The Eighth Man

Western Regional Preview

The 2013 Western Regionals are going down this weekend in Roseville, CA, and only six of the seventeen teams attending will leave with an invite to World Cup VI.

Credit: IQA Western Region

Credit: IQA Western Region

While two teams are considered shoo-ins for the coveted World Cup spots, the level of competition among several of the remaining teams makes the other winners far less predictable. Which teams will rise to the challenge and prove that they deserve to compete against the best in the country in April? And which teams will be stuck in the West, forced to train for another year before performing on our sport’s biggest stage? Here are our thoughts on what is sure to be an exciting weekend:

 

 

The Favorites

No. 5 University of California Los Angeles

The top choice of most Eighth Man analysts to walk away with the Western Regionals trophy, UCLA has had varying levels of success so far this season. They lost to both their cross-town rivals USC and No. 6 University of Miami at last fall’s Hollywood Bowl by snitch, and while they won their first game against No. 3 University of Texas-Austin at the West by Southwest Showcase , 90*-40, they were dominated by the same team in the tournament’s finals, losing 180-100*.

UCLA’s biggest strengths are their use of exceptional female chasers Vanessa Goh and Missy Sponagle, and their tactically brilliant assortment of beaters. They also benefit from the spot-on accuracy of keeper Zachary Luce and powerhouse players like Adam Richardson and Alex Browne. They’re arguably the deepest team that will be attending the tournament, and the fact that only top-tier teams like Texas, Miami, and USC have been able to find cracks in their armor this season all but guarantees them a place in World Cup VI.

 

No. 9 University of Southern California

All eyes will be on the reigning Western Cup champions, who went undefeated in this season’s Hollywood Bowl with wins over Miami and UCLA. Some question the depth of this squad, due to their occasional dependence on standout players like August Luhrs and newcomer Remy Conatser. When the team competed against UCLA without help from those two powerhouses in January, they found themselves pummeled 150-40* by the Bruins.

They also lack the cross-region experience that UCLA racked up in the fall at the West by Southwest Showcase, but their multiple wins over local community team The Lost Boys (80*-40, 150*-20, and 150*-40) are definitely notable. While our staff isn’t unanimous in placing USC in the finals, they will almost certainly snag a ticket to the Cup.

 

 

The Contenders

Silicon Valley Skrewts

This veteran community team has been on a roll recently, with tournament wins at Stanford University’s Sunshine Bowl and unofficially at University of California Berkeley’s Groundhog Hoedown in a tournament that included a win over a full-strength Bear side. Most notable this season were their victories over the Lost Boys, 70*-50, and Stanford, 110*-20.

The Skrewts use each of the talented players on their roster wisely, keeping each chaser in constant motion to pull defenders away from the quaffle or become available for a pass to translate into goals. Their starting beaters, Willis Miles IV and Kyrie Timbrook, demonstrate a true mastery of the position, constantly making pinpoint-accurate throws and unbelievable catches. When they go on the offensive and flank keeper Kevin Oelze, only the best teams will find themselves able to recover the quaffle or a second bludger.

 

The Lost Boys

A community team filled with quidditch alumni from World Cup contenders Emerson, Hofstra, and UCLA, the Lost Boys boast more diplomas than any team already qualified for World Cup VI. They’ve capitalized on their proximity to UCLA and USC this season, playing one of the region’s top teams at least once a month.

With utility beaters like Michael Mohlman and Chris Seto as well as fresh transfer Tony Rodriguez leading the defense at keeper, this is sure to be a hard team to get past. A lot will ride on this squad’s ability to build chemistry during this tournament, as the Lost Boys are unable to practice together as often as many of this tournament’s other competitors.

 

Northern Arizona University

This team will be one of the tournament’s biggest wildcards, as very few in the region have seen them play this season. At the West by Southwest Regionals Showcase, they proved to be a primarily defensive team, with nearly every player in their lineup willing and able to execute impressive tackles and momentum-stopping wraps. They impressed many analysts by going 2-1 against Arizona State in the Lumberjack Invitational, but they also suffered huge losses to UCLA (140*-40) and Texas (150-30*) this season.

Their biggest weakness appears to be their inability to fall into any real offensive rhythm, and we’ll have to see this weekend whether or not time and practice has changed that.

 

Arizona State University

Don’t let their low IQA ranking fool you – the two-time Western Cup champions are more considerable than it may suggest. Led by Team USA Keeper-elect Willie Jackson and powerful yet still under-the-radar chaser Alex Makk, this team has the potential to go far at Regionals. If anything will hold them back, it’s their lack of experience –they’ve only played against NAU and a young University of Arizona so far this season. Will they be able to keep up with teams who have been playing consistently over the past four months? We don’t have them topping USC in their pool, but we’d be surprised if they don’t earn one of the six Cup spots.

