The Eighth Man

Northeast Regional recap and tournament team

Utilizing a “turtle-shell” defense and a deadly fastbreak, No. 7 Boston University came out on top of the Northeast Regional Championship. Credit: Michael E. Mason

In the weeks leading up to the tournament, the Northeast Regional Championship was by far one of the most intriguing tournaments to date. There was little agreement on who the best team in the region was, whether No. 15 Hofstra University could contend with the Boston Three, if Middlebury was still any good, or which big-name teams would end up left out of the World Cup.

 

In the end, we got answers to most of these questions, but only after a dramatic, and at times shocking, tournament that made many people reexamine what exactly the Northeast had to offer. As the sun set over Fort Adams in Newport, R.I., a pair of Boston teams, No. 7 Boston University and No. 10 Emerson College, were the last two standing. While Emerson gave them all they had, Boston University was in too much of a groove all weekend, winning 150-80 in a match that was far closer than the final score indicates and that could have gone either way. The title was Boston University’s first in a tournament this season, and was a strongly deserved conclusion to one of the school’s most comprehensively dominant performances to date.

 

Below, we’ll take a look at the biggest regional tournament to date, pool-by-pool, and choose our all-tournament team.

 

 

Pool One

After the dropping of Ithaca College just over a week before the tournament, this group earned the label of the Group of Death. It lived up to its billing, with just one of the four teams surviving to claim a World Cup bid.

 

We learned early Saturday morning that the Middlebury College team in attendance was not the one we had become used to in recent years. A Stony Brook University team that struggled to score points all weekend outscored them 60-30 before making a snitch grab to put them away. While Middlebury was every bit as technically sound as they have been in the past, it quickly became clear that their utter lack of physicality simply wasn’t enough anymore. After an 0-3 day, the five-time defending World Champions bowed out with barely a whimper.

 

The same problem plagued Vassar College, who also struggled to score points. But, with the added benefit of beater Peter Lee, who multiple times almost forced a keeper into a delay of game penalty by trapping them in their own keeper zone, the team was able to find enough success to dominate Stony Brook and sneak by Middlebury, 60*-20.

 

Emerson, meanwhile, made the rest of the group look like nothing. In three games, they outscored the others 290-10 in quaffle points, being set back only by a pair of suicide snitches. They proved all weekend just how well-rounded they are, capable of running the field, making a stand on defense, or finessing a well-organized opponent with passes.

 

On day two, it was a disappointing start for the group’s two middling teams. Vassar fell to a surprising SUNY Geneseo side on a snitch grab in the Round of 16, while Tufts University used the same formula Emerson and Vassar had the day before – control the bludgers and render Stony Brook’s offense helpless – to dominate them, 130*-20. Things only got worse in the elimination round, with Stony Brook once again failing to score before being knocked out by RIT, 70*-10, and Vassar being shocked by UMass Amherst, 80*-40

 

For Emerson, of course, things went much better. Their round of 16 game was a 190*-0 romp of Green Mountain College, and in the quarterfinals they dispatched their second team, the Boston Riot, 160-60*. The semifinals definitely raised some eyebrows, as Hofstra locked down their offense and kept things close. But for the first time all weekend, the Emerson seekers bailed them out, 50*-20

 

 

Pool Two

The University of Rochester was given a gift with this pool, which in the end fielded no other World Cup-bound squads. But, even the pool favorites underachieved, needing to advance through the secondary bracket to secure their bid.

 

Rochester started off its Saturday with a match against the University of New Haven, which included six injury stoppages. One of the most prominent was that of Rochester chaser Devin Sandon, who was never the same the rest of the weekend. Rochester followed it up with a game against CAMPS, a physical squad who had a tendency to bend the rules. The matches took their toll, and a beaten, battered and injured side lost to underrated Green Mountain College, barely sneaking into the top of the pool with a 110*-30 win over Syracuse to end the day.

 

The rest of the pool showed promise, but not much more. CAMPS was a physical and athletic team, but suffered from a lack of experience in both their beating game and their strategy. If they get out of the newer areas of the region and play more top teams, they definitely have a high ceiling for the future.

 

Syracuse always seemed to just barely getting by, sneaking by Green Mountain and CAMPS on snitch grabs, going to overtime with New Haven. Yet, due to the strength of the pool, they still entered Sunday with the No. 9 overall seed.

