The Eighth Man

Southwestern Regional Preview

As World Cup VI approaches, the 40 teams that have already qualified for a D1 spot at the big tournament in April are anxiously waiting to see who the rest of their competition will be. Luckily, they won’t have to wait too long as 10 more teams will join their ranks after this weekend as 15 teams will compete for those spots at the Southwest Regional in College Station, TX.

 

Tournaments in the Southwest always prove to be rather exciting as many of the newer teams seem to improve exponentially from tournament to tournament and close the wide margins that the powerhouses used to always maintain. So far this year we have seen upsets, new teams rising from obscurity, and non-Texas teams reminding us they too are a part of the Southwest.

 

 

The Favorites:

No. 1 Texas A&M University

The Aggies are going into this tournament as the top ranked team in the country on both The Eighth Man rankings and the IQA rankings, and they have managed to remain undefeated up to this point. Previously, many of the teams that have held this ranking have been considered flukes for whatever reason, but Texas A&M is no fluke team. However, many people are wondering if they will be able to continue their high level of playing after not having competed since Collegiate Cup in November.

The Texas A&M team celebrates after winning the Diamond Cup in October 2012. (Credit:  Augusta Daley)

The Texas A&M team celebrates after winning the Diamond Cup in October 2012. (Credit: Augusta Daley)

Depth and experience are the Aggies two biggest strengths. Only two players on the team have less than a year of experience playing quidditch, and the average playing experience among everyone on the team is roughly 2 and a half years. The synergy of the team is very difficult to match as they function as a very well-oiled machine with a hard-hitting defense and fast paced offense. Their beaters almost always have bludger control, and they know how to defend against a variety of offensive styles. With such depth there are not too many stand out players, as different players will stand out in different games.

 

No. 3 University of Texas

Texas Quidditch stumbled a little earlier this season at the Diamond Cup and at WXSW, but their dominating performance at the 2nd Mardi Gras Cup shows they do not plan to make the same mistakes twice. Texas will be coming into this tournament with a lot of momentum on their side and a hunger to regain the status they had at the beginning of the season.

The Texas team gets ready before one of their games at the Mardi Gras Cup. (Credit: Lauren Carter)

The Texas team gets ready before one of their games at the Mardi Gras Cup. (Credit: Lauren Carter)

The Longhorns are a power team, and they display an intimidation factor that I have yet to see any team rival. They utilize crisp, accurate passing on offense as they almost always have a player open due to the fact multiple defenders are required to try and stop a Texas ball carrier. On defense they are relentless as you may get past one defender, but it is unlikely you make it past a second without needing to attempt a pass. Their stamina and strength are superb, so look for them to really thrive on the second day of the tournament where some other teams will struggle with exhaustion.

 

The Contenders

No. 11 Baylor University

A lot of people right now have to be asking: Can the Bears do it again? The answer is that they definitely can. Their only losses this season are to Texas A&M (30-70*) and Marquette (120-140*) both which came down to snitch grabs with the latter being a game in which Baylor was up by 30 when Marquette caught the snitch forcing an overtime that Marquette ultimately won. They are in the same boat as A&M though, as they are going into this tournament with some rust after having not played since Collegiate Cup.

Baylor is primarily a finesse team, which relies much less on tackling than their opponents to the south at UT and A&M. That is not to say that they aren’t physical and can’t dish out a solid tackle, but they use their beaters like David Gilbert and Chris Rhodes more to stop offensive chasers and their tall keepers to intercept passes or shots near the goals. On offense they focus on long passes to players behind the goals finding common targets in Paul Willard and Beissy Sandoval regularly. Their beater strategy is still developing as they have not had much inter-regional experience, but that does not hold them back as their beaters are very aggressive and make adjustments quickly to where they usually don’t have a problem handling some of the best beaters in the Southwest.

 

Texas State University

This team is one of the most underrated teams in the league, which unfortunately for them is mostly due to the fact that they are very new and have always fallen short in their games against top teams therefore keeping them off the radar. The Bobcats struggled at the beginning of the year at the unofficial BTCW Tournament, but then turned it around at Diamond Cup looking like a much stronger team. The progression continued through the SWOSU Showdown where they dominated and came out with a 1st place trophy.

Texas State has a very solid defense and beater game where they are very physical and can wear opponents down with their tenacity. Their offensive strategy has been somewhat lacking though when they face the top teams in the Southwest where they struggle to score. They also opted to go to a much less prestigious tournament back in the Fall while their counterparts in the Southwest all traveled to tournaments outside the Southwest to gain inter-regional experience and build competitive diversity. However, with all the down time they have had to train and grow I find it hard to believe they haven’t improved and would be incapable of pulling off an upset.

