The Eighth Man

Will They or Won’t They: Lost Boys QC, #12

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. 


FOREVER LOST
By Ethan Sturm

Every year, as we prepare to rank teams in a preseason poll, we are stuck making a large number of inferences to determine an initial ranking. We have to assume that this player is still going to play for this team, or that player is going to play for the community team in the area they moved to, or that other guy will not get a job at his alma mater and end up still playing for them (here’s looking at you, Andrew Axtell).

But this Lost Boys ranking really takes the cake.

I am not sure we have ever known less about a team ranked this highly. Sure, they entered World Cup VII as the world’s second-ranked team. Sure, they were dominant before a shocking loss to LSU in the Round of 32. But this is not last year’s Lost Boys. Tony Rodriguez, Steve Dicarlo and Alyssa Burton are off to take a chance with the LA Gambits. Amanda Nagy is commuting to an Arizona community team. Dan Hanson is in a state of quidditch purgatory in Utah. Mitch Cavender is done playing quidditch. Chris Seto is recovering from a broken leg and Vanessa Goh will probably miss the entire season with surgery for a torn ACL scheduled for December.

You know a team is in trouble when the news that Alex Browne and Missy Sponagle might continue to play for it is the best news it has had all summer. Because, beyond them, the Lost Boys can barely field a seven-player squad to play. Sure, the male beaters are still there—with Michael Mohlman leading the revival and Seto and Peter Lee all supposedly interested—but outside of them, Jeff Lin, Jake Tieman and Tiffany Chow are the only players still around that saw any kind of significant playtime in important games. And we actually do not have any confirmation that they will still be around; we just have not heard otherwise. That is where we are at this point: relying on double negatives to make even slight arguments that this team can still compete.

If everything from this point goes right for the team—Browne and Sponagle stay, Seto heals up quickly and they can recruit a few more contributors—it is still not certain this team is capable of competing. Without Goh, it will be difficult for the Lost Boys to go to two-male beater sets with any kind of regularity, which means filling in the hole in female beating left by Nagy and Burton becomes a necessity.

They would also need to figure out how to put points on the board, even though their two best male chasers are better known for their defense than their offense. This could lead to a heavy reliance on Browne, who is capable of driving and doing things himself but far prefers to look for passes. Hero balling is becoming a less and less effective strategy each season and when competing at an elite level, you need to have more of a plan than that.

All of these issues come before even discussing their seeking game. Last year’s squad avoided issues at seeker by never letting anyone stay within range, playing a grand total of four SWIM games all season. But this team is not last year’s team, and they are going to need to catch snitches to win matches. Dicarlo and Rodriguez were their best options last year, and even Hanson, who caught once at Diamond Cup, is no longer with the team. Without a single proven seeker left, it is hard to count on this team to pull out the close matches necessary to be such a highly-ranked team.

When it comes down to it, this preseason ranking was a ranking of respect for a team that no longer exists. When a community team, which does not even have to contend with graduation, is a top-five team all season, it is hard to just leave them completely out of the rankings the following year. But the inferences have simply gone too far. This is not just the tattered remains of a former juggernaut, it is its dead corpse. And a dead corpse is not capable of playing like a top-20 quidditch team.


STRENGTH IN BEATERS
By Kevin Oelze

Last year, Lost Boys QC looked like one of the best, if not the best, teams in the league for the whole season up until their shocking exit from the World Cup. The fallout from the World Cup loss has been seen the entire offseason, as it (and several other factors) led to the departures of several of the key players: keeper Tony Rodriguez, seeker Steve DiCarlo and beaters Amanda Nagy and Alyssa Burton. But this list serves as a reminder of how little the Lost Boys have confirmed to lose so far. While they have lost star chaser Vanessa Goh for at least part (likely all) of the season with an ACL tear, there have been no other public confirmations of players lost. So from what they still seem to have left, the Lost Boys have the makings of a Sweet 16 team.

The strengths of the Lost Boys start where they seemingly always have, which is the beater corps. With Chris Seto and Peter Lee, the Lost Boys boast the best male beaters in the country. They are joined by female beaters Maddy Wojdak and Misty Gray. Neither of the two will stun audiences with their arm strength or amazing plays, but both are extremely capable veteran beaters who will play smart and work well with Seto and Lee. But Seto and Lee are the stars here. Lee is arguably the best male beater in the game, currently. His specialty in creating insane amounts of pressure with his hyper-aggressive playstyle—he is so fundamentally sound in the pressure he generates that it rarely ever turns around into fast breaks for the opposing team due to him getting caught out of position. Seto does not apply the same degree of pressure that Lee does, but he uses his elite speed and agility to constantly put himself into position to make easy beats. Even with the losses of Burton and Nagy, these beaters should still allow the Lost Boys to have one of the best beating games in the West.

Meanwhile, the Lost Boys should still have a great set of quaffle players. Even without Rodriguez, Alex Browne has been one of the best keepers in the West for a while. Browne, while not a particularly solid hitter, does a great job of shutting down passing lanes and blocking distance shots, which is the most important function that keepers serve defensively. Browne cannot be mentioned without his longtime quaffle partner, Missy Sponagle, one of the best female chasers in the game. Sponagle is fearless when making hits, has phenomenal hands and is a strong driver. She also happens to be one of the best utility players in the game, being a great beater and the best female seeker in the sport. Add in two strong, hard-hitting chasers, Jeff Lin and Jeff Tieman, and you can start to understand why people look at this team as a legitimate threat. Both experienced UCLA veterans, Lin and Tieman are capable of guarding the point and capable of either running the point or playing alongside Browne. Lin is a chaser who relies on his extreme determination and drive to consistently finish plays. Tieman, on the other hand, uses his raw size to power through opposition. Both can make the top of this chaser line look very intimidating, as the Lost Boys starting line will not have a single weakness to exploit and should be one of the more intimidating lines in the West.

Two years ago, the Lost Boys took a team with less chaser depth, less beater depth and less experience all the way through to a near-semifinal run in World Cup VI. A favorable matchup could see them advancing to the quarterfinals, exceeding our expectations for this beater-heavy team. The game has improved, but there is no reason why this team would not be able to at least crack the Sweet 16.

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