 

On Sunday, four of the pools teams were thrown into the general fray, with none faring especially well. Green Mountain knocked out CAMPS immediately in an elimination game, but then was completely and utterly outclassed by Emerson. Syracuse had no response for a much better-tested NYU side, and then proceeded to knock off Green Mountain in overtime, 90^-70*. Syracuse continued to do just enough, before falling by a wide margin to an UMass team that simply wanted it more, 120*-40.

 

But no one saw coming just how close Rochester would be to coming up short of a World Cup bid. In the Round of 16, Boston Riot held them close in a physical, low-scoring affair and then pulled the snitch, winning 50*-40. The favorites fell into an elimination game against another Boston team, Harvard University, and couldn’t get the game out of snitch range fast enough. But, with help from strong seeker beating, the got the grab and the win, 100*-40. After a 110*-40 win over Syracuse, they could finally exhale.

 

But while the team may be bound for the World Cup, the stigma of yet another underperformance on a big stage will stick with this team going into the spring.

 

 

Pool Three

This pool was filled with intriguing teams with plenty of potential, from Hofstra to SUNY Geneseo to Macaulay Honors College. None of the three ended up disappointing, with each earning a bid with a win in the Round of 16, the only pool to qualify three teams in this manner.

 

On Saturday, things played out very predictably. Both the University of Vermont and the young University of Rhode Island team were simply outclassed, with Vermont remaining in contention moving on to Sunday with a John Bruce snitch grab to beat URI, 80*-20.

 

At the top, Hofstra’s offense was too much for the opposition, with the team scoring at least 120 quaffle points in all four matches. Hofstra’s chasers are quick, powerful and experienced, and with talented beaters like Alex Leitch and Amanda Salvucci clearing the way, were a nightmare for the opposition.

 

This left a battle between Geneseo and Macaulay to earn the second spot in the pool. The two teams came in with very different styles: Geneseo was a strong, fairly young team still figuring out its identity, while Macaulay was a smaller but knowledgable team that was capable of getting the most out of each one of its players. Macaulay was able to get to an early lead, but Geneseo was able to keep things close, and had the advantage at seeker due to an early injury to Macaulay’s starting seeker, Andrew Zagelbaum, winning on a grab, 70*-60.

 

In the Round of 16, things went according to plan for all three contenders. Hofstra had no problem with a talented Harvard side, earning their bid, 130*-10. Geneseo and Macaulay found themselves up against strong opponents in Vassar and RIT, but both hung around, Macaulay with good defensive beating and Geneseo by finding ways to create plenty of points. And, when the time came, both team’s seekers had what it took, with Geneseo winning 100*-70 on a Liam O’Connor grab and Macaulay’s Shenuque Tissera making a grab that will keep his team’s Cinderella story going all the way to Orlando, Fla.

 

Whether it was the emotional drain of qualifying or the quality of the opponents, neither Geneseo or Macaulay showed up well in the quarterfinals: Geneseo couldn’t stay close to Tufts late in the game, losing 170*-40, while Macaulay was little more than a speed bump for Boston University, falling 160-40*. Even Hofstra had a scare, playing to a tie with NYU before Freddy Varone caught the snitch. They gave Emerson a scare in the semifinals, but Varone didn’t have the magic a second time, as his team fell, 50*-20.

 

 

Pool Four

Intriguing both for its depth and the team’s familiarity with each other, the pool presented four legitimate contenders for World Cup bids.

 

Tufts, facing a Harvard team that had beaten them five week earlier and a UMass team that had faced them many times in the past, asserted itself as the best team early and often. They were able to establish bludger control throughout the day, allowing one of the deepest chasing lines at the tournament to go to work. While they didn’t put up the type of offense other top teams did, they did enough to avoid the roulette of the snitch grab all weekend.

 

NYU and UMass both came out as major surprises this weekend. NYU’s talent pool seems to be increasing, and as a whole the team plays a very crisp game based on good spacing and ball movement. Even after losing star chaser and seeker Dante Close to injury early on Saturday, the team remained competitive. UMass proved the value of experimentation in games, and the move of Robert Vortherms to beater has seemingly revitalized the side. With a larger presence in the bludger game, their big, physical chasers and keeper can run free on offense, posing an issue for even talented defensive teams like Tufts.

 

For Harvard, it appears their lack of depth has finally caught up to them. Even with plenty of talent on their starting line, the team is simply not equipped for a long two-day tournament. The team struggled in the seeker game, partially a result of their on-field seeker chasing for major minutes, costing them an overtime game against UMass, which they lost, 100^-70*, a close one with NYU, 100*-90, and their final elimination game, a 100*-40 defeat at the hands of Rochester.