 

 

The Underdogs

Utah Crimson Fliers

The IQA’s most isolated U.S. team was one of the major surprises of World Cup V, going from relative unknowns to getting second in their pool (on tiebreakers) and making it into bracket play. Unfortunately for them, they return only two players from that squad, and as a result once again find themselves as relative unknowns and underdogs. They won the Denver Quidpocalypse tournament, with a loss on a snitch grab to the Denver Dementors in pool play as the only blemish on their record. At Snow Cup, they won convincingly in their only official game against the Santa Barbara Blacktips, and made it to the semifinals of that tournament, bowing out to the eventual runner-ups, a mercenary squad.

The Fliers are led by co-captain chaser Brady Groves, one of the sport’s defensive juggernauts and one of the two returners from Utah’s World Cup V squad. Newcomer Andy Hopkins has had a quick rise through the ranks, as he is both the starting male beater and on-pitch seeker for the Fliers, as well as being the team’s other co-captain. While the Fliers are relative unknowns compared to the other contenders for a World Cup bid at this tournament, they have some very solid players and it would be no surprise if they came away with a bid.

 

Santa Barbara Blacktips
Dominant wins over the Claremont Dirigible Plums (290*-30) and Remus Riverside Runners (210*-60) helped this new team build momentum quickly this season, but that momentum stopped after they suffered losses to the Lost Boys (140*-40) and Skrewts (110*-20) at Stanford’s Sunshine Bowl. Unfortunately, their schedule this weekend won’t help them get back on their feet, as they have to play both USC and ASU – the two teams with Western Cup championships under their belts – in pool play.

With an offense led by keeper Chris Lock, these guys have a ton of potential but lack the experience needed to really compete with the big teams in this tournament. If they want a spot in World Cup VI, they’re going to have a very tough fight ahead of them.

 

 

Players to Watch

Alex Makk – Chaser/Keeper – ASU
On a team known for their physical play, it’s easy to overlook one of the shortest players. That would be a mistake, however, as Alex Makk is pound-for-pound one of the most formidable players at the tournament. He displays the sort of physical strength you would expect from much larger players, and also possesses blazing speed. Those physical abilities combined with his on-pitch tenacity make him a force to be taken seriously whenever playing against ASU.

 

Willis Miles IV – Beater – Skrewts

One of the most underrated players in the West, beater Miles is the Skrewts’ secret weapon and the heart of their defense. He’s able to transition from offense to defense effortlessly, keeping constant pressure on all opponents throughout a game. His intimidating form and willingness to do whatever possible to recover and keep bludger control should definitely put him on your radar, and once you see him catch a bludger thrown at him while simultaneously hitting the thrower with his own bludger, he’ll be cemented there.

 

April Gonzales – Beater – NAU

NAU’s strength as a team has always been founded on their strong defensive presence, which helped them become the first team to ever defeat ASU in an official match just before World Cup V. At the heart of that defense is a ferocious beater game that holds the team up. April possesses everything you’d want in a great beater: a strong arm, great game sense, reliable hands to catch bludgers, and the willingness to both take and inflict physical damage on opposing beaters as necessary.

 

 

The Eighth Man Staff Picks: Pool Winners & Qualifiers
Writer Pool 1 Pool 2 Pool 3 Pool 4 Qualifiers
Curtis Taylor USC UCLA Lost Boys Crimson Fliers *Skrewts & NAU
Devin Sandon USC UCLA Lost Boys Skrewts *ASU & Crimson Fliers
Luke Changet USC UCLA Cal Crimson Fliers USC UCLA Cal Skrewts NAU & Lost Boys
Mollie Lensing USC UCLA Lost Boys Skrewts *ASU & NAU
Sarah Kneiling USC UCLA Lost Boys Skrewts *ASU & Crimson Fliers
Sarah Woolsey USC UCLA Lost Boys Skrewts *ASU & Crimson Fliers
Zach D'Amico USC UCLA Lost Boys Skrewts *ASU & NAU

* Additional 4 qualifiers same as the chosen pool winners

Finals
Writer Winner Runner-Up
Curtis Taylor USC UCLA
Devin Sandon UCLA USC
Luke Changet USC UCLA
Mollie Lensing UCLA USC
Sarah Kneiling UCLA USC
Sarah Woolsey UCLA USC
Zach D'Amico UCLA USC

 

(Kevin Oelze and Alan Black contributed reporting to this article.)

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