The Eighth Man

Texas rebounds from rocky start to take West by Southwest Interregional Showcase

The tournament featured some of the key teams and strongest players of both the West and Southwest regions. The showcase included two exciting match-ups between UCLA and the University of Texas. Credit: Glen Wurden

 

Ever since the creation of the “West Coast, Best Coast” chant (which celebrated its one-year anniversary yesterday), people have debated which region  is the strongest in quidditch. The Northeast region is home to the most teams, as well as the five-time World Cup Champions, but the majority of quidditch analysts feel that teams from other regions are actually at the top.

Some have even predicted  a No. 7 University of California Los Angeles vs. No. 6 University of Texas final for World Cup VI, and a tournament in frigid and windy Albuquerque, N.M. this past weekend shed some light on how that final might look.

 

The West by Southwest Interregional Showcase featured seven teams: Texas, UCLA, Austin Quidditch, Northern Arizona University (NAU), University of Northern Colorado (UNC), and mercenary teams from the West and the Southwest.

 

The first day of the tournament started off as expected, with UT and UCLA dominating their games. UT kept NAU from scoring a single point outside of their suicide snitch grab, beating them 150-30. UCLA beat UNC 120-10, thanks to some effortless passing and nonstop beater intensity.

 

But the two powerhouse teams weren’t the only ones to completely dominate their opponents at the start of the tournament, however. Perhaps the most interesting team to follow throughout the first day was the Western Mercs. They beat the Southwest Mercs — which only lost to UCLA by 20 points — 130-10, and took down NAU 90-60 after an exhausting battle of physicality and chaotic snitch play.

 

Halfway through the day, UCLA and UT had their first face-off, and the match was just as amazing  as one would expect. UCLA focused on controlled bludger work and accuracy, while Texas put an emphasis on their physicality and speed. Texas took some time to fall into their rhythm, allowing UCLA to jump out in front and keep the upper hand for a majority of the game. Texas was able to catch back up and get within snitch range, but UCLA caught the snitch first and ended the game, 90-40.

 

The day ended with a game between Texas and the Western Mercs, the latter of which was undefeated and had a perfect snitch catch record. The Mercs kept the score close in the first few minutes, meeting each Texas goal with one of their own, but after one of their players got injured, the Western team was forced to play with only one substitute and fell behind. Unable to front the Texas seeker, they watched helplessly as the Longhorns caught the snitch and took the game, 110-30, giving both teams a 4-1 record at the day’s end.

 

Day two of the tournament started out with a UCLA vs. Western Mercs match, which ended up being one of the closest games in the tournament. The two teams battled back and forth for bludger control and both sides suffered from a few sloppy plays due to the cold and high winds. The score was 50-40 UCLA when the Mercs caught the snitch, but the catch was called off. Soon after, UCLA pulled the snitch and took the game, 80-40. The win earned UCLA the top seed, while dropping the Western Mercs to third.

 

The semifinals were composed of rematches: UCLA vs. Austin Quidditch and Texas vs. the Western Mercs. In both games, the underdogs kept their opponents within snitch range until the final minute, where they fell behind by 40 and allowed for UCLA and Texas to catch their respective snitches and move on to the finals.

 

The tension in the air in Albuquerque was palpable as the two quidditch giants lined up on the pitch; the Southwest teams gathered on Texas’ side, hyping them up with chants of “Texas Fight!,” and the Western teams gathered on UCLA’s side with their now-traditional “West Coast, Best Coast” cheers. After Texas’ goal in the first fifteen seconds of the game, UCLA seemed to lose the spark that they’d shown throughout the tournament. Texas set the pace for the game, refusing to give UCLA any space to bring the ball up the pitch or strategize.

 

The western powerhouse’s chaser defense could not stand against Texas’ army of hard-hitting and agile offenders, and Texas’ beaters put nonstop pressure on UCLA’s, crippling their defense even when UCLA had bludger control. Once the snitch made his way onto the pitch, UCLA was out of snitch range and was forced to do whatever possible to keep the game going, allowing Texas to take the lead by an even larger margin. They were ahead by eleven goals when UCLA surrendered and caught the snitch, giving Texas a well-deserved 180-100 victory and the WxSW first place trophy.

 

 

Players to Watch

Tony Rodriguez – Chaser – Western Mercs
Despite only playing quidditch for a month so far on the Hollywood Harpies, chaser Rodriguez has quickly made a name for himself in the West. His ability to barrel through defenses helped him score the most quaffle points for the 3rd place Western Mercs, and his basketball experience made him an extremely useful shot-blocker.

 

Stephen Bell – Keeper – University of Texas
A lack of uninjured male beaters forced Texas’ usual starting keeper Augustine Monroe to don a black headband, giving  Bell the chance to shine in his position. While not quite as agile as Monroe, Bell’s long arms and field awareness helped him prevent several seemingly inevitable goals and keep Texas’ defense as competitive as always.

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