The Eighth Man

Countdown to Kissimmee: New York University

New York University had always been a middling Northeast squad. While they’ve long been Hofstra University’s best competition in the New York area, they never reached the Dutchmen’s level. But the tide has begun to shift thanks to a fortuitous turn of events. The dissolving of the Empire Heliopaths left NYU with a valuable pipeline through the Merchant Marine Academy, which produced the team’s starting keeper days before Northeast regionals and has continued to bear fruit since.

At regionals, the new look NYU impressed at regionals, finishing second in a pool that included two other World Cup sides before dominating Syracuse University to officially qualify. In the quarterfinals, they faced their longtime rivals from across the East River, and though they matched Hofstra quaffle point for quaffle point, they fell on a snitch grab, 60*-30.

Since November, NYU has continued to recruit, and have only become more coherent as a team. But will it be enough for them to take their next big step in Kissimmee?

Best Wins:  vs. University of Massachusetts-Amherst (Nov. 18, 120-70*), vs. Macaulay Honors College (Feb. 23, 70*-0)

Worst Losses: vs. Vassar College (Sept. 23, 90*-30), vs. Stony Brook University (Sept. 23, 50*-20)

Key Players: With Brendan Stack out of the picture for the semester at Boston University, John Gaffigan makes a strong case for being the best keeper in the region. The Merchant Marine Academy student who started his quidditch career with the Helopaths is an apt defensive keeper, talented at cutting off angles and making open field tackles, despite a lack of height. But he truly impressed on the offensive end of the field, where his cannon of an arm compares favorably to that of University of Maryland’s James Hicks. He will not only score from any place on the field if a hoop is left unattended, but never misses a pass either, making all of his teammates better.

Before Gaffigan, NYU often used Lucy Miller as a keeper. But she has recently transitioned more and more into the chaser roll, and to great effect. Her experience in keeping makes her a more physical defender than many of her counterparts, helping her contribute to the ever more impressive NYU chaser defense. She also has solid chemistry on the offensive end with Gaffigan, using her height and vertical to get to passes her defender can’t reach and quickly getting off shots from close range.

Players to Watch: Following Gaffigan from the Merchant Marine Academy is chaser Ben Moer. At well over six feet, he is a towering defender who is slowly beginning to figure out his way on the offensive side of the ball. With his size and athleticism, it seems like only a matter of time until her breaks out.

While Amanda Dallas is a capable beater, the beating lines struggles seem to come and go with the presence or lack thereof of Luke Bean. Taller than most beaters, Bean is a sizable presence without a bludger, apt at getting back control and keeping it. The team struggled after his injury at Northeast Regionals and with his absence at the Big Apple Quidditch Conference tournament, and will need a big weekend from him.

Strategy: NYU is a slow tempo team that likes to control the pace of the game and make the opponent play their game. On offense, Gaffigan will almost always take the ball down slowly, sometimes accompanied by a beater. If he’s allowed to get anywhere near an open hoop without enough opposition, he’ll fire off a shot. Otherwise, he’ll bide his time while his teammates constant movement frees up some space for him to rip off a pass to one of them. This will usually lead to a defensive scramble that can lead to easy points.

On defense, NYU utilizes its size by putting a physical point chaser on the ballcarrier high up the field. The team’s beaters are willing to be semi-aggressive, usually positioning themselves halfway between the ball and the hoops. If something happens to the point defender, they are willing to step up to cut off angles of attack. If the defense breaks down, the team will often resort to swarming in an attempt to create a poor pass with pressure that their keeper can make short work of.

Strengths: Defense. This is a solid defensive team, backing up a physical chaser line with a quick and strong keeper and solid beating.  They will engage you from the moment you enter their half, and scoring on them often requires a lucky bounce or two. Combine the defense with a slow tempo offense, and it can be tough to pull away from them.

Weaknesses: Seeking. Since seeker Dante Close went down with an injury during Northeast Regionals, NYU is 1-5 in games decided by snitch grabs, missing out on two chances to upset Hofstra and a chance to do the same to Tufts. Close continues to seek, but you have to look no further than the cane he uses off-pitch to realize he isn’t one hundred percent. If the team can’t figure out a solution, they could be in big trouble.

Prediction: NYU has had consistent success against teams worse than them, but hasn’t recorded many wins at all against those better. Currently a pot four team, they’d likely need to beat at least one team better than them to advance to day two. Expect them to come a snitch grab short of the elimination rounds.

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