The Eighth Man

Southwest Regionals Approach with Much to be Learned

Credit: Elizabeth Barbier

Credit: Elizabeth Barbier

This weekend, 20 teams are converging upon Tulsa, Okla. for the chance to qualify for World Cup VII. When the dust settles on Sunday, 11 will leave with an invitation to Myrtle Beach, and one will take home perhaps the most prized regional title in the sport.

While the Southwest Regional may not serve as the perfect predictor for the world championship in two months, with Baylor winning the regional in 2013 but Texas walking off with the World Cup, it does serve as the perfect measuring stick for the progression of some of the sport’s best teams. Last year, we saw the first chinks in then No. 1 Texas A&M’s armor, welcomed Baylor as a true contender, and saw the first glimpses of the inch-perfect Longhorn play that won them a title.

This year, Texas A&M once again sits on top, while questions remains about each of the other two. But the Aggies are more prepared this year, and look to end the weekend as the sport’s only undefeated team.

With so much to dissect, we are going to take things one team at a time, pool-by-pool, breaking down everyone from the title contenders to the bubble teams to the squads just happy to be there.

 

Pool One

 

University of Texas-Austin

The World Cup champions have stumbled their way through the major tournaments so far this season. The Longhorns have yet to progress past the semifinals of an official tournament, losing twice to Lone Star and once to Baylor. Their troubles are partly a chasing core that isn’t on the same page as they were last season, but also in part to their young beater rotation. Still, the fact that this Southwest Regionals 2013 runner-up went on to win World Cup VI looking little like their early season selves makes me think there is still hope for a Regional and World Championship. This team will easily top their pool and garner a solid seed in the bracket, where they’ll hope that Augustine Monroe, Kenny Chilton, Cody Tadlock and Aryan Ghoddossy can rally their team for bracket play.

 

Texas State University

Coming off an impressive performance in pool play at Diamond Cup, Texas State was blown out by Texas in the quarterfinals, proving they’re not quite ready for the big leagues. As one of the better Pot Two teams, Texas State should handle its pool easily, losing only to Texas. The duo of Ryan Peavler and Beth Clementi should dominate the bludger game against most of the teams in their pool, giving even Texas a run for their money. A chaser rotation led by Tyrell Williams, Eric Reyes and Rich Kemp will be responsible for getting the Bobcats a high point differential and thus an easy qualifying game on Sunday.

 

Wichita State University

A Midwest team that took advantage of a regional transfer, Wichita State is going to try to make a name for itself after beating Kansas in pool play at the Kansas Cup in October. But this is the same team that struggled against Southwest teams at Cowboy Cup III just a few weeks later. They’ve lost some size and skill since last semester, so the best matchup for Wichita State is going to be against a rebuilding Sam Houston team. Led by captains Kristian Jacobson and Keegan Burgardt, Wichita is going to try to prove that they are still the team that took out the Jayhawks.

Sam Houston State University

The World Cup Div. II champions and a staple in the Southwest, veteran side Sam Houston has had its fair share of struggles so far this season. Instead of progressing towards the upper tier of the Southwest, they found themselves in a rebuilding phase this past semester without key keeper Adam Bell. But, with Bell back, the Bearcats have a good a chance as any to take out the other lower-tier teams in this pool. With Chris Perrie and Carlos Elarba anchoring the beating core, bludger control will be a valuable asset, and a much needed one if they expect a third seed and to be the favorites in a first round bracket game.

 

University of Houston

The so-called “University of Hank” is bound to make a big splash in Tulsa, as they show up with a bevy of new recruits. Depth used to be a problem for the Cougars, but they will be showing up in Tulsa with a full 21-man roster. Expect Hank Dugie, Justin Dugie and Kleby Brooks to lead this young team to at least one win in pool play. Wichita State and Sam Houston should be good opponents for Houston, as they hope to prove that the many losses earlier this season are not representative of their current team.