 

Despite the struggles, Harvard made a run of it on Sunday, beating the New York Badassilisks in the first round on Sunday before successive losses to top seeds Hofstra and Rochester. NYU garnered a favorable matchup with Syracuse in the Round of 16, and easily qualified for the World Cup before falling to Hofstra by snitch grab.

 

Tufts looked even better than it had on Saturday, cruising past Stony Brook and SUNY Geneseo by scores of 130*-20 and 170*-40. In the semifinals against Boston University, Tufts kept bludger control for the first six or seven minutes of the match, keeping the score tied to that point. But when they lost control and couldn’t get it back, Boston was able to pull away.

 

But above all, it was UMass that took the most interesting path to the World Cup. After surviving a first round match on a snitch grab, the team fell into the secondary bracket with a loss to Boston University. This time, they upset Vassar in an elimination game, again on snitch grab, but fell to Rochester in their second attempt at qualifying. But they finally got there in the final qualifying match of the day, dominating a tired Syracuse side, 120*-40.

 

 

Pool Five

While outsiders viewed Pool One as the Group of Death, Pool Five may have actually been the most talented. Boston University looked like by far the best team in the region, while both RIT and Boston Riot brought plenty to the table. And that’s all before getting to the New York Badassilisks, who have proven plenty in the past and simply got caught in the wrong group at the wrong time.

 

Boston University, despite the difficulty of the group, was on another level. They had a game plan – get bludger control, and then run and run – and they executed it almost perfectly straight through the weekend, with the exception of the beginning of the Tufts match and stretches of the finals. The team simply has too much athleticism, talent and organization for anyone in the Northeast to consistently contend with, and their tournament title was well-deserved.

 

One team that did give Boston University a game was RIT, who was one of the most up and down teams throughout the weekend. Along with the 110-80* loss to the champions, the Dark Marks torched Boston Riot, 160*-60, in one of the more physical matches of the weekend. But, at the same time, they needed a snitch grab to bail them out against the Badassilisks, winning 60*-40. RIT was one of the biggest teams around, but they are going to need to expand their repertoire if they hope to make noise in April.

 

Making their debut on the main stage, the Riot proved they belonged. Based on the same tenets of a strong bludger game and defense first that have built Emerson into a powerhouse, they seem ready for the main stage quicker than many expected. In a key match for third place in the group against the Badassilisks, they held their opponents scoreless, winning 80*-0.

 

The team’s impressive defense carried over to Sunday, when they held Rochester to just 40 points in 23 minutes in the Round of 16. The Riot made one failed snitch grab, but then came through with a second legal one, pulling off one of the biggest upsets of the tournament to qualify for the World Cup, 50*-40. RIT, meanwhile, was on one of its downswings, losing 80*-30 to Macaulay and managing just 40 quaffle points against Stony Brook and 10 quaffle points against UMass in the second bracket. Luckily for them, a pair of snitch grabs was enough to sneak them into the World Cup.

 

 

First Team

Brian Herzog – Chaser – RIT: RIT brought one of the biggest, most physical teams to the tournament, and Herzog was at the forefront of it all. The bludgerless defenses that were able to slow him down were few and far between, thanks to his combination of size and quickness. This was perhaps best exemplified in the Dark Marks’ key pool play matchup with the Boston Riot. The Riot boasted a physical defense that had held Tufts to 40 points just a few weeks earlier and would do the same to Rochester on Sunday, but a Herzog-led squad cut them apart, scoring 130 quaffle points. It was a tough go of it for RIT on Sunday, but Herzog helped his team get just enough points to move on to the World Cup.

 

Rajah Reid – Chaser – Tufts: Reid has long been one of the top physical specimens in the Northeast, but the improvement in overall talent across the sport, along with a bad knee injury at World Cup V, seemed to have caught up with him for most of his sophomore year. This weekend, Reid proved he’s back on top of the game. He was the best point defender at the tournament, consistently halting offenses with his strong wraps and tackles. But he also showed the ability to take over a game on the offensive end, nearly unstoppable without a bludger. His impressive performance against an upstart NYU side earned Tufts the top spot in their pool.