 

No. 13 LSU

The Tigers have had a rough season. Before last year they were pretty much the undisputed top dog of the Southwest with their only true competition being Texas A&M. However, after World Cup V we have seen LSU struggle more and more. They are going to be coming into this tournament looking for redemption.

Andrew Cantu (Texas A&M) and Jason Winn (LSU) face off at Collegiate Cup. (Credit: Emily Crouch)

Andrew Cantu (Texas A&M) and Jason Winn (LSU) face off at Collegiate Cup. (Credit: Emily Crouch)

This season so far has been a rebuilding period for LSU as they are assimilating new recruits in their line up among the well-known veterans. Depth has always been their biggest weakness, and they are working hard to improve it. LSU is always a difficult team to go against because they play extremely smart by always utilizing their strengths to their advantage no matter the team they face. Kody LaBauve is the beater to watch at this tournament as he a fantastic sniper beater that rarely misses his mark and acts as a great lone defenseman successfully halting opposing chasers that try to capitalize on a breakaway. LSU will easily snag a World Cup bid, but they will struggle to make it far in bracket play until they have all their players healthy and fully built up to the level of their veterans.

 

Austin Quidditch

When people think of a B team or 2nd team, they do not picture Austin Quidditch. Originally founded as the Texas Deluminators, the so-called B team to Texas Quidditch has grown tremendously over the last year. What they lack in strategy and experience, they make up for in drive and athleticism. They may have come out flat at Diamond Cup and WXSW, but with the addition of quite a few new players at the semester they are showing themselves to be a completely different team.

For having so many new players, the chemistry among the team is very astonishing. They have very solid beaters, a lot of speed on offense, great passing lanes, and very good tackling form. AQ also has a lot of drive which is best demonstrated by Daniel Rice who is a chaser and seeker for the team. He plays with a fire that easily gets passed on to his teammates and helps them build momentum. They just don’t have very  much experience yet, so playing against 1st seed teams is where AQ might struggle to adapt to their more advanced strategies.

 

University of San Antonio – Road Runner Quidditch

One of the newest teams in the Southwest has been making quite a splash so far this season. Road Runner Quidditch is a community team made up of mostly UTSA students. They have been steadily improving since the Fall aside from a few missteps at Mardi Gras. However, they notably held Texas to their lowest scoring game of the tournament where they only had 50 quaffle points before the snitch was caught. While it was a short game of just under 10 minutes, the quality play of the Roadrunners was very visible.

Luke Langlinais (UTSA) charges through USM at Mardi Gras Cup. (Credit: Lauren Carter)

Luke Langlinais (UTSA) charges through USM at Mardi Gras Cup. (Credit: Lauren Carter)

They have the athleticism and physicality to compete well as a top Southwest team, but they need to build up their general game strategy and more specifically their beater strategy to become more successful. Regardless they shouldn’t have too much difficulty in qualifying for a World Cup spot.

 

Silver Phoenix

With a lot of new rising talent, the Silver Phoenix are continuing to grow and give their younger players much needed experience. They regularly suffer from a lack of consistency in their roster where players don’t have the luxury of always competing with the same people which makes team chemistry a hard thing to develop. Their beater game is very smart and evolved which gives them a leg up against teams with inexperienced beaters. They also have a strong starting chaser and keeper line that provides them with a tough defense and very strong offense that can be best displayed by the great passing game between Sam Adlis, Justin Tepera, and Hunter Stolte.

The Silver Phoenix have had some fantastic moments this season namely at Collegiate Cup where they beat Kansas (80*- 60) and kept within snitch range for quite awhile in an intense bracket game against Baylor before the Bears ultimately pulled away and won. If the Phoenix can keep their composure, they should easily be able to qualify for the Cup.

 

SHSU

The winner of the Bottom of the Bracket Tournament struggled a few weeks ago at the Mardi Gras Cup where they failed to really get into a good rhythm. SHSU has a great leader and play maker in Adam Bell and a fantastic beater in Carlos Elarba, but as a team, they seem to struggle to really put together all aspects of the game when they play.

They have potential, and this year they have showcased a number of newer athletic players they previously did not have. SHSU also has a much higher commitment level among players to compete at tournaments than they did last year, so once they find their chemistry and develop better on field organization they won’t be struggling as much. However, they still have much more experience and strategy than a good number of teams competing at the tournament which is why the Eighth Man has rightly picked them as a qualifying team.

