The Eighth Man

Countdown to Kissimmee: Baylor University

Credit: Baylor Quidditch

Credit: Baylor Quidditch

Baylor University has been quickly rising in the rankings this season as they have proved to be a very dominating force in the Southwest. The current Baylor team is an example of what can happen to a new quidditch team with sound athleticism and leadership that immediately gets thrown in the ring with elite teams such as LSU, Texas, and Texas A&M.

The Bears competed in their first tournament last season, showing a lot of promise at the Breakfast Taco tournament in the fall of 2011. This promise carried over into the spring where they had little trouble defeating many middle tier Southwest teams and held Texas A&M to some close losses at the Lone Star Cup and A&M Classic, despite also suffering some heavy-handed losses to LSU and Texas.

This season they came out refreshed and ready to take no prisoners as they made an impressive showing at Diamond Cup by defeating Texas and only losing to A&M in the finals, by a very close margin. At Collegiate Cup, they excelled again by coming out of pool play undefeated before losing to Marquette in the semifinals during an overtime game. Then at the Southwest Regionals, Baylor truly shocked the world by defeating Texas A&M and Texas back-to-back in the semi finals and finals respectively to take home the championship trophy.

Best Wins: vs. Texas A&M (140*^-110 Feb. 23) vs. Texas x2 (90*-80 Oct. 27, 100*-80 Feb. 23)

Worst Losses: None

 

Key Players: Baylor’s captain, Paul Williard, is by far one of the best leaders I have seen in the game. He maintains full composure no matter the situation in the game and keeps the team focused on their strategy. Williard is a true playmaker as a chaser where he can complete accurate passes and make some amazing catches.

Bringing some size to the relatively lanky Baylor squad, Reed Marchman is a keeper who is strong and typically one of the most energetic players on the field. Marchman is everything you could want in a keeper being agile, powerful, and very smart. On defense he regularly blocks or intercepts shots with a great reaction time and on offense he muscles his way to the hoops.

 

Players to watch: Mark Williard, Paul’s brother, is definitely an up and coming star following in his brother’s footsteps. Mark’s vertical is very impressive as it is nearly impossible for any opposing chaser to lob a pass over him. He also finds himself as a common receiver behind the hoops where he rarely misses a two handed catch and score.

On the beater side of the game, Chris Rhodes and Brittany Ripperger stand out as an essential part of Baylor’s defense. They are both tactically sound beaters who truly value the partnership of beating. They never stray too far from one another which makes it difficult for opposing chasers to break them down, and it is very difficult for opposing beaters to retrieve bludger control for the same reason.

 

Strategy: On offense Baylor is your quintessential passing team, as a majority of their scores are off multiple passes around the goals until a player finally has the clear shot. Their chasers and keepers all move up the field as a unit and each attack produces different offensive runs and passing options that make it difficult to establish any specific routine to defend. They are exceedingly patient on offense as well where the ball carrier won’t typically force a drive and will wait until their passing options are available.

The Bears also defend as a unit which maintains close proximity to the hoops. Baylor doesn’t usually pressure offenses until they are near the Baylor keeper zone, which forces many offenses to remain very compact. They have very tall keepers and chasers that intercept offensive passes or shots as their primary form of defense. Their beaters are a great balance of being both aggressive and conservative. They stay back with bludger control usually near their goal line to reduce the risk of turn overs from opposing beaters, but they will step up when necessary to maintain their perimeter and force bad passes after which they will then beat any opposing players in their area to facilitate an easier counter attack.

 

Strengths: Their passing game and offensive adaptability are by far their biggest strengths. As I stated above, Baylor features pristine passing that rivals that of many teams that are much more experienced. All their runs are very strategic, from getting open to drawing defenders away from another player. They vary their runs and passing depending on each situation they face which frustrates defenses and keeps the momentum on Baylor’s side.

 

Weaknesses: Baylor’s biggest weakness is the fact that they have minimal experience outside the Southwest region. Aside from Collegiate Cup, they have not experienced any teams from other regions, so their ability to adapt to the variety of play styles outside the Southwest is in question.

 

Prediction: Even though the Bears have never been to a World Cup before, they have been well-prepared playing against top opponents all year, so seeing them fall out of bracket play before the Sweet 16 is very unlikely. However, reaching the Final Four will be quite a challenge for them, depending on how well they can adapt to the top teams outside the Southwest, but it is definitely not out of the question.

 

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