 

Madeline Smeaton – Chaser – Emerson College: Smeaton continues to grow as one of the best chasers in the IQA, and she proved it once again at the Northeast Regionals. She’s big, fast and just as willing to throw a hit as she is to take one, something that put her head and shoulders – literally and figuratively – above the competition at Fort Adams. Her basketball background gives her a huge advantage, as her ball control is incredible, and her defense, against male and female chasers alike, is top notch.

 

Alex Leitch – Beater – Hofstra University: Leitch is one of the most annoying players in the region to play against. He was relentless with his bludger attack this past weekend, constantly beating chasers both on and off ball and leaving the other team exhausted from cycling back to their hoops. He is extremely capable from distance, and his play with the snitch on the field helped his team to make some vital grabs, including one against NYU in the quarterfinals.

 

Katrina Bossotti – Beater – Boston University: If you are looking for a most valuable player for this tournament, you won’t have to look much farther than Bossotti. Boston University operated on a system of gaining bludger control, switching to a three male chaser set, and running opponents up and down the field, and Bossotti, who played massive amounts of minutes on the weekend, made the system tick. Her distance beats were rarely off, and she was more than capable of defending bludger control for both her and her partner. The catch she made to get back control from Tufts in a key moment of their semifinal match will not soon be forgotten by anyone who saw it, and she is as much responsible as anyone for her team’s title.

 

Brendan Stack – Keeper – Boston University: Here’s the only person that could give Bossotti a run for her money in terms of most valuable player. Stack seemed to never sub out on Sunday, even as he spent possession after possession running up and down the field. No one could keep up with his mix of endurance and physicality, and as impressive as he was shutting down opponents with his ability to cover all three hoops actively, he was even more so when leading the fast break. His passes were crisp, and his ability to finish in open space is top class.

 

Liam O’Connor – Seeker – SUNY Geneseo: It should come as little surprise that the seeker for the tournament’s biggest overachievers would take top honors. O’Connor first made a name for himself with a catch on snitch Harry Greenhouse to defeat Macaulay and earn his team the second place spot in its pool. But an even more impressive catch came early Sunday morning, with him outwitting Anthony DeVito for the catch that put them past Vassar and into the World Cup. Multiple snitches came away impressed with O’Connor’s play, and Geneseo is definitely good enough to keep his grabs relevant.

 

 

Second Team

Freddy Varone – Chaser – Hofstra University: Yet another Hofstra chaser to show up big this weekend, Varone used his speed to create chances in some key situations. The squad scored quickly and often on Saturday, and he was at the center of it. Varone also had one of two goals for Hofstra against Emerson, and helped contribute the type of defense needed to contend with them for a full match. On top of all of that, Varone gets bonus points for his performance at seeker, catching the snitch against NYU to avoid what would have been one of the biggest upsets of the tournament.

 

Josh Stone – Chaser – SUNY Geneseo: Geneseo has quietly been developing as a competitive side over the last few years, and captain Josh Stone is the perfect example of that progress. Not only is he a physical chaser, but he is experienced enough to make smart decisions. Stone knows when to take it himself, and when to draw the defense before dishing it off to a teammate. Geneseo’s defense still needs work, but the team was able to score against just about anyone – including 40 points against both Hofstra and Tufts – and Stone was a big reason for that.

 

Casey Sabal – Chaser – New   York Badassilisks: Sabal is, without a doubt, one of the best players not going to World Cup VI, and the quidditch world is worse off for it. Casey is a star chaser, and she was certainly shining this weekend for the New York Badassalisks. Though small, Casey is extremely feisty, and her tenacity is what made her such a danger on the pitch at Fort Adams. Any opponents who underestimated her found themselves 10 points worse for it, and, beyond her own abilities, she made her teammates around her better.

 

Bobby O’Neil – Beater – Boston Riot: O’Neil might just be on the wrong team. Playing for the Boston Riot, known to be Emerson’s second team, he proved this weekend that he is a star beater capable of playing for and against even the best teams in the nation. He anchored the Riot’s defense, playing with aggression and smarts, a deadly combination. Bobby plays like a seasoned veteran on the field, and runs the defense like an experienced field general. He possesses a great deal of athleticism, and always seems to have a ball. The Riot are becoming known as one of the top defensive teams in the region, and O’Neil is a major reason for that.

 

Mara Shuster-Lefkowitz – Beater – Emerson College: Even if she had done nothing else relevant for the entire rest of the tournament, Shuster-Lefkowitz’s deflection of a shot using a thrown bludger from 10 feet away could have earned her a spot on the team all by itself. But that is only one example of her incredible awareness for the game, and awareness that was on full display throughout the weekend. Emerson’s defense was the best in the region over the weekend – they allowed just six goals in six games entering the finals – and Shuster-Lefkowitz, while surrounded by some very talented male beaters, was at the heart of it all.

