The Eighth Man

Countdown to Kissimmee: University of Miami

The team celebrates a victory at the IQA South Regionals. Credit: Ali Fishman

The team celebrates a victory at the IQA South Regionals. Credit: Ali Fishman

University of Miami is one of the powerhouses of the IQA South. After exploding onto the scene at World Cup V, they have turned heads ever since. Since starting their season with a rough road trip to Los Angeles, Miami has remained undefeated since their loss to USC in the finals of the Hollywood Bowl, and has set their sights at nothing short of the finals of World Cup VI.

Best Wins: vs. UCLA (110*-90 Nov. 11)

Worst Losses: None

Key Players:  Miami is a deceptively deep team. They bring a relatively small roster to tournaments, only bringing sixteen active players to the Southern Regional Championship, but nearly all of these players are talented and deadly on the pitch. Spearheading the operation is Sean Beloff. With speed and a lethally accurate mid range shot and pass, Beloff immediately establishes his presence on the pitch against unprepared teams by quickly putting points on the board for Miami, but more deadly is Beloff’s strategic prowess. Miami’s precise and quick passing game is facilitated through him, and the rapid ball movement has a way of finding Miami’s chasers easy and open shots.

Next in Miami’s swiss army knife of a roster is
Sean Pagoada. The Team USA veteran chaser spends most of his minutes at beater, where he uses his blistering speed and agility to pounce on loose balls before they even hit the ground from their target. Combined with Jennifer Baumgartner’s toughness and technical skill, Miami’s beaters often times not only find themselves with bludger possession, but the opponents beaters without a bludger in hand.

In closer games, clutch seeker
David Moyer will often find a swift end as soon as he and the snitch are within arms reach. One of the best seekers in the league, Moyer combines nasty speed and quick hands with a killer instinct and technique, and more often than not will find himself with a yellow ball in hand when the whistle blows.

Players to watch: Keeper Stephen Ralph often goes under the radar, but acts as the anchor of Miami’s quaffle defense. An adept shot blocker, he plays within a scheme that is designed to feed him long shots and passes against an unsuspecting defense. Chasers Todd Grimm, Joseph Hurt, and Dennis Campbell act as a perfect foil for Beloff’s adept passing, and make up for the more physical part of Miami’s offense. All three bring speed and physicality, and are highly skilled at reeling in difficult catches and finishing near the hoops.

Strategy: UM’s strategy is on the surface very simple: on offense find the open receiver and take only easy shots, and on defense, cover your man hard and let the beaters go to work. What makes them hard to figure out and overcome is what lies beneath the obvious, and what really makes them tick.

Miami operates like a well oiled machine on offense: the ball moves fluidly and never sticks too long in one spot, which makes it very difficult for opposing defenses to get set and react to. They employ a multitude of different plays and formations in order to get their chasers open shots, in the right place at the right time.

On defense, pressure is focused on the ball carrier early and often, and they aim to kill drives early and prefer to force opposing chasers into longer passes and shots to give their keepers a chance to block and recover the ball easily and uncontested. Their chasers’ length and athleticism allows them to disrupt an opponent’s passing game, and stay in front of all but the quickest players.

The lynchpin to Miami’s strategy is that each of their players are versatile to a fault. Their players can all play multiple positions, and are comfortable taking multiple roles on the field depending on what that game requires, and can rapidly shift this not only from game to game, but from play to play.

Strengths: Miami’s passing game is easily one of the most polished in the IQA, and this allows them to score in droves before they even break a sweat. Their whole roster is athletic and dedicated, and the intense training they go through shows when they step on the pitch with an incredible chemistry and energy.
UM’s greatest strength is how their strategy is designed to compliment the strengths and mask the weaknesses of all the players they put on the pitch. This makes their game seem easy and natural, and can force an opposing team to adapt to how they like to play, rather than have to adapt themselves.

Weaknesses: Depth. Miami brought their largest roster so far this season to the South Regional, and they only numbered sixteen. Each of their rotation is incredibly athletic and talented, so they hardly seem as though they are a shallow team, but in a longer and more grueling tournament such as World Cup they may start to feel the wear and tear more so than teams that fill out their roster with twenty-one players.

Another weakness, exposed by USC earlier this year, is big and physical players who have incredibly accurate shots. Miami’s defense is designed to force bad shots and stop drives, but when a player is able to break a primary defender then get off a strong and accurate shot before the beaters can react, the defense shows some holes.

Prediction: With talented and athletic players, and a strategy designed to mold the game to what they do best, Miami has a great shot to make a deep run this year. I can easily see them making the Final Four, and I wouldn’t at all be surprised to see them holding the cup on April 14th.

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