The Eighth Man

Countdown to Kissimmee: Tufts University

Credit: Jehan Madhani

Credit: Jehan Madhani

After their sudden rise to quidditch prominence in the fall of 2010 at World Cup IV, Tufts fell off hard in 2011. Through a combination of injuries, players studying abroad, and an overall underwhelming performance at World Cup V, most of the nation wrote Tufts off as a one-hit wonder, a fluke. Perhaps, it seemed, that Tufts was the “Ice Ice Baby” of quidditch lore and they, like Vanilla Ice, would never quite reach their superstardom again.

Well, the 2012-2013 season is a whole new ballgame. Invigorated by a new class of freshmen, Tufts has jumpstarted their program once again, and now lives amongst the top tier class of teams as some sort of Zombie Reincarnate. As the old saying goes: You-can-never-count-a-zombie-out-because-they’re-always-hungry-for-more, better-shoot-them-in-the-head-or-they’ll-make-you-pay. Okay, maybe that’s just me, but make no mistake: Tufts is a team on rise that will definitely surprise some people at World Cup VI.

Tufts, playing regularly against two top ten opponents in Emerson and Boston University, quickly cemented themselves as a viable side in a top-heavy region. They defeated Emerson in both of their meetings this year, and surged to a 4th place finish at Northeast Regionals. Tufts is definitely a team to watch out for.

 

Best Wins: vs. Emerson x2 (Nov. 3, 80*-70, Oct. 13, 80*^-50), vs. NYU x2 (Feb. 23, 80*-30, Nov. 17, 100*-30)

Worst Losses: vs. Harvard (Oct. 13, 80*-50)

 

Key Players: As a new era of Tufts Quidditch is ushered in, it is the Swiss Army knifed skills of freshman Nick Ryder that impress the most. Ideally, they have Ryder helping hold down the fort as a beater, using his incredibly athletic skills to wreak havoc. This is, at least, until the snitch comes back, at which time he usually will sub in at seeker and, on many occasions, catch the snitch, helping Tufts to a 5-2 record this season in matches decided by snitch grab. The two pronged flexibility shown by Ryder is reminiscent of Harry Greenhouse of the University of Maryland, and the ability to play two positions at a near elite level is something that helps push a team from great to elite. Last year, Maryland was just decent at World Cup V, Greenhouse’s freshman year, and this season now appears unanimously in the top five across all polls. As he develops, Ryder to may push this team to new heights

Nora Mueller, a scrappy beater that anchors a pretty stout defense, is a perfect companion for Ryder in the beating game. Mueller seemingly does not feel pain, and loves to be in the game during the tensest moments, where she usually shines. Good luck getting her bludger away from her, because she hardly ever loses it. That’s not to say that Mueller doesn’t throw it, either, and it’s the combination of the two that truly makes her a special player.

 

Players to Watch: Keeper Steve Mullahoo is a strong, lanky addition to the Tufts offense. While he may not bring the house down with any spectacular moves, offensively or defensively, he does thrive on being a main ball handler. What Mullahoo, and Tufts in general, does best is possession. They don’t force all too often when the ball is in Mullahoo’s calculating hands, and he’s always ready to get back and use his height to make a key save on defense as well.

Nick Tobey, a Tufts graduate student and former SUNY Genesco captain, is quick, dangerous and lethal in the open field. Tobey is elusive enough that he’s a tough takedown, and his height makes him difficult to lay a hand on. He primarily scores at the hoops, but has shown a little bit of range before. As a former leader, his experience at World Cup will come in handy for the younger players on the team.

 

Strategy:

On Defense, their chasers play decent defense, but in the past heavily relied on Raj Reid, who is out for the season with a knee injury, as a physical point chaser. Still, they have other sizable players capable of taking on an opposing ball carrier. Their beaters aren’t that impressive, but that might be due to a lack of experience more than anything else. They don’t cover behind the hoops particularly well, but can pressure a team into making bad passes back there. Getting the opposing offense to force a pass or a shot seems to be their goal, but against a good passing team like Boston University, things can quickly fall apart. They use a two male beater strategy early in the game in an attempt to get bludger control, and while that often works, when they lose it, they usually have trouble getting it back.

Offensively, they’ll probably be a bit more cohesive without Raj, as he has had a tendency to force things himself if the going gets tough. They are prone to falling into bludger traps on passes, but still are a team with a number of player who can put a quaffle through the hoops. Tufts is good enough to score enough goals to give their seekers a chance to shine—which is definitely their greatest strength.  One of their biggest issues seem to be finishing shots. Tufts definitely is patient on offense, and capable of getting good movement, but sometimes struggles to finish off scores around the hoops. Of course, this isn’t a huge deal because of their staunch defense, but it is still a concern going into the Cup.

 

Strengths: Seeking. With a couple dynamic seekers, they’re always a threat to steal a game right out from under your nose if a team lets them hang around. If the game is close, Tufts seekers almost always have the edge.

 

Weaknesses: Beating. Their slow methodical offense isn’t always their trouble; it’s their inability to get bludgers back once they lose them. Big losses recently to Hofstra and Boston University have shown that while they’re capable of keeping up with most teams, things can very rapidly fall apart without bludger control.

 

Predictions:

Ben Nadeau: I have them out in the Round of 32. They’re too good to fall early in the tournament, but once they play an elite level team, they’ll have trouble with the bludgers.

Jackson Maher: Eliminated in the Round of 32. Their problems are sometimes glaring, but they’re a team that adjusts well on the fly, so I don’t see them losing before knockout stages.

Katrina Bossotti: Out in the Round of 32. Unless their pool is incredibly weak or their seekers get hot, which is certainly possible, they’ll get matched up with a top team out of pool play.

(Jackson Maher and Katrina Bossotti contributed reporting to this article.)

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