 

David Foxx – Keeper – Emerson College: Any pieces of the defense not picked up by the beaters were well covered by Foxx. In the finals, he was the first person all weekend to make the Boston University fast break look shaky. He made a few possession-changing tackles, including an extremely impressive one on Brendan Stack, and forced them into multiple inaccurate passes, a rarity to say the least. He also got himself involved in the offense, scoring points at will at times.

 

David Curry-Johnson  – Seeker – UMass Amherst: No one at the tournament had quite as much of a knack for high-leverage snitch grabs as Curry-Johnson. His first came with his team down 0-2 and facing overtime against a favored Harvard side with a talented seeker of their own in Hank Smith. His second came in the high-tension elimination games on Sunday morning, beating out Vermont’s John Bruce. Then, he struck one final time in a shocking upset of Vassar that sent the historic powerhouse home and put UMass in position to earn a World Cup bid.

 

 

Third Team

Jayke Archibald – Chaser – Hostra University: While he may not have had his best tournament, Archibald remains one of the best chasers in the region and the lifeblood of Hofstra quidditch. His long, lanky frame was a nuisance for defensive and attacking players alike, and he made sure his team had all of the tools and understanding it needed to live up to expectations on the way to a third-place finish.

 

Graham Walsh – Chaser – UMass Amherst: Positional adjustments in the UMass squad opened up their offensive game a lot this weekend, and Walsh showed the massive amount of talent present there. Almost unstoppable without a bludger, Walsh was able to truck through even the top defenses, scoring nearly all of his team’s 80 points against Tufts. UMass proved itself to be just as physical as any of the other top teams in the region, and Walsh, even in his pajama bottoms, embodies that better than anyone.

 

Emily Paolillo – Chaser – Macaulay Honors College: Paolillo may not be the biggest chaser, but her knowledge of the game and ability to utilize it were on full display at this tournament. She was adept at finding holes in the opposing defense, and making cuts to receive passes in space. This left her open on just about every offensive possession, and when her teammates could find her, she was a dangerous asset. Defensively, she was also more than capable of marking her man, making sure to avoid creating the type of holes she utilizes so well.

 

Harry Clarke – Beater – University of Rochester: Rochester couldn’t have had much more go wrong for them in this tournament, from injuries to bad breaks. Luckily, they had Clarke to hold it all together. Though he continues to be the gunner he has been in the past, a greater maturity has helped him to make better decisions, keeping his team out of potentially disastrous situations. In a key elimination game against Harvard, Clarke logged major minutes, and the team maintained bludger control throughout, giving them a major advantage when a potentially fatal snitch returned to the field.

 

Jenna Jankowski – Beater – Macaulay Honors College: Jankowski proved just how valuable she is to her team this past weekend. She may prefer a more defensive role with her team, but in that position she is an anchor for the sturdy Macaulay defense. In their World Cup-qualifying match against RIT, Macaulay spent the first half of the match without bludger control. Jankowski made extremely good use of the team’s one bludger, constantly denying RIT from scoring, keeping the game close, and ultimately allowing them to take and expand the lead when they did get the second bludger.

 

John Gaffigan – Keeper – NYU: Many people came away surprised and impressed by the NYU squad that showed up again, and Gaffigan, a newcomer, was a major part of it. Defensively, he does all of his duties well enough, but it is on the offensive end that he shines. He is big enough to get through a point chaser, and the moment he can force a defense to adjust, he is capable of picking them it apart with sharp, accurate passes. Throughout the weekend, it was not atypical for him to his a teammate 20 yards away with an indefensible pass on a line, and most of the NYU offense ran through him.

 

Nick Ryder – Seeker – Tufts University: Another newcomer to the sport, Ryder was consistently tossed into one of the most difficult situations for a seeker in pool play: fighting both a snitch and a defending seeker as your team uses its beaters to cling to a 40 or 50 point lead. Ryder came through every single time, including a great grab to beat NYU and a quick grab against Greenhouse to hold off rival Harvard. On top of his on-pitch seeking, Ryder is also the team’s starting beater, and helped Tufts to gain bludger control in the opening minute of all seven games they played this weekend.

 

 

(Zach D’Amico contributed reporting to this article.)

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