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.

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