The Eighth Man

Countdown to Kissimmee: Illinois State University

Credit: Illinois State University Quidditch Team

Credit: Illinois State University Quidditch Team

Illinois State University’s World Cup qualification through the Midwest Regional was a bit of a surprise within the region. After an early season disappointment at the Great Lakes Conference tournament, where ISU finished sixth out of seven official teams, not many people were picking them to advance to Kissimmee. But Illinois State was able to prove the doubters wrong, and with an overtime win against Central Michigan, a team that had already beaten them earlier in the season, punched their ticket for the game’s biggest stage. But can Cinderella’s magic hold up in the town Walt Disney built?


Best wins: None


Worst losses: vs. Purdue University (180*-50, Oct. 27), vs. Central Michigan University (120-70*, Oct. 27)


Key Players: Keeper Isaac Mitchell is one of the best in the region. He has all the size and length of a great keeper, and combines that with a very physical game and plenty of speed on the offensive end. Mitchell is the driving force behind his team, both offensively and defensively. On the offensive, Mitchell has the speed to turn breakaways into points and the vision to make passes to open players. Defensively, Mitchell is always willing to put his body on the line and has a great sense of awareness and positioning to make key saves.


Players to watch: Alyssa Marassa, who plays both chaser and beater, is another huge part of Illinois State’s team. While she’s not as dominating of a force as Mitchell, she keeps opposing players on their toes at all times, always applying pressure when she can. Her ability is defined by her fearlessness and her willingness to take on opponents of any size.


Strategy: Illinois State runs a counterattacking offense, looking to push their advantage whenever possible. Defensively, they rely on their chasers as point defenders and use their beaters in support. Their offense, when slowed down, is very pass-oriented, and their players are always looking to make a pass and find open space. State’s beaters play very conservatively, almost never assisting the offense, even in attempts to regain bludger control.


Strengths: The Firebirds have great speed and passing. They’re always looking to get upfield in a hurry, and can run with just about anyone.


Weaknesses: What they don’t have is the physicality required to compete on the top level. They have gotten substantially better at this over the course of the year, but their speed-oriented game doesn’t leave a lot of room for players of size. Their defenders often fail to wrap up, and their beaters are not as accurate as they could be.


Prediction: While ISU has come a long way this year, they have not shown the ability to compete against top-level opponents. ISU is eliminated in pool play.


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