 

 

The Underdogs

UNC

Colorado seems to be the state no one wanted as they are too far to actively compete pretty much anywhere but their own state and Utah. Being isolated could ultimately work to Northern Colorado’s advantage as the Southwest teams know very little about their team and strategy. They feature an aggressive and scrappy beater game that should be very successful for them at this tournament. UNC’s key player is De’Vaughn Gamlin who is their offense in many cases by either scoring or drawing defenders to him where he then passes off to a teammate who can score. They lost to both Austin Quidditch (70-160*) and Texas in a close game (20-60*) at WXSW, which shows they have experience against some of the bigger Southwest teams, so we will see what they learned from those games and how they will fit into the mix of teams this weekend.

 

OSU

The lone team from Oklahoma will be making its debut appearance in a tournament with all the top tier Southwest teams. OSU has been successful so far this season topping all the other Oklahoma quidditch teams and making it to the finals of the Cowboy Cup where they faced off against Kansas and lost (180*-20). They also faced off against Arkansas earlier this semester with one win (50-40) and one loss (90-100).With not having faced too much difficult competition this season, the Cowboys are most likely going to struggle at this tournament. If they can adapt to the physicality of the other teams and make quick strategy adjustments they could come away with a World Cup bid, but their lack of experience in playing high level competition is going to present them with a difficult challenge to overcome in the matter of only a few games.

 

Arkansas

Luckily for the Razorbacks, they have played against A&M and LSU previously, so they will have a strong idea of what they are up against this weekend. They dominated at the Arkansas Scramble coming away as undefeated champions, and had success at the Kansas Cup where they only lost to Kansas. Therefore, OSU and Arkansas seem to be very similar teams as both have won one game and lost one game against each other by a margin of only 10 points, and Kansas has been their biggest competition this year. The Razorbacks advantage in getting a qualifying spot over OSU is the fact they have more experience playing against the top tier Southwest teams.

 

Loyola – New Orleans

After receiving some coaching and training tips from LSU, Loyola was another team that came out this season as a much better team than the previous year. However, they suffered some injuries at Bottom of the Bracket that halted their play significantly for the rest of that tournament and at the Mardi Gras Cup. They have some great chasers that know how to work around Southwest defenses with impressive speed, but they sometimes get frustrated and suffer a huge loss of momentum that has caused them to lose some games that they definitely should have won. If they can’t bring a full, healthy squad to this tournament they will be in trouble again.

 

Denver Dementor

The Dementors are a Colorado community team that is mostly known for their more whimsical nature, and they are another team that a majority of the Southwest has not seen play yet. They are mostly defense oriented and use counter attacks to score most their goals. They pulled off an upset win against Utah (100*-80) at the Quidpocalypse Tournament before they fell twice to UNC in close matches. While its not impossible that they pull off an upset, it is more likely that this tournament will be a learning experience for them as they get better adapted to the Southwest playing style.

 

University of North Texas

As another new team that began competing back in the Fall, UNT has not been able to contend as well as their new team counterpart at UTSA. North Texas lacks the physical mass that many of the other teams have, but they have found their strength as a speed team utilizing many quick and agile chasers. Unfortunately with only speed on their side, they are going to also struggle this weekend to compete with teams that will outmatch them physically and strategically. But with Bryan Perez as their captain, you can be sure they won’t give up on any game no matter the score, and they will be back next year ready to get into that next tier of teams.

 

 

Since it was nearly a unanimous prediction of the Eighth Man staff that we will see a championship match pitting A&M and UT against each other and since these teams have such a storied rivalry, I decided to do something a little different instead of selecting the Players to Watch at the tournament. Both teams have a lot of similarities in play style and among certain players on each team, so here are some key match ups of players that will make the difference in whether their team wins this match.

 

 

The Lone Star Showdown – Key Player Match Ups

“Texas A&M Three-Headed Monster” (A&M) vs. “The Chosen One” (Texas)

What I have now dubbed to be the “Texas A&M Three-Headed Monster,” is actually their seeking trio made up of Luke Wigley, Colin Tseng, and Andrew “Dirk” Hryekewicz. They are all three primarily seekers, and they all three have different strengths from Colin’s speed, to Luke’s quick hands, to Dirk’s strength and massive arms. Their different styles constantly overwhelm snitches that have to quickly adapt each time a different one of them steps on the field. “The Chosen One,” also know as Jake Alford, is the starting Texas seeker who recently rejoined the team at the semester. He uses a combination of speed and wrestling to be a successful seeker. Jake also has great stamina and is very capable of catching snitches off pitch, which can be very dangerous for opposing teams that prefer their seekers to linger near the pitch until the snitch gets back. In a game that will most likely come down to a snitch catch, it is very likely one of these guys will win the game for their respective team.

