrain will gain momentum.

Other teams to watch include QC Carolinas, who will play their first major tournament without Max Miceli and Steve Minnich, who are currently turning heads for UNC and the Capitalists. QC Carolinas will face a test against the hosts Virginia Tech, who are coming off a somewhat disappointing season in 2012-13. Depending on the Hokies' recruitment, they could steal a World Cup spot in two weeks. Finally, VCU, who was blown out by UNC almost two months ago at Minerva Cup, will be ready to avenge that loss. That Minerva Cup finals was so early in the season and VCU has probably improved greatly since then.

My Prediction
Semifinals Richmond def. QC Carolinas, UNC def. Communists
Finals Richmond def. UNC

Canada Cup
Eastern Canada's regional championship is thought to be a contest between McGill, Carleton, and UOttawa's Gee Gees Quidditch. With those three teams likely to clinch a spot to World Cup VII, there will be one spot up for grabs between teams like Queen's, UOttawa's Maple Rush, Fleming and Valhalla. Eastern Canada isn't as weak as we Americans tend to think. American teams were lucky not to see McGill and Carleton at World Cup VI, as the two Canadian teams would've been challenging opponents. The Gee-Gees went to overtime with the nationally ranked NYDC Capitalists at Trial by Fire, and McGill defeated Tufts 100*-70 back at the MQC/SNEQC Invitational.

This weekend, McGill will be looking to become the first team ever to win three regional championships. McGill has been very successful in the seeking game, defeating Maple Rush, Carleton and Tufts this year due to snatches (McGill beat Tufts 100*-70 in an overtime game with no overtime snitch catch. Strange huh?). The tandem of quaffle players Andrew Asejibutu and Patrick Qi Wang create the perfect combination of speed, passing and bulldozing to complete the three peat for McGill. The supporting cast for McGill is questionable and being behind Maple Rush and Carleton at Trial by Fire in quaffle points isn't a great sign.

UOttawa was a a Round of 32 team at World Cup VI, but with a few notable players like keeper Jamie Lafrance now on Maple Rush, Gee-Gees Quidditch is a different team. Adam Robilliard is still really good as both a chaser and a seeker. The question is whether some of the newer pieces have gelled together yet. It has been more than a month since Trial by Fire, but the Gee-Gees haven't faced great competition since then. A 130*-30 victory over Guelph two weeks ago is reassuring, but I think the Gee-Gees are a little unpredictable this weekend. They will qualify for World Cup VII pretty easily, but the Gee-Gees aren't clear favorites for Canada Cup 2013 like most of America seems to think.

Carleton went away quietly at Trial by Fire losing on a snatch to McGill in the semifinals. However, Carleton might have been the most impressive Canadian team at Trial by Fire. With an experienced group of players who have playing together for a long time, Carleton's players are extremely comfortable with each other's strengths and weaknesses which is important in high pressure, tight games. The beating duo of Alex Bourassa and Andrea Hill play very systematic defense and work well with the chasers and keepers. Matt Stone and Bill Whyte are Carleton's two top scorers, but can distribute well and get other chasers involved too.

My Prediction
Quarterfinals Carleton def. Canada's Finest, Queen's def. Maple Rush, McGill def. Valhalla, Gee-Gees def. Fleming
Semifinals Carleton def. Queen's, Gee-Gees def. McGill (World Cup VII qualifiers)
Finals Carleton def. Gee-Gees

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Uncovering the Next Best Teams

There is only one tournament with "Next Best" in the title this weekend, but rising teams across the country are looking to make a statement this weekend. In the first of a two part preview for this coming weekend, I'm going to look at the Next Best West Invitational and Lone Star Cup.

Next Best West Invitational
Like the highly successful "Bottom of the Bracket" tournament in Houston last season, the Next Best West Invitational aims to directly facilitate competition between Western teams looking to make the jump to elite status. Attending with ambitions of securing a tournament victory are the Santa Barbara Blacktips, Riverside Quidditch, the Long Beach Funky Quaffles and Thundercats Quidditch. With Western Regionals two weeks away, and 11 spots to give out, teams at Next Best West can improve their seeding and get valuable experience against the teams they'll be battling for World Cup spots with. Added Santa Barbara Blacktips captain Evan Bell, "We also just wanted to have a tournament with some balanced competition. I expect to see mostly snitch-range games, which should be really exciting."