 

Pool 2

 

Baylor University

The reigning Regional Champions have something to prove this year, as they have yet to win a tournament featuring any of the other top Southwestern teams. Injuries have kept numerous key cogs out this season, and it’ll be interesting to see how they will adapt for a two-day tournament. Players to watch include beaters Tim Brestowski and David Gilbert, Chaser Trent Miller and Keeper Jacob Bruner. Baylor has arguably the most dominant beaters in the Southwest, and when combined with their signature fast-break offense, Baylor has a chance to take home the trophy for a second straight year. However, with Lone Star QC as their second seed, if Baylor doesn’t play its game to perfection, it could be Bad News Bears.

 

Lone Star Quidditch Club

Lone Star’s hype train began before they even had a full roster. After disappointing losses to Texas A&M in their past three contests, the community side will be looking to finally come out on top. With a slightly different roster every tournament, look out for the latest addition, former A&M star Matheiu Gregoire, to make waves in Tulsa. Gregoire’s utility will be of much value, capable of adding depth to an already established chaser line, or adding a dominant presence at beater in clutch situations, especially with Mollie Lensing not in attendance this weekend. Expect Lone Star to continue on the track of constant improvement, perhaps enough to take not only a win away from Baylor, but the title as well.

 

Austin Quidditch

A great second-tier team in the region cursed with a killer pool, Austin Quidditch won’t be able to showcase their talent much on Saturday. Their beating core has been revamped, with former Texas beater, Evan Carr, joining the ranks, and he will be a much needed asset against Lone Star and Baylor, who both boast impressive bludger games. Keeper Jonah Wagner will be making some big plays on defense as a shot-blocker, but also on offense as a great shooter and ball distributer. Though given a tought pool, Austin should easily come away with a third place finish and a fairly comfortable qualification.

 

Texas Tech University

The Raiders are finally back from a difficult year of minimal player interest. While they have the depth to be a decent team, they lack a cohesive strategy. They do have a few veteran players – like Beater Josh Carroll and Keeper/Seeker Tyler Jewell – that know how to play the game, it’ll be interesting to see how they’ve incorporated their new players into the team dynamic. Tech drew a difficult pool, but they should give a good game to the San Marcos Sharknados, and can possibly even pull out a win there.

 

San Marcos Sharknados

The B-team of Texas State, the San Marcos Sharknados have a lot of raw talent that, if focused, could sneak them a world cup bid. Seeker Steven Gralinski is a powerhouse at seeker and undoubtedly one of the better seekers in the lower-tier of Southwest teams. They also have Luis Gonzales, a freshman chaser who is brilliant on the field with his pace. If the Sharknados have improved since Diamond Cup, it’s very possible for them to upset a Texas Tech program that’s been around much longer.

 

Pool 3

 

University of Arkansas

A relative unknown to most of the rest of the Southwest, at the 2013 Regional Championship the Razorbacks unexpectedly blew out Loyola- New Orleans and UTSA in pool play. They turned even more heads with a Sweet Sixteen run at World Cup later last year, something that the Razorbacks, one of only two undefeated teams left in the IQA, hopes to improve upon this year. The rest of the reason is left doing little more than guessing when it comes to this team. Many think their game with LSU will be one to watch, though Arkansas’ depth is going to have a huge factor in how the game plays out. With players like Peter and Joey Reynebeau, Kat Stewart and Justin Peters, this team is going to be physical and aggressive and has a very good chance to earn one of the top seeds for Sunday.

 

Oklahoma State University

Arguably the weakest of the Pot Two teams, Oklahoma State has proven itself to be a good mid-tier team, falling to Austin Quidditch in the finals of the Bottom of the Bracket invitational whilst taking out various other southwest teams at Cowboy Cup III. Last year, the Cowboys earned a World Cup bid in a controversial fashion, but this season they are hoping to qualify and leave no doubts in people’s minds that they belong there. Led by Hayden Applebee, Connor McEwan and Ryan Grammer, Oklahoma State has just enough strength to be a threat to LSU and Arkansas, while they should be able to somewhat take out the Silver Phoenixes and Tulane.

 

Louisiana State University

With a roster that has changed every tournament, LSU has been looking inconsistent from game to game. Most of that stems from their beaters, who have played at a world-class level at times, including their near upset of the Lost Boys, but have been underwhelming in other games, including blowout losses to Texas and Lone Star. If beaters Daniel Depaula and Jason Winn can play the game they’re capable of and clear lanes for Brad Armentor, Cole Travis and Jake Smith, LSU could very well walk away with what might be the tournament’s weakest pool. However, if the Tigers play the way they played against Texas at Diamond Cup, don’t be surprised if they end up in second or even third place in the pool.

