The Eighth Man

Will They or Won’t They: Tufts University, #13

In addition to our preseason rankings, The Eighth Man staff will be releasing a series of articles focusing on the top 20 teams, counting down from 20 to one. Each article will be written by two members of the staff, one who believes the team will live up to or exceed expectations and one who thinks they will come up short. 


TEETERING ON THE EDGE
By Daniel Daugherty

Tufts University continues to succeed without being truly dominant. Each season, you can count on them to be in games, beat the teams you expect them to beat, and lose in a hard-fought battle to the teams you would expect them to lose to. But this year, things look like they could be taking a turn for the worse, with what seems at the surface to be a small number of personnel losses actually adding up to a potentially massive performance drop.

The issues can really be summed up by Ethan Sturm’s own points. He has made apparent many times over—in articles he has written, podcasts he has put together and fantasy teams that he has drafted—that he puts a high amount of stock in male beaters and seekers. But then you look at this Tufts roster and realize that is exactly where graduation has hit them the hardest.

Michael Sanders, who will likely be plying his trade for QC Boston: the Massacre this fall, was their go-to male beater, and, at times, could take over games. The immediate replacement for Sanders is Matt Cardarelli. And while Carderelli had a good showing at Northeast Fantasy, that is still a single fantasy tournament and does not prove he is ready for such a major role. Behind him, things only get worse: there are no other returning male beaters and a group of female beaters that has never stood out.

The seeking game will also have issues, which will be compounded by the loss of Sanders at beater. BJ Mestnik, an incredible, underrated seeker that proved reliable again and again for the Tufflepuffs, is gone. With Mestnik seeking last season, Tufts was 4-1 in SWIM situations, only falling to University of Kansas. Without him, they went 2-3-1 in such situations.

The most-likely replacement for Mestnik coming into the year is Greg Bento, who spent some time at seeker last year and came away with two of Tufts’ three catches at World Cup. But not all statistics are created equally. Bento was an off-pitch specialist, and one of the two World Cup grabs came by sneaking up on a snitch that had returned to the pitch. But with off-pitch seeking gone, Bento’s specialized skills will be gone with it.

Tufts has never been the most athletic or most physical team in the upper tiers of quidditch. They have gotten by on good, strategic play and relying heavily on a few star players. But two of their most valuable players are gone and athletic contributors like Max Leonhardt and Ben Pfander are gone for the year and the semester, respectively. As the sport moves more and more toward big-state schools, it is nearly impossible for small, liberal arts schools to keep refilling the coffers at a competitive pace, particularly if they do not have the type of system depth that Emerson College possesses. That all might catch up to Tufts this season.

Tufts has spent the last two years lingering just outside of the Northeast’s top tier. But every time they have looked prime to take the leap, they’ve tripped over their own two feet, whether it was a play-in game loss to Virginia Commonwealth University at World Cup VI, a quarterfinal upset at the hands of Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) at the Northeast Regional Championship this past season or a snitch grab heartbreak in the round of 32 at World Cup VII. And, this year, it looks like Tufts could fall even further into its region’s depths. You can make a case that Emerson, The Warriors, Massacre and RIT could all consistently beat Tufts. And, of course, nobody would be surprised if Boston University found a way back to the top of the pack again, even with the loss of so many players. No matter how deep you want to believe the Northeast is, its sixth-best team should not be anywhere near the top 20.


TIME TO SHINE
By Devin Sandon

Tufts University is a team that has quietly succeeded while never stepping too far into the limelight. Sharing a city with three teams that have been in the top ten of our rankings at some interval in the past two years (Boston University, Emerson College and QC Boston: the Massacre), Tufts has never won a tournament. What they have done though, is put together an impressive win-loss record against a slate of strong teams.

Entering the new season, it is impossible to miss the work of some of Tufts’ players in the offseason. Chaser Hannah Debaets was noted by at least one observer to have been the best player of her position at the Global Games, and a number of other Tufts players had standout performances at various fantasy tournaments. Most notable among these was the performance of beater Matt Carderelli at Northeast Fantasy, where he showed the clear ability to step forward and be a starter for Tufts in the absence of departing veteran Michael Sanders.

Tufts strengths are quite clear, excellent female chasers who can catch and finish plays off ball, as well as distributing and making secondary plays themselves; athletic male chasers who can keep up with virtually any chaser corps in the league; and a beating line which, when on its game, could keep up with virtually any line in the Northeast.

The biggest problems for Tufts in the past season were inconsistent play from its young but athletic chaser core and a reliance on the occasionally inconsistent play of Sanders.

With regards to the former, I fully expect Tufts’ chasers to continue to develop and improve their consistency with experience. With regards to the second, a deeper and more experienced beater line backing him should reduce pressure on Carderelli and hopefully prevent the inconsistencies which occasionally plagued the team’s beating last year.

The final concern any good analyst will bring up is the graduation of Tufts’ seeker, BJ Mestnik, and it is a valid concern. What many may not realize is that while Mestnik was an excellent seeker for Tufts, he was not making all of their pulls. Greg Bento pulled two snitches for Tufts at World Cup and had a strong summer season. Even if Bento is not a solo answer, the length and quickness of some of Tufts’ chasers suggests they could become incredibly dangerous converts if called upon.

At the end of the day, Tufts was a young team which had moments of brilliance and moments of instability in equal measures. With another year to mature, we should see much more of the former than of the latter. Add in the guidance of the quidditch IQ and experience possessed by this team, and I expect we will see a different Tufts this year.

This year, Tufts is going to make some noise.

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