The Eighth Man

Will They or Won’t They: Lone Star Quidditch Club, #2

Credit: Ben Holland

Credit: Ben Holland

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. 

By Dan Hanson

In case you missed the Tweet-heard-round-the-world, here are the players that made the Lone Star Quidditch Club’s roster:

Becca DuPont, Chris Scholz, Connor Drake, Craig Garrison, Drew Wasikowski,
Eric Willroth, Ethan Banner, Hank Dugie, Hope Machala, Jonathan Ruhland,
Jordon Parisher, Josh Tates, Kifer Gregoire, Kody Marshall, Mathieu Gregoire,
Mollie Lensing, Sarah Holub, Savannah Allison, Sean Fry, Simon Arends,
Stevie Bell, Tyler Sessions

People love to bring up “issues” about Lone Star: their inability to practice as a whole, their players who left their school teams, their inability to get over the hump of Texas A&M last year and anything they can to try to avoid the truth that is hard for some to accept. World Cup VIII is Lone Star’s to lose.

This is simply the most talented, regular-season quidditch team ever assembled. The more talented team has lost before in quidditch, more often than not. But Lone Star, much like the 2013 University of Texas team that makes up their foundation, will not.

Unlike many of those talented teams that failed, Lone Star is made up of men and women who have the mentality of champions. They are willing to put in the work that they need to, they know how to play as a team and there is nothing they love more than winning. When a team has to win as many bracket games in order to win a World Cup as they do, it takes that talent, it takes those intangibles and it takes luck. What Lone Star has is enough talent and intangibles to minimize the factor that luck will play. We have been crazy strokes of luck away from seeing different results in past World Cups, but there is a reason only two programs have becomes champions in our sport’s history. Lone Star is cut from that cloth, and I expect that they will outwill each and every team as World Cup Sunday wears on and puts every team’s endurance to the test.

Yes, they have a disadvantage when it comes to time they will be able to spend practicing together. But with absurd amount of combined experience that this team has, they know exactly how to get what they need out of the time they have. They know how to put the right players in the right roles, and their players are in it for the right reasons. They will get a lot of flack for “poaching” players who were eligible for their school teams. However, these “poached” stars fill crucial roles, making Lone Star that much more suited for a championship.

The only position at which teams may claim an advantage over Lone Star is male beater, but Lone Star is by no means weak at beater. Even against the best opposition, their beater corps will never be significantly overmatched. With their beaters either controlling the game or creating chaos, the pure talent of their quaffle lines will have other teams scrambling to stay in range, if they can even manage to do that. When games are close, they will throw athlete after athlete at snitches, highlighted by rookie Tates. Tates showed at THE Fantasy Tournament that he could use a combination of his freakishly long wingspan and his willingness to put his body on the line to come up with huge catches. And that was before he started training with a big chunk of the best players in the game.

Lone Star’s only other glaring disadvantage: female depth. Only five of their roster spots are taken up by the fairer sex, and while that means we will always see incredible talent on the field in those spots, there is little room for flexibility or injury, especially when it comes to chasers Holub and DuPont. However, Holub and DuPont have been extremely durable in their history, and they will play at a higher level than 99% of other teams’ females, even when they get banged up over the course of tournaments.

If you have not watched or rewatched the Lone Star v. Texas A&M quarterfinal from the World Cup, I recommend that you do so. It is the highest quality quidditch gameplay I have ever seen. Lone Star shows their ability to break through to produce goals in so many ways that even the best defenses cannot stop them. Driving, passing, shooting, positioning, discipline… they have everything you need to win on any line they will throw out there this season. While their greatest strengths lie on offense, they still boast one of the most physical defenses in the league, a defense backed up by smart strategy and adaptability. It took the best games of A&M’s life to beat Lone Star at World Cup and Diamond Cup, and Lone Star has only added talent down to the very bottom of their roster. Meanwhile, the other Southwest powers have to catch up with raw recruits. We are sure to see great matches between Lone Star and the other top teams, especially Texas, but the talent and experience will be too much for any team to match when it matters most.

They will miss the superb all-around play of Chris Morris and Keri Callegari, but they make up for it with such additions as Wasikowski and DuPont. They even have enough talent to play those two off the bench. Frankly, it is a little ridiculous.

It is going to be a pleasure to watch this team play all season. They are sure to sport a huge target on their backs, which is something almost all of their players have experienced and will relish. Come April, they should finally be able to enjoy a traditional post-tournament drink while in possession of the greatest prize of all: the World Cup.

