The Eighth Man

Countdown to Kissimmee: Austin Quidditch

Credit: Lauren Carter

Credit: Lauren Carter

Austin Quidditch, known best as the University of Texas’ junior varsity team, plays at a level above any other schools second team, and has been steadily improving all year. The team debuted last year at the 1st Mardi Gras Cup under the name Texas Deluminators, where they first impressed, reminding people of the solid all-around talent in the Texas Quidditch family. This year, they came out with many new players and a new name, and had a bit of a rocky start namely at WXSW, uncharacteristically losing four out of six pool play games. But they have since had some impressive wins, and have shown a lot of improvement, despite the loss of their two best beaters to the varsity team.

 

Best Win: vs. LSU (90*-50)

Worst Loss: vs. Western Mercs at WXSW (40-110*)

 

Key Players: Co-captain Darian Fazeli is perhaps the team’s biggest asset. He is one of the older members, and does a fantastic job keeping the team focused and working together as a cohesive unit, which is only exemplified when he is on the field. His athletic skills add another dimension, as he is exceptionally smart and allusively strong. He tends to make wide runs on offense, giving his teammates time to get open for passes, and then on defense he is typically at point, slowing down offenses and making unexpected tackles on players much bigger than him.

Even though he may be one of the smallest players on the field during any given game, Daniel Rice always plays as if he has the heart of a lion. Typically, when Rice is on fire, the entire Austin Quidditch team is on fire as well, so he is an extremely integral part of their success. He uses speed and agility to overtake defenses as a chaser, and is a very difficult player to contain once he begins accelerating. On defense, he is like Fazeli, in that he can dish out many great unexpected tackles despite his size. He also plays seeker, where his quickness is put to even better use as he has made some great catches and helped AQ win some unexpected games.

 

Players to Watch: As one of the newer players on AQ, beater Freddy Salinas has quickly become an important resource to this team, replacing Evan Carr and doing a great job to fill the gap left by that loss.  Salinas is a tall and strong beater, who combines accurate sniping and aggressive pursuit to force passes. He is also extremely aggressive in terms of regaining bludger control, where he rarely fails to retrieve a ball within only a few possessions through impressive catching or tacking.

On the defensive side, you have Jonah Wagoner at keepe,r who has an impressive vertical to intercept passes and snag the quaffle out of the air. While those are obviously strong characteristics to have in a keeper, his most impressive attribute is his field vision, which he combines with deadly accurate passes and shots. He has scored a number of long shots, all very much intentional, and he has a very strong throwing arm that he will use to set up his teammates with passes for goals from behind the hoops when he is still at mid field. Wagoner also does a great job of not giving away what his plays are going to be, which is mainly attributed to the fact he plays in sunglasses that keep opposing teams from seeing where he is looking to go or pass.

 

Strategy: AQ is a very fast-paced and persistent team. Like the school’s A team, they like taking full advantage of counter attacks by catching unprepared teams back on their heels. They charge fast, and have chasers fan out their runs to assist in spreading out the opposing defense, which gives the ball carrier some space to drive and then make an accurate pass to a player behind the hoops. If an opposing chaser or keeper attempts to swat a ball down, AQ always stands ready to score a rebound goal, and the team is merciless at going after loose balls.

Their defense mimics that of their A team, with a point chaser rotation and relative man marking, but Austin Quidditch will typically involve their beaters much more often in key roles on defense. The beaters are definitely not afraid to make a throw, and they will always work to clear out the opposing offense quickly. As with their  offense, their defensive chasers are also very quick to make a play as they engage in a tackle as soon as possible to give opposing offenses nearly no time to set up an offensive drive.

 

Strength: Their tenacity is by far their biggest strength. They are an extremely scrappy team that never shuts down. At many tournaments, they are known for having at least one game go 40 minutes or longer because they refuse to give up when they are down. Due to this, they are great at harnessing the momentum they get and always use it to their advantage. This tactic also helps to give them a mental advantage over some teams that might be more experienced or more athletic than them.

 

Weakness: Their chaser defense is not the most organized, so they struggle against teams with very solid passing games. Their beaters and chasers will sometimes both get drawn to the quaffle carrier as that person enters the keeper zone, leaving other opponents wide open on the other side of the field, where they are likely to score unopposed. Also, while all of their chasers possess the capability to make a solid tackle, they don’t have consistent size on their roster, which presents trouble when facing a larger team with speed that can easily muscle their way through the AQ defense.

 

Prediction: I feel like they will likely pull off at least one big upset in pool play which will send them into bracket play, but at that point their journey will most likely end, as they will be outmatched by teams much more experienced than them, and with much better passing games.

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