Breaking into the top-tier in the West is difficult and it is not going to get any easier. Long time powerhouses USC and UCLA recruit from a giant pool of interested players and/or sometimes show up to tournaments with Olympic athletes. As more and more of the best college graduates look to play quidditch for a community team, it looks like the Lost Boys are going to have a stranglehold on experienced, talented players moving to the nation's second largest city. With two of the West's purely middle tier teams existing in the state of Arizona, it's difficult for California teams looking to make the jump from the third tier to get competition against teams that are slightly better than them.

Bell identified disadvantages in the beating game as the main obstacle for Western teams trying to break into the top tier. "[Top-tier Western teams] have a long history of strong beating programs that consistently churn out elite and top tier beaters," said Bell. "Second and third tier teams have to play a lot of catch-up with learning the constantly-evolving aggressive beater play present in this region."
Photo by Kat Ignatova/IQA Staff
Bell's Santa Barbara Blacktips are widely considered to be on the brink of becoming a top-tier team. The Blacktips defeated the Skrewts, the Funky Quaffles and Riverside at SCQC Fall Tournament en route to a semifinals appearance. Rookies Ren Bettendorf, Ben Harding and Justin Fernandez each tallied point totals in the triple figures. Once the rookies gain experience and have fundamentals drilled, the Blacktips should be able to raise the tempo creating a very scary team. If the Blacktips can develop a fast break attack and a generally quicker half court offense, they would standout in the slow-playing West. Developing a more disciplined, deeper beating corps is a good place to start for the Blacktips though.

"I think our team absolutely has the talent and drive to become a top-tier Western team by World Cup VII, but it's not going to be an easy path," said Bell. "Our passing game is developing really well (especially considering that a majority of our roster is rookies), so expect to see that aspect only continue to improve. But we're going to need to spend a lot of time focusing on defensive strategies and developing our beater play if we ever expect to compete with the Big 3 in our region."

Best Case: Santa Barbara's chasers and beaters are able to play better defense, and the Blacktips walk away with the Next Best West victory. The Blacktips get a one seed for Western Cup and avoid playing the powerhouses in pool play.

Worst Case: Upset by one of the other three teams, the Blacktips end the day at 2-1. Opposing teams hold bludger control more often than the Blacktips.
Photo by Kat Ignatova/IQA Staff

Rivals Riverside Quidditch are right behind the Blacktips currently. While I don't see an big influx of talented new recruits for Riverside, star player Tye Rush has certainly stepped up his game, providing more physicality and explosiveness than ever. Michael Logue, a tall keeper, worked well Rush at the offensive point and Riverside's female chasers are the best out of the group at Next Best West. Chasers like Maria Torres and Alyssa Burton are prepared to fight for goals and are comfortable taking the quaffle up the pitch. Again though, beating is a weakness. With Rush locked into a tackle with an opposing chaser, the beaters were often late or absent. Bludgers flying all over the place resulted in a lot of "no bludgers" scenarios where the opposing team could score easily as long as they got by Rush. 

Best Case: After only losing to the Blacktips by a snitch catch at the SCQC Fall Tournament, Riverside ends up on the right side of the snatch this time, winning Next Best West.

Worst Case: Riverside's beating inconsistencies create situations against the Blacktips and LBFQ where each team's respective seekers have too much time with the snitch. Riverside goes 1-2.
Photo by Kat Ignatova/IQA Staff
The Long Beach Funky Quaffles had a quiet, but respectable day at SCQC. After losing to the Lost Boys and UCLA, the Funky Quaffles defeated Cal and played even with the Blacktips before a Santa Barbara snatch broke the 70-70 tie. Rookie Kyle Epsteen, a strong, powerful player who put in solid performances at chaser and beater, is going to be very important for the Funky Quaffles as the season progresses. Getting an extra tournament under Epsteen's belt before Western Regionals is smart, as he could be a 2012-13 Tony Rodriguez-like difference maker come April, but won't get the chance to showcase his talent if Long Beach doesn't punch their ticket to Myrtle Beach. Right now, Long Beach will rely on chaser and leading scorer Anthony Hawkins. Beater strategy for the Funky Quaffles is questionable, but Epsteen certainly brings athleticism and a great arm when wearing the black headband.