 

Kody Marshall (Texas) vs. Kifer Gregorie (A&M)

Aside from the nearly 10 year age gap, there are more similarities than differences between these two chasers. They are both the first line of defense consistently stopping offenses right as they pass half field. Their tackling styles are very different though, as Kody prefers wrapping up at the thigh and pushing players back; Kifer wraps at the waist and usually uses the opposing chasers momentum to pull them down. On offense they both are great at blocking bludgers and make drives straight at the goals usually going for dunks. Whichever one of these players gets on a hot streak first will greatly influence the momentum of the game and who ends up winning.

 

Drew Wasikowski (A&M) vs. Augustine Monroe (Texas)

Both of these guys are playmakers and incorporate multiple skills into their playing as they both use speed, agility, strength, and passing and shooting accuracy. They both move with an amazing fluidity and always keep their heads up looking for passing options or opportunities to drive at the goal. Drew’s specialty is definitely mid range shots which is going to actively test Augie’s side to side agility and blocking skills as a keeper. On the flip side, Augie is very difficult to tackle and with Drew at point on defense he is going to have to wrap up Augie to avoid another defensive chaser or beater having to step off their mark to help, but at the same time leave a Texas chaser open by the goals.

 

Sarah Holub & Audrey Wright (Texas) vs. Becca Dupont & Keri Callegari (A&M)

Here we have two veteran female chasers and two new female chasers on both teams that all have very integral roles to their teams’ success. First, we have a match up between Sarah and Becca who are both rewriting the book on female chasing. They are both aggressive on defense and fully capable of making tackles on players twice their size and on offense they are both not afraid to take the quaffle directly to the hoops themselves for a score. Recent additions for both teams are Audrey and Keri, and they have the power to be strong assets for their team. Both of these players are fast, physical, and know the best angles to get open for a pass by the goals. In a game that will be decided by only a few goals, these ladies have the power to be game-changers if they can capitalize on the opportunities where certain defenders may take them for granted and not mark up as tight on them.

 

Casey Faulhaber (A&M) vs. Evan Carr (Texas)

Bludger control is one of the most important factors to winning a game because most games are won by the team that has maintained bludger control for a majority of the match. Casey moved up to A&M from Silver Phoenix last spring and Evan just moved up from Austin Quidditch at the beginning of the semester. The ability of both these beaters to maintain bludger control and follow their team’s beater strategy will be pivotal. Evan is a more disruptive beater who runs around quickly on defense forcing passes and making quick beats, while Casey is more conservative preferring to force passes without throwing his bludger and then making beats that are more in the mid to long range category. Both these beaters exhibit great general beater strategy and positional awareness, but the one that can fully integrate into their team’s strategy will have the edge in this match up.

 

 

The Eighth Man Staff Picks

Pool Winners
Writer Pool 1 Pool 2 Pool 3 Pool 4
Alan Black Austin Quidditch A&M UT Baylor
Benny Nadeau Austin Quidditch A&M UT Baylor
Curtis Taylor Austin Quidditch A&M UT Baylor
Devin Sandon Austin Quidditch A&M UT Baylor
Ethan Sturm Austin Quidditch A&M UT Baylor
Kevin Oelze Austin Quidditch A&M UT Baylor
Luke Changet Texas State A&M UT Baylor
Sarah Woolsey Austin Quidditch A&M UT Baylor
Additional Qualifiers
Writer Additional Teams (in alphabetical order)
Alan Black LSU Road Runner Quidditch SHSU Silver Phoenix Texas State UNC
Benny Nadeau Arkansas Loyola LSU SHSU Silver Phoenix Texas State
Curtis Taylor LSU OSU Road Runner Quidditch SHSU Silver Phoenixes Texas State
Devin Sandon LSU OSU Road Runner Quidditch SHSU Silver Phoenixes Texas State
Ethan Sturm Arkansas LSU Road Runner Quidditch SHSU Silver Phoenix Texas State
Kevin Oelze Loyola LSU Road Runner Quidditch SHSU Silver Phoenix Texas State
Luke Changet Austin Quidditch LSU Oklahoma State Roadrunner Quidditch SHSU Silver Phoenix
Sarah Woolsey LSU OSU Road Runner Quidditch SHSU Silver Phoenixes Texas State
Finals
Writer Team 1 Team 2 Winner
Alan Black A&M UT A&M
Benny Nadeau A&M UT A&M
Curtis Taylor A&M UT UT
Devin Sandon A&M UT UT
Ethan Sturm A&M UT A&M
Kevin Oelze A&M UT UT
Luke Changet A&M Baylor A&M
Sarah Woolsey A&M UT A&M

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