By We Breathe Quidditch

One week ago, Lone Star Quidditch Club unveiled their roster with characteristic nonchalance. The roster was certainly impressive. In addition to veteran Lone Star players like Kody Marshall, Simon Arends, Mollie Lensing, Stephen Bell, Hope Machala and Mathieu Gregoire, Lone Star annexed the heart of the Texas A&M World Cup VII squad by taking in not only Drew Wasikowski and Becca DuPont, but also Kifer Gregoire, Sean Fry and Tyler Sessions. Add in Jordan Parisher and Hank Dugie, and this is arguably the most intimidating set of names to ever exist on one single roster.

Unfortunately, quidditch is not a game of simply intimidating the other team. Last season, Lone Star also boasted an impressive roster and still did not win World Cup VII. The lack of ability for Lone Star last season to bounce back even after four (yes, four!) losses to Texas A&M demonstrated a lack of coordination, teamwork and cohesion.

Proponents of Lone Star would argue that their cohesion and teamwork should improve a lot, since 13 people on the roster were with Lone Star last year as well. Indeed, many people eagerly waited for Lone Star’s first tournament to vindicate their rationale. And for everyone not at the Breakfast Taco tournament, it did. Lone Star won the tournament, beating Baylor University and University of Texas.

It would be a mistake to stop the story here. Lone Star played an impressive game against both teams and their seeking game has improved immensely since last season. However, any person watching the games will clearly tell you this much: Lone Star was not the best team on the pitch. Their mistakes hinted at their weaknesses.

Let us start with their semifinal game against Texas. Texas was clearly much better coordinated and impressive. Texas’ offensive chasers were always in the perfect location no matter the protection. Seamless execution resulted in perfect alley-oops by Aryan Ghoddossy behind the hoops and broken plays were eaten up by the driving of Augustine Monroe and Paden Pace.  This combined with the deadly 1.5 bludger offense by beater Kiki Crawford resulted in a 50-point lead for Texas at one point in the game. Lone Star looked lost and completely confused.

To give Lone Star credit, they fought back. Costly penalties committed by Texas’s new recruits gave bludger control to Lone Star minutes before seekers were released, and that was when the story completely changed. Lone Star ran perhaps the league’s most effective two-female beater set in Lensing and Savannah Allison, which allowed Lone Star to overload the quaffle game with experienced male chasers. Lone Star’s offense was completely different from Texas’ offense. The passes were not flawless; the execution was rough. Lone Star simply powered through, relying on the outstanding athleticism of players like Marshall, Dugie and Wasikowski to score goals.

And there’s the catch.

Lone Star did not dominate the bludger game–neither in this game nor in Baylor’s. Lone Star also did not dominate the quaffle game in either game. At one point, Baylor was up 20 points on Lone Star. The only thing they did dominate in against either of these teams was their flawless seeking.

Despite Mollie and Savannah’s excellent bludger control retention in the Texas game,  the fact remains that the only reason they had bludger control during the snitch game was due to two penalties on Texas’ part. Despite Lone Star’s much improved quaffle control in the Baylor game, the fact still remains that even that was not enough to pull Lone Star out of range.

Sure, a strong seeking game is essential. But A&M’s flawless seeking last season could not protect them against going up against 90 percent bludger control. Bowling Green State University’s Sam Roitblat could do nothing when his team was completely beaten out in the quaffle game against Baylor.

If Lone Star, a team full of veterans who have been playing the game for many years, cannot even pull ahead of, much less out of range of, Texas or Baylor at Breakfast Taco, what chance do they stand later on in the year? When Texas has trained their new players to perfection and when Baylor has initiated all their new players into the Baylor scheme, what chance will Lone Star have? Sure, Lone Star will improve, but a huge problem for Lone Star last season was their slow rate of improvement due to a lack of cohesion within the team. I see nothing about this year’s Lone Star team that suggests that problem will not be an issue. This is still a team spread out among multiple cities. 

Perhaps most importantly, Lone Star did not even face strong seeking corps at this tournament. Texas was seeking against bludger control and without Margo Aleman. Baylor’s seeking skill is above average at best. Lone Star was able to win the seeker battle with these two teams fairly easily. Could they repeat their success against the extremely skilled University of Maryland seekers?

Even this early into the season, I can already name three teams that can easily hold their own and win against Lone Star. College teams will improve throughout the year. Texas State University played with many returners on their second team instead of their first.  The 60-quaffle-point difference belies the actual lack of skill disparity between these two teams.

Lone Star did not show dominance in their first tournament. They showed weakness. The time might come when an elite community team forces the separation of college and community through sheer superiority. This is not that year. Lone Star will choke once more and fail to live up to their No. 2 ranking.

And if someone seriously takes winning an unofficial tournament at the beginning of year when many colleges are mainly trying to try out their new players as an indicator of dominance, I would like to give a gentle reminder of the results of the last Breakfast Taco Tournament, in the fall of the World Cup VII season:

Lone Star 120*-110 UTSA

Lone Star would not win a single tournament after that game during the entirety of that season.

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