Best Case: Long Beach Funky Quaffles go 3-0 improving their Western Cup seeding and building confidence.

Worst Case: Falling to Riverside and Santa Barbara, LBFQ looks as if they'll be battling for that eleventh spot to go to Myrtle Beach.
Photo by Kat Ignatova/IQA Staff
Notice that I've barely mentioned Next Best West's fourth participant, Thundercats Quidditch. Formerly Sierra College, this team played their first games at Cinco de Mayo Cup and a few players were at FireMercs 2, but Thundercats Quidditch is largely unknown. Unlike the other three teams at Next Best West, the Thundercats are kind of isolated from the elite Western teams. Star player Nebraska Huggins brings the thunder at keeper for Thundercats Quidditch. Tearing through tackles, none of the teams at Next Best West have tackling form that is good enough to stop Huggins, so watch for him to just truck his way goals. Depth might be a problem though as the Thundercats only have 15 players on their roster for this weekend. 

Best Case: Huggins can power the Thundercats to snitch range games, and the Thundercats sneak out a win for a 1-2 record.

Worst Case: The lack of depth and strategy results in the Thundercats going 0-3 with all games out of snitch range. It looks as if this Northern California community team is going to really have to fight for a World Cup ticket.

My Prediction
Blacktips 3-0
Funky Quaffles 2-1
Riverside 1-2
Thundercats 0-3

Lone Star Cup II
At the University of Texas' second Lone Star Cup, and the first tournament hosted by a defending World Cup champion since the Middlebury Classic in 2011, twelve of Texas' best teams will compete for the title. In the Southwest, the top teams are constantly vying to be the next best team. The top team in most rankings is always going to be the most recent winner of a Southwest tournament. Right now, Texas A&M is on top (or should be) after winning the Wolf Pack Classic at the beginning of last month. With dominating scores and great performances from new players, the Aggies games are on YouTube for the quidditch world to see and analyze. Lone Star and Texas have had almost a month to think and prepare for Texas A&M and Baylor has momentum coming off a Cowboy Cup III victory. While it's easy to talk about why Texas A&M is going to stay on top, or why Lone Star is going to win the Lone Star Cup, I want to focus on the teams who have not yet solidified their place at the top of quidditch's toughest region.

Second tier Lone Star Cup II teams can mainly be divided into two categories: JV teams for powerhouse programs and regular university or community teams. Obviously, the JV teams are big disadvantage potential-wise because no matter what happens, teams like Austin Quidditch, the Silver Phoenixes, and the Brazos Bruins are never going to have the top 21 players their recruiting pool has to offer. Recruitment is "crucial" according to Cougar Quidditch's Hank Dugie. "You can not create a top tier team without athletic players," said Dugie. "A teams potential is not determined by how hard you practice or how bad you want success, but by the cumulative physical gifts of your players."

UTSA's Craig Garrison agreed that recruitment would be a priority for a team looking to break into the Southwest's top tier. "As a new captain for a team that wants to make it big, I would recruit athletes first," said Garrison. "Then play as many games as possible with those players. Don't expect to win any of your first games and stay humble."

There is no shortage of competition in Texas, with rising teams frequently getting the chance to play very talented teams as well as teams at their own level. Unlike in the West, huge gaps in beating strategy were not referenced by the Southwest captains that I talked to. Leadership and experience seem to be bigger obstacles in the Southwest. A team can't get anywhere in the Southwest without a lot of athletic players who will not shy away from physicality.

Once a Southwest team has recruited enough athleticism, they can begin to look at refining strategy. "The Southwest is highly physical, we all know this," said Garrison. "UTSA has had athletes since the beginning. The conditioning of the top teams is at a high level and UTSA was right there with them. The best thing that UTSA has done to break into the top level create a game plan and follow it as a team."

