The Eighth Man

Will They or Won’t They: University of Arkansas, #15

Credit: Ben Holland

Credit: Ben Holland

LET THE BANDWAGON ROLL ON BY
By Beto Natera

Hype surrounded University of Arkansas last year. Everyone, myself included, seemed to be squawking about their potential as a bracket buster at the Southwest Regional Championship or World Cup VII. My advice to everyone this year: don’t bet on the Razorbacks.

Benefitting from a relatively deep and experienced roster, Arkansas had a strong group of chasers and seekers that had a higher level of athleticism than most teams. Beating was not a strong suit for this team. Their fundamental flaw was an inability to maintain bludger control against strong teams. As we have seen countless times, strong beating is a necessity for any team hoping to contend for a national title.

Thanks to roster turnover, the script has been flipped for Arkansas this year. Losses include:

  • Peter Reynebeau – Chaser
  • Vincent Berrios – Chaser
  • Paul Shoemaker – Chaser
  • Ethan McCormick – Beater
  • Jim Curry – Keeper
  • Justin Peters – Chaser
  • Zane Adams – Utility

Do a few of those names look familiar? They should. Those players make up a good portion of the impact players from last year’s Razorback team.

The loss of offensive dynamos, Justin Peters and Peter Reynebeau, and the stout defense provided by Vincent Berrios are sure to hurt Arkansas. With a decimated chasing corps, Arkansas will need a big season out of returning beater, Jordan Key. Key had a decent fantasy season, expanding his game to include the chaser position at THE Southwest Fantasy. While Key is a much-improved player from last season, he cannot possibly fill the holes left by the departed contributors to his team.

Rumor has it that Arkansas had somewhere around 30 players show up to their tryouts at the start of the fall semester in Fayetteville. A rag tag group of players who are more than a little rough around the edges does not inspire me with confidence. Look at the list of teams who have won the World Cup in years past. University of Texas (UT) suffered through a year of defeat before their initial breakthrough. It served them well though, as they were able to get experience at the brightest stage in the sport. This past year, they were able to reload and gain experience in the gauntlet that is the Southwest region. They also had elite talent in the form of Augustine Monroe and his supporting cast.

Arkansas is a good distance away from UT and the cluster of Texas teams that are consistently atop media rankings, making Arkansas less likely to take away pointers and advice from this upper tier. This distance also limits them in their ability to gain experience against said top-tier opposition.

With a huge loss of talent and no real opportunity to gain experience, please excuse me if I am not sprinting onto the Razorback bandwagon.


SWEET 16, ROUND THREE
By Alex Wilson

The University of Arkansas quidditch team is coming off a three-loss season in arguably the most competitive region and two back-to-back Sweet 16 appearances at World VI and VII. The Razorbacks look to continue the trend of becoming more and more relevant this season. Letting the past speak for itself, it is hard to argue that the Razorbacks are anything less than a top 15 team.

Even with the losses of captains Peter Reynebeau and Ethan McCormick, the Razorbacks are turning over only five of their 21-member roster from WCVII. Though isolated and not well known, Arkansas has had a history of success and has not been out of snitch range in any game since their match against University of Maryland at World Cup VI. Historically being out of snitch range against University of Kansas, they defeated the Jayhawks at Kansas Cup last October on a snitch catch. Seeker Eric Dreggors has been an impact player from the time he joined the team and has continued to improve, becoming one of the most underrated seekers in the game. The team this year is co-captained by Joey Reynebeau and James Musick, who both turned in impressive performances all last season.

Half of the Arkansas team has been playing for two or more years, which helps them develop new players quickly–a feat that would normally be difficult due to their isolation. Due to their level of experience, the leaders on this team know exactly how to prepare the squad for tournaments, from gameplay strategy to player-specific scouting reports. Arkansas has also benefitted from their status as a university club sport. The team was looking to reload at keeper and will have no trouble doing so considering the potential players that turned out during club recruitment events.

Arkansas is known as a physical team with an excellent passing game, which is something they will continue to advance to an even higher level year. They may be losing their offensive play caller, Peter, to graduation, but they have several viable options to replace him as a passer and point defender. Their beating game ran a majority two-male set last year with one of the league’s only female keepers, Kelsey Menze, putting in a lion’s share of game time as an excellent shot blocker and recovery-style keeper. Having a talented female keeper opens up options to Arkansas that many other teams lack and allows them to run a very aggressive beater style when needed to regain control. This bodes well for them this year with the adaptation of strict snitch release time. They should be able to dictate bludger control around the 17-minute mark without losing a physical offensive chaser.

Arkansas has proven to be a versatile team, with many players playing multiple positions at will. Jordan Key played the majority of fantasy tournaments as a chaser, though he was a part of their three-male beater rotation last year, and longtime veteran Kat Stewart has been donning a black headband in practice.

Overall, this is a team that has come close without ever actually getting their spot in the limelight.  They were up 20 early in their WCVI game against the Lost Boys and racked up wins this past season against Kansas, Louisiana State University, Michigan State University, and University of California Los Angeles. Close games include a snitch-range game against last year’s favorites, Texas A&M University. Their analytical abilities should help them adapt any internal weaknesses that emerge, and their wealth of new player potential will undoubtedly develop throughout the season. This team is built on a solid foundation and the aforementioned recruits should set them up to make a deep run at the Southwest Regional Championship and World Cup VIII. Expect this Arkansas team to add to their Kansas Cup victory from last year and easily repeat their World Cup records, if not improve upon them.

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