The Eighth Man

Will They or Won’t They: Florida’s Finest, #11

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. 


FAR CRY FROM ELITE
By We Breathe Quidditch

Unlike many other teams, Florida’s Finest is a community team and thus will not be hit hard by departing players. However, unless the University of Miami decides to abandon quidditch and all join Florida’s Finest, their lack of departures will not help them much.

The Flamingos have never shown any domination, ever. They traded blows with the University of Miami throughout the year, lost in overtime to the University of South Florida (USF) and managed to survive pool play at World Cup.

Florida’s Finest’s record at World Cup, although praised by many as a comeback, was mediocre at best and definitely not worthy of a top-12 ranking. In fact, against teams that made it to day two at World Cup VII, their record throughout the season was downright abysmal: one loss out of snitch range, two losses in snitch range, six wins in snitch range and, more importantly, a grand total of zero wins out of snitch range.

Zero wins out of snitch range… even against teams like the UNC Chapel Hill, RIT and the University of Florida. This was not even close to an upper-level performance last year, and unless things change completely for this team, a repeat performance is sure to follow.

It is true that a lot can change in one year, especially for a team with so few people leaving. But it is also true that even with the addition of UCLA’s chasers and a revamp of the beating corps, it was not enough to seriously boost the Lost Boys in ranking. So what possibly could change so much to justify such an increase in the ranking?

Just like last year, Florida’s Finest will cruise throughout the season without knowing the meaning of true competition or what a truly elite team looks like. Perhaps their seeker will be skilled enough to win them close games in the South. But the idea that a team that has never played a top-ten opponent all season could somehow make it past the Sweet 16 at World Cup is a ludicrous one. Unlike their rivals, the University of Miami, Florida’s Finest will not be making the trip to the third Wolfpack Classic. There, Miami will face the likes of the University of Texas, Texas A&M, Lone Star QC and the whole armada of the Southwestern elite. The Flamingos will not have this opportunity and will suffer greatly for it.

Unlike Lone Star QC, another community team predicted to make significant improvements between the years, Florida’s Finest is not adding many truly elite players to their roster. Elite-level players are rarer in the South simply due to the lack of elite programs, and Florida’s Finest missed a huge opportunity when Sean Beloff did not stay in Florida after graduating but instead moved back home to the northeast.

As it stands, this Florida’s Finest team is the exact same team that underperformed in the World Cup VII season. They will have no new elite talent and no tough competition. Unless they win every game out of snitch range in the Fall, do not be surprised if Florida’s Finest disappoints for yet another year.


FLAMINGOS TO FLY HIGH
By Sean Pagoada

Florida’s Finest capped off last season with a Sweet 16 finish, bowing out to Final Four finisher Emerson College. A second-year community team, Florida’s Finest is based out of its namesake, with the majority of players hailing from Miami and Tampa. When carrying a full roster, they can keep up with just about any team, having only one loss all season that was out of snitch range. This season we will witness a more dominant Flamingo squad, rather than a team scrapping for victories through their excellent SWIM record.

The Flamingos have had minimal losses to their roster, as well as opportunities to “trim the fat” and add some more muscle. Dominic Mack suffered an ACL injury last January and is back, rejoining captain Sean Pagoada in one of the fastest chaser lines in the league. The Flamingos utilize every player on the roster and have managed to round out the third line of quaffle players with strong additions from around the country. First off, former Virginia Tech player Jack “Bane” Harver will take on the role of point defender, providing the first line of defense for the Flamingos. Off-ball chasing alongside him will be Tyrell Byrd, former starting keeper for University of South Florida (USF). Rounding out the line at keeper is Devon McCoy, former chaser from Ball State University and a terror in the Midwest. These three additions add some needed physicality as well as athleticism from top to bottom, making every quaffle line a deadly threat.

At World Cup VII, Florida’s Finest had two beaters—Race McKnight and Curtis Taylor—playing the majority of minutes, occasionally subbing out for Pagoada once the snitch was on the pitch. This season, the beating depth has been doubled, with returning Flamingo Bobby Padan and the addition of Ryan Haggard (formerly USF). Padan, who made a mid-season leave in order to fulfill rescue swimmer school, will be returning after some amazing conditioning and should barely miss a step when rejoining the line. With Padan and Haggard, the Flamingos will be able to maintain their high level of beater physicality, a previous concern with Pagoada strictly chasing this season.

With the new additions and stable continuity for this team, I do not see them losing any games in the 2014 – 15 season. If University of Miami and/or University of Florida can provide quality competition to test Florida’s Finest during the season—allowing them to build their experience and cohesiveness even more—I can see the Flamingos taking at least one step above their performance from last season with an Elite Eight finish or higher in Rock Hill. The sky is the limit for this team!

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