Photo by Lauren Carter
UTSA's Breakfast Taco finals appearance seems to have all but given UTSA top-tier status in the Southwest. While many have them ranked in the top 15, some are still hesitant to rank the Roadrunners that high solely based on an unofficial tournament with weird pools and questionable reffing. The fact is that UTSA has a deep chaser corps full of athleticism and Jacob Wilson and Abel Costilla are an exciting beating duo. UTSA's players have been tested and praised from tournaments last year to fantasy tournaments this summer. The Roadrunners should look to take advantage of a UT team that looked shaky at Breakfast Taco and were beaten badly by Lone Star at the Wolf Pack Classic. 

Best Case: UTSA beats Texas in pool play and advances all the way to the finals before losing to a dominant Texas A&M team. Hype builds and UTSA bursts into the top five.

Worst Case: UTSA loses to UT, and either Texas A&M or Lone Star in bracket play. Perceptions of the Roadrunners do not change much as the Roadrunners are not expected to beat powerhouses.

From the University of Houston, many are wondering whether Cougar Quidditch is the next great quidditch program. Hank Dugie, a former UT chaser, has taken the reigns of the program and is confident in his team's abilities. "Cougar Quidditch has enough athletes to create waves this season," assured Dugie. "This weekend we will make strides towards reaching our full potential. We plan on playing physical, southwest-trademarked defense and refuse to lose any games due to a lack of hustle or desire."

Dugie insists that the Cougar Quidditch has recruited well, and after playing around 21 spectacular players last year, I'd trust Dugie's assessment. The question is how deep is the Houston team. If Cougar Quidditch is going to beat out Texas State and Austin, I'll be writing about more players than just Hank Dugie, his brother Justin Dugie and Kelby Brooks in my recap.

Best Case: Cougar Quidditch gives Texas A&M and unexpected challenge with great understanding of the game, performances from new players, and a Southwest combination of speed and power. 

Worst Case: Falling to Texas State and Austin Quiddtch, the majority of the team have trouble dealing with more experienced players. Too much burden is placed on the Dugies and Brooks.
Photo by Monica Wheeler
Sam Houston State narrowly missed qualifying for World Cup VI, but ended up winning the Division 2 championship. SHSU, who also won the Bottom of the Bracket tournament early last spring, are lead by explosive chaser Adam Bell. Surrounded by chasers with different kinds of skills and body builds, Bell isn't playing with chasers that are physically built like him all the time. Overall, SHSU seems more likely to reach a Texas State-like level and stay there, than to follow a Baylor-like trajectory to stardom and become a regional championship contender. SHSU is probably not going to be able to do much at Lone Star Cup II as they have Lone Star and Baylor in pool play.

Best Case: SHSU keeps point differentials respectable against Baylor and Lone Star with good defense and not notches one win.

Worst Case: Looking slow compared to other Southwest powerhouses, SHSU is blownout by the faster Baylor and explosive Lone Star.

My Prediction
Big Games in Pool Play: UTSA def. UT, Lone Star def. Baylor, Cougar Quidditch def. AQ, A&M def. Texas State, Texas State def. AQ
Quarterfinals: A&M def. AQ, Baylor def. UT, UTSA def. Texas State, LSQC def. Cougar Quidditch
Semifinals: A&M def. Baylor, Lone Star def. UTSA
Finals: A&M def. Lone Star

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Turtle Cup III: GameDay

Here it is! GameDay live from Turtle Cup III! Includes a roundtable that took place after pool play, a standup following each bracket play game, four post game interviews, and highlights from games. Here is a link to the video if you are having trouble watching the one embedded in this post. Enjoy!

A Good Week for Boston

Photo by Boston Red Sox
Joy In Mudville
Everything went right for the Boston Red Sox. At home, cozy, beautiful, historic Fenway Park, the Red Sox clinched the 2013 World Series with a 6-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals. Fenway, and the people of Boston, haven't seen their beloved Red Sox celebrate a championship at home since 1918. The Red Sox have had a painful, heart-breaking history, blamed on the Curse of the Bambino, but just completed their third championship season in nine years.