 

Silver Phoenixes

Another team with raw talent but little success, Justin Tepara and Hunter Stolte have been carrying the Silver Phoenix offense this season. With beaters like Nick Askam and Aaron Deering, Silver could potentially maintain bludger control in a more conservative setting, but will be overwhelmed by the Arkansas, LSU and maybe even Oklahoma State beaters. A good match for the Silver Phoenixes is going to be a new Tulane team, as both have athletic players but a lack of top-tier strategy and execution.

 

Tulane University

A team with only two tournaments under its belt, the Green Wave will be attempting to make a big splash at the Regional Championship. Led by utility players Josh Mansfield and Kevin Hayes – Formerly of the Long Beach Funky Quaffles – Tulane has been steadily improving throughout the course of the year. Their greatest assets are point defender Todd Mathieu and beater Sam Weisser, who combine their talents for a significant amount of breakaway goals against lower-tier teams. Their best chance at a first regionals win is going to be against Silver Phoenixes, but with a lack of depth from travelling so far from home, Tulane will need a special performance to get it.

 

Pool 4

 

Texas A&M University

The Aggies are coming off a snitch-catch Diamond Cup victory, showing that they are still clearly the best, but that the like of Lone Star are getting closer and closer. While this experienced team will easily take their pool, they will have to play near perfectly on Sunday to get to the title. Last year, A&M won Diamond Cup and lost to Baylor in the regional semi-finals, and they’ll do all they can to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself. Almost every player on the roster is worth talking about, but their beating core and seeker Andrew “Dirk” Andrew Dirk Hryekewicz will take the Aggies to a Regional Championship on Sunday. Their most difficult game in pool play with most likely be UTSA, but with a depleted roster, the Roadrunners won’t be able to stay in the game for very long.

 

UTSA

UTSA went from a borderline top-tier team in the fall back to the mid-tier team during the 2012-2013 season. But, even with a depleted roster, they should be able to hold their own and not only survive in pool play but earn a World Cup bid. With players like Cullen Carter, Luke Langlinais and Jacob Wilson, the Roadrunner offense will still be potent if they can maintain bludger control throughout some games. Depending on how big a roster they bring, I won’t be surprised if they have close games with Loyola-New Orleans, Oklahoma Baptist, or both. UTSA will have a long day and anything could happen. But if they can scrap, UTSA could end up finishing second in their pool

 

Loyola University-New Orleans

Another New Orleans team, and another team with only two tournaments under its belt, Loyola-New Orleans hasn’t had much of a chance to play Southwest teams, having failed to leave their home state so far this season. Their results from tournaments in October and November show them as a lower-tier team, but they’ve also been playing for four months without competition. Captain Eric Jurgeson will be a clutch seeker for the Wolf Pack if they can manage to stay in snitch range, while Jake Gomrick and Steven Gergen will be combining for most of their points. Loyola’s placement is very much a mystery, since we haven’t seen very many games from them, so they could go anywhere from topping UTSA, Oklahoma Baptist and Colorado State, to losing to all three.

 

Oklahoma Baptist University

A team who measured itself against much of their Southwest competition for a bid at Cowboy Cup III and the Bottom of the Bracket Invitational, Oklahoma Baptist proved itself as a team that could potentially snag one of the last few spots. Led by beater Chandler Smith and Chaser/Keeper Tylor Mclaren, Oklahoma Baptist has a slow offense and a solid beater set, which will help them tremendously against teams like Loyola and UTSA. This pool is very much a toss-up, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see OBU get anywhere from the second to fourth seed from this pool.

 

Colorado State University

Arguably the biggest mystery of the entire tournament, Colorado State has had more experience playing West teams than Southwest teams. But hey have some pretty devastating losses, dropping games to the likes of the Utah Crimson Fliers and the University of Northern Colorado. It’ll be interesting to see them play Loyola in the first set of games, which should give us a good idea of which of those teams can stack up for a chance at a World Cup bid.

 

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