Saturday, May 24, 2014

WCVII All-Tournament Team: Keepers and Female Beaters

Making an All-Star Team solely based on the World Cup is always 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.

Tony Rodriguez--Lost Boys QC
Tony Rodriguez almost got his own Worlds Away From Kissimmee article. I can try to sum it up here though.

At World Cup VI, an athletic, but raw, Tony Rodriguez carried the Lost Boys to the Elite Eight with gritty determination and an absolute refusal to lose. By World Cup VII, Rodriguez's raw athleticism had been refined by quidditch's best minds into an unstoppable force. Rodriguez ran a ruthlessly efficient offense, characterized by flashy passes and monstrous slam dunks. Rodriguez's displays of freakish athleticism became a must-see spectacle in North Murtle Beach and the Lost Boys went 4-0 in pool play.

As I went to bed after a long day of quidditch on Saturday, April 5th, I can definitely say that I was jealous of Ethan Sturm's Lost-Boys-win-WCVII prediction. I thought that the Lost Boys were looking like a World Cup champion squad. Rodriguez had remedied his defensive shortcomings and was running through defenders like never before. For a pass-first, unselfish keeper like Rodriguez, consistently challenging point defenders and repeatedly attempting to posterize keepers is a sign of tremendous confidence. 

Of course, the elephant in the room is the fact that Lost Boys were eliminated by LSU in the Round of 32 and Rodriguez's campaign at World Cup VII was over very, very quickly. Rodriguez will be the only Lost Boy to make this World Cup All-Tournament Team. Why? Because while many of the Lost Boys' stars were outplayed or underperformed against LSU, Rodriguez added a valiant performance to a strong pool play résumé. The Lost Boys' keeper scored four goals and notched three assists, meaning that 70 of the Lost Boys' 90 points can be attributed to Rodriguez. 

Defensively, Rodriguez was given the enormous task of having to stop a driving Brad Armentor one-on-one almost ten times. After the Western Regional Championship, I heavily criticized Rodriguez for weak tackles and poor efforts near the hoops. Armentor, who is one of the best drivers and finishers in the game, clearly won his battle versus Rodriguez, but Rodriguez was making tackles and showed improved defensive instincts. In addition, please note that I just highlighted Rodriguez's toughest defensive assignment by miles--not only was it Armentor, but the Lost Boys' beaters were often preoccupied by LSU's beaters, leaving Rodriguez's task even more difficult. In pool play, Rodriguez was dominant in the keeper zone and he helped to shut down the multi-dimensional, Elite Eight Ohio State offense. 

Between eye-popping statistics, increased physicality on both ends of the pitch, the lack of a bad  game and an overall memorable performance complete with flying slam dunks, Tony Rodriguez gets the nod for me as World Cup VII's best keeper.

Augustine Monroe--University of Texas-Austin
If it wasn't for Tony Rodriguez or the fact that Texas' off-ball chasers finally stepped up and took the weight off his shoulders, Augustine Monroe might have been my top keeper. Monroe is a perfect example of defense winning championships. Against Texas State, Monroe's interceptions, recoveries of loose balls and blocked shots allowed Texas to take firm control of the game and score six unanswered goals. On offense, Monroe wasn't required to make the plays Rodriguez did, as Texas' off-ball chasers exceeded all expectations. Nevertheless, Monroe made plays when he needed to and perfectly gauged the ability of his chasers as the distributor.

Stephen Bell--Lone Star Quidditch Club
Lone Star Quidditch Club played faster than I've ever seen them play before at World Cup VII and that greatly benefitted keeper and super-athlete Stephen Bell. Bell, who played well enough in the half court to earn one of the QuidKid's Fall All-Star spots, truly seemed at home in the fast-paced, back-and-forth offense. With Kody Marshall, Chris Morris, Simon Arends, Sarah Holub and UTSA-transfer Chris Scholz frequently on the receiving end of Bell's passes, LSQC reminded us of how fun a transition offense that involves all four chasers is to watch. With a quarterfinal exit to Texas A&M, it's hard to predict how LSQC would have done against the eventual champions, but with the way Bell was playing, LSQC would have been the favorite to me.

Female Beaters
Melissa White--Louisiana State University
A veteran of the sport of quidditch, but a newcomer to the position of beater, LSU's Melissa White joined the very small club of elite female beaters at World Cup VII, showcasing a relentless and fearless style of offensive beating. White took out defensive beaters with unparalleled efficiency, creating scoring opportunities for her offense. With a terrific performance against the Lost Boys, White helped LSU's beaters create a chaotic atmosphere that neutralized the disciplined Lost Boys' beater defense. While the Lost Boys' beaters were caught off guard and struggled, White excelled in the chaos, evidence of her field awareness and instincts. Unfortunately, White suffered an injury around the 10-minute mark against the Lost Boys, but she had helped set the tone in the beater game. At a World Cup where offensive beating played pivotal roles, White showed that having an aggressive, offensive female beater is a huge strategic advantage. In addition, White's performance at World Cup VII (especially during LSU's Round of 32 victory over the second-seeded Lost Boys) proved that she has mastered two positions unlike any other player in quidditch.

Beth Clementi--Texas State University
While Ryan Peavler was darting around the field making flashy beats and bone-crunching hits, Beth Clementi was doing the dirty work. Fighting tooth-and-nail for loose bludgers and often coming out of scrums with the third bludger, Clementi gave Texas State's defense a strong anchor throughout World Cup VII weekend. Clementi is able to play both front and back beater and is quick to identify the offense's most dangerous player. On her way to the World Cup VII finals, Clementi helped Texas State  neutralize the effectiveness LSU's beaters in the Sweet Sixteen and run all over a tired Emerson squad in the Final Four.

Julie Fritz--Ohio State University
Ohio State is one of those teams that I wish I had gotten to follow more. Really, the only live Ohio State action I saw was its blowout loss to the Lost Boys. Impressively, Ohio State slept on its poor performance against the Lost Boys and bounced back in bracket play to string together three straight wins before nearly defeating Texas State. 

At the heart of Ohio State's defense was systematic, reliable beater Julie Fritz, a player lauded by the Midwest's analysts, but relatively unknown on the national stage. Fritz was key in limiting the opportunities of Texas State's driving-centric offense and helped to shut down Texas State star Eric Reyes. Fritz's territory in front of the hoops was a black hole for Reyes, who had zero points, zero assists and six turnovers. All of this was accomplished with Ryan Peavler and Beth Clementi putting heavy pressure on the Ohio State beating corps. While Ohio State's elimination games against Rochester, Villanova and Michigan were not captured on video like the Texas State game, I would bet that Fritz was instrumental in dueling with prominent beaters such as Anthony Cerrone and stopping Michigan's drive-first Andrew Axtell.

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