The Red Sox, after finishing dead last in their division last year, went out and made a lot of smart moves to build a contender for this year. They cleared cap space, fired Bobby Valentine, and picked up valuable players like Shane Victorino, Johnny Gomes and Mike Napoli. The aggression of the Red Sox front office signified that they weren't going to lose 93 games in 2013-14. Completely turning the team around, the offseason moves laid the groundwork for a World Series winning season.

Now onto quidditch. When all the dust cleared at Turtle Cup III, it was Emerson College and Tufts University on opposite sidelines, waiting to play each other in the finals. Both teams could've stayed in Boston this past weekend and played. However, both teams, eager for new competition, signed up to travel to College Park. They wanted a new challenge.
Photo by Michael E. Mason/IQA Staff
Both Emerson and Tufts made bracket play at World Cup VI, but it seems like these teams have the mindset that their finishes at World Cup VI are not good enough for this year. Traveling to Turtle Cup is the kind of move, that like the big Red Sox-Dodgers trade and the signings of Victorino, Gomes and Napoli, shows that the team is not happy with staying at their current level. The Red Sox weren't going lose 93 games again in 2013 and Emerson and Tufts are looking to really be taken seriously on the national level. Right now, besides the Lost Boys, the Boston teams look like they have the best shot at beating a Southwest powerhouse.

The Red Sox 2013 World Series victory was extremely unlikely. Boston's win percentage in 2012, .426, was the lowest of any team that went on to win the World Series the next year. A first year manager and several players that appeared to be on the decline only added to the preseason skepticism of the Red Sox. Writes Grantland's Jonah Keri, "[The Red Sox World Series victory] was in some ways more unlikely than the one bagged nine years ago, the one that erased 86 years of misery."
Photo by Boston Red Sox
Emerson also  faced challenges at Turtle Cup III. With a long distance to travel, little sleep, many missing players, an early loss to NYDC and a health emergency, those following closely would be likely to pick Maryland or NYDC to win Turtle Cup. Yet somehow, Emerson pulled it off. David Foxx turned in a Big Papi-esque performance with clutch goals and defensive stops. Tufts, with a lot of new faces, achieved more than they could have asked for. Made of the Victorinos, Napolis, Elsburys and Pedroias of quidditch, Tufts played with great chemistry and team-first mentality.

Photo by Dani Palmer
I'm sure that right now, the Red Sox are pretty happy that they made so many bold moves over the off season. Rewarded with a World Series title, the city of Boston will remember this season for a long time. By the end of the season, Emerson and Tufts are going to be really glad they went to Turtle Cup. While it is extremely unlikely, perhaps more unlikely as the Red Sox championship in 2013, you shouldn't count Emerson or Tufts out of championship contention yet.

How Fah Could Bawston Go?
As I was beginning to write this article, I saw the facebook thread about regional all-star teams hypothetically competing to host the World Cup. I began to think more narrowly than regions. I thought about city all-star teams. Quietly, the city of Boston has had the most active quidditch scene all season. Beginning with the large MQC/SNEQC Invitational on September 28th, weekly competition has occurred throughout October, with the all-Boston final at Turtle Cup III happening most recently. BU and Emerson float around 6-10 in most rankings and Tufts and QC Boston have gone in and out of the top 20. While each team has a lack of depth compared to the Southwest and West powerhouses, I believe star players like David Foxx, Max Havlin and Kedzie Teller are just as good as any players in quidditch right now. If the most talented players on BU, Emerson, Tufts and QC Boston played on a city all star team, Boston would be really good.
Eliminate variables having to do with team chemistry. Assume that everyone is able to make the event. All players play for the city that they currently play quidditch in for their team. Multi-city community teams are split by which city each part of the team practices in. Rosters are determined fairly.
Photo by Michael E. Mason/IQA Staff
Before I get crazy, let's assume Boston has to beat cities in the Northeast and Mid Atlantic first. Beginning by defeating smaller city teams, many of them composed of primarily one team, Boston would start to face better competition against Rochester, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Still, those cities really only have one middle tier team. The real challenges would come from New York and Washington.

