The Eighth Man

Countdown to Kissimmee: Arizona State University

Credit: Placer Valley Tourism

Credit: Placer Valley Tourism

For the first couple years of western quidditch, Arizona State was an unstoppable juggernaut, taking the first and second Western Cups and remaining undefeated until losing to Northern Arizona University just before World Cup V.  Unfortunately, this seemed to send the ASU domination party into remission, as they never seemed to find their groove again.  Like most western teams, they took second in their pool at World Cup V, being dominated in their round of 32 game by Cal.  They followed this by going to Western Cup III and losing their pool to Utah before ultimately being dispatched by Cal again, eliminating them from the tournament.  They began this year by playing Arizona in the Lumberjack Invitational, which they lost in the finals to Northern Arizona, then were completely idle before exploding out of the gate at Western Cup IV.

 

Best Wins: vs Northern Arizona University 50*-10 (Oct. 13)

Worst Loss: vs. Northern Arizona University 70*-50 (Oct. 13), vs. Northern Arizona University 80*-50 (Oct. 13)

 

Key Players: The most notable and feared player on ASU is their keeper Willie Jackson.  For a long time, his reputation exceeded his actual play on the field, but his play this year has greatly closed in on his reputation.  Long a magnet for cards due to an inability to properly tackle, Willie has cleaned up his game, and in doing so, emerged as an absolute defensive game-changer.  He has stunning quickness for his size, making him extremely difficult to get around, and he’s tall enough with a strong enough jumping ability to make passing over him a difficult proposition, and those who try to physically move through him are faced with an insurmountable task.  He doesn’t contribute much offensively, but his defense anchors the strength of the team, and by not forcing himself into offense much, he stays fresh for the entirety of all matches.

Offensively, Alex Makk has emerged as the go-to player for this team, combining absolute blazing speed with a strong frame, making him a difficult defensive task for just about anybody.  Alex’s water polo background has given him an incredible arm which makes him a one-man offensive force and can provide ASU with enough offense to stay in almost any game.

 

Player to Watch: Because ASU tends to rely on defense more than their offense against stronger teams, many games end up in snitch range for them, which means that chaser/seeker Wesley Rose ends up being disproportionately important for the Sun Devils.  As a chaser, Wesley’s natural athleticism helps him shine in their offense, helping him blow past defenders and score goals.  However, his true strength is in his seeking, where his long arms and great quickness allows him to catch snitches very rapidly.  He starred for ASU in Western Cups II, III, and IV, and his absence was strongly felt in World Cup V.  He’ll be looking to play a big role in World Cup VI.

 

Strategy: ASU’s foundation is their strong defense: they compensate for the lack of an elite beater core by having entire lines of chasers extremely capable of defending even the best quaffle-handlers.  They attempt to use this to force turnovers, which they then turn into easy goals using their elite athleticism.  Even when forced into a half-court set, ASU will usually try to let their better players attempt to draw as much attention as they can, hoping this leads to uncovered players near the hoops who can finish for easy goals.

 

Strengths: As mentioned several times, ASU’s major strengths are defense and athleticism.  Their on-ball defense is strong enough to go against any team in the tournament, although they can occasionally be beaten by good passing games for easy goals. Their athleticism makes it very easy for their team to run other less-conditioned sides off of the field, and it forces opposing beaters to aim well or risk wasting beats on their collection of very quick players.

 

Weaknesses: ASU’s beaters aren’t bad; they play extremely competently, and they can fight for bludger control and hold it against very good beater teams and even hold it for small periods of times against elite beater squads. However, they seem to constantly be playing without bludger control, and they lack an arm or athletic presence in their beater core to effectively single-handedly control games.  Also, when the game slows up, their offense can break down, as it tends to be predicated on breaks caused by turnovers.  Teams that play strong defense and smart, turnover-free offense, will find that they can limit ASU’s offense to some degree.  Their tendency to play games inside of snitch range can lead to an over-reliance on Rose.  Rose is elite, but relying on your seeker to bail you out can be a risky strategy.

 

Prediction: ASU is a team that could see a lot of variability.  I think their sheer athleticism will carry them out of their pool, and short of getting a really bad draw, they could easily make a case for the final 16, though it’s likely to be a game played in snitch range, which will rely on Rose or co-captain Kyle Steeno to give them a win.

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