A city that has tormented Boston in other sports, New York would be easy work for the Boston squad this year. The Big Apple is having a down year in quidditch as many teams are rebuilding from significant losses, especially to leadership positions. Some of the Capitalists would be back to join their former teammates, but I doubt New York would be able to match the power of David Foxx or the transition attack of Brendan Stack. New York would have good seeking from Matthew Zeltzer, Andrew Zagelbaum and some of the NY part of the NYDC Capitalists' seekers, but I think Boston would be out of snitch range..
Photo by Michael E. Mason/IQA Staff
Washington might be more of a challenge considering how well Maryland played at Turtle Cup III. Really though, Washington would only have players from one and half elite teams (Maryland and NYDC). With the Capitalists now in the DC area and Mid Atlantic Regionals in Leesburg, growth is coming in the Washington quidditch scene. Handling the best of four top twenty teams from Boston would be very hard from a Washington team.

Messing with Texas
Boston would surpass Mid-Atlantic and the Northeast cities relatively easily, but how would they do against a city from the Southwest? Now, an all-star that included all of Texas/Southwest would be unbeatable. But, this tournament is a city tournament. So, for instance, the Austin team could draw from UT, AQ and the Austin-based Lone Star QC players. The Texas teams would basically end up being college teams with Lone Star players sprinkled in. Could the Boston all-stars beat one of these teams?

To be honest, the video from Breakfast Taco and Wolf Pack Classic of UT, Texas A&M and Lone Star hasn't been super impressive. None of those teams are at the level of World Cup VI-winning UT and all are beatable. Emerson and Tufts aren't more precise, strategic or athletic than the Texas teams, but the gap between the technicality of the Texas teams, and other top teams such as Emerson and Tufts has narrowed.

Beating is where the Bostonians could have the edge over a Texas city team. Katrina Bossoti and Aaron Wohl have been key to their respective teams' success for years, but Bossoti and Wohl, both underrated outside of the Northeast, might not even be Boston's first line. Max Havlin, BU's chaser convert, has been tearing it up since the summer at beater. Kara Levis helped build UCLA into the best beating team in the IQA and in 2013-14, she has taken her talents to Beantown to join QC Boston. The Tufts beating duo of Mike Sanders and Nora Mueller, very important to Tufts' success at Turtle Cup, would also be on the Boston all-star team. When you look at this beating corps as a whole, you see a smart, experienced and strategic group of beaters who know how to execute a gameplan.
Photo by Michael E. Mason/IQA Staff
Chances are, the chasing corps of any of the Texas teams will have more complete, total-package players. A majority of the elite chasers in quidditch, Texas chasers are fast, strong, controlled and can shoot. The Boston team would have chasers that embody two or three of those characteristics, but are not at the level of the best Texas chasers on the rest of the characteristics. Boston would have a chasing corp consisting of someone who is fast and strong, someone who is strong and can shoot and someone who is controlled and fast. As long as the Boston captains could figure out how to create an offense that used the specific skills of each chaser well, I think the Boston chasing corps could stay in snitch range of of a team of Texans.

Beat LA?!
Los Angeles would be Boston's final challenge. UCLA, USC and the Lost Boys create a trifecta of top ten quidditch teams in the city of angels. With both some of the most talented players and some of the greatest minds, the Los Angeles team would be heavily favored over the Bostonians. Like Boston, Los Angeles' chasers have different skills and don't all really fit the fast, strong, accurate Texas chaser mold.
Photo by Kat Ignatova/IQA Staff
Los Angeles would just be too much for Boston in the end. Drawing from the Lost Boys, Bruins and Trojans, the Los Angeles team would have crazy depth at every position. The Boston beaters would put up a fight, but based on the video that has been shared, the Lost Boys' beaters alone are absolutely amazing. Los Angeles could roll out either a giant line of quaffle players or keep it small, and still have great physicality. Maybe Boston keeps within snitch range due to great games all around from Foxx, Stack, Teller, Levis, etc. but even so, Los Angeles has Steve DiCarlo, David Demarest and August Lührs to close the games. Los Angeles is the best city in quidditch right now, but Boston is second.