The Eighth Man

A-Lone at the Top

Credit: Janelle Tardif, Dan Howland

Credit: Janelle Tardif, Dan Howland

Another dominant victory for Lone Star Quidditch Club. With a resounding 180*-50 win over Texas State University, Lone Star closed out the first half of the season with a tidy 20-0 record.

The scary thing is that all 20 of those wins came by at least 60 points.

Lone Star has proven to be most dominant when the snitch is on pitch. At Wolf Pack Classic, University of Texas led Lone Star 70-60 at 18:00 and Baylor University kept it tied 50-50 until 18:00 with the community team. However, Lone Star was able to creep away in both cases. The longer games tick on—and the better performance that snitches put on—the less likely it is that another team will be able to knock them off. Their seekers are unrelenting. With such depth in their male quaffle game, they can easily sub those players out and throw them in for quick intense bursts at snitches. Their three in-range catches this year belong to Kifer Gregoire (against Texas State), Josh Tates (against Texas) and Stephen Bell (against Baylor). While Tates fits the role of pure seeker more than any of the others, they have other point defenders and keepers that can keep piling up points while they put their optimal seeker on the field.

This dominance over what many deem the most difficult portion of a match could lead to a historic moment come World Cup. Lone Star could break the curse of the Southwest Regional Champion failing to win World Cup. Additionally, we haven’t seen a team win World Cup with an undefeated season since Middlebury College in World Cup IV—which was two years before there were actual seasons.

As for Lone Star Cup, Baylor showed major adjustments between a pool-play blowout by Lone Star and a much more evenly matched semifinal. Lone Star proved to be able to dominate the classic Baylor zone in their initial 180*-70 win, but Baylor adjusted by spreading out the zone in the semifinal. Their wing chasers picked up passing options more than we are accustomed to seeing from them, which prevented Lone Star’s effective dump-and-drive plays. Meanwhile, Trent Miller at point and Jacob Bruner at keeper had more responsibility. Unsurprisingly, they delivered, as did their capable substitutes.

“In our first game, we were able to pass around their one-bludger zone freely, which led to a lot of high-percentage scoring opportunities,” said Lone Star coach Mitch Cavender. “The second time around, they switched things up and amped up their off-ball pressure, which took us by surprise and forced turnovers that we weren’t making when we played them on Saturday.”

Despite having bludger control for only 11.7 percent of the semifinal, according to We Breathe Quidditch, Baylor’s defense held Lone Star to their worst offensive output of the season, with 90 quaffle points in 23:11. It would be shocking if that was not the worst mark Baylor has put up over the past two years.

The most troubling statistic this year for Baylor has to be their 0-3 mark in SWIM situations. It is going to be difficult for them to get out of range at any point this year against Texas State, Texas or Lone Star, and they have not shown that their seeking game will be able to get it done. Matt Blair is the primary seeker for the team, and he is far lankier than your standard Southwest seeker. He got it done last year, as Baylor put up an excellent 5-2 record in such situations, but they will have to figure out how to improve this year in the face of Lone Star’s ridiculous seeking committee and Texas State’s aggressive and consistently successful approach.

It is still hard to figure out on paper how Texas State is doing what they are doing, but they have been doing it consistently since day two of World Cup VII. They have some well-known names like Ryan Peavler and Eric Reyes, but their star power does not compare to their Southwest counterparts. Our rankings still have them at No. 4 in spite of a 1-0 record against both the No. 2 and No. 3 teams.

People just do not want to believe in this team, but they know exactly how to win with the personnel they have. They might not be able to pass circles around their opponents, and they do not have a deep shooting threat that keeps keepers honest, but they know it. They do not try to be more than they are. While they occasionally throw an overambitious pass across the keeper zone that gets gobbled up, they are improving and limiting offensive mistakes. Peavler has been stepping back his play time, and Jackson Johnson has been able to shine in Peavler’s absence. He is not as physically aggressive as Peavler, but he is a smart beater who gets the job done.

In addition to great chemistry, they also have great emotional drive. They never believe they are out. They have good reason not to, as they clawed their way back into a game against Lone Star at Diamond Cup when they were down 90-20. That lead seemed to be insurmountable, but Texas State managed to hit five straight goals.

The Texas and Texas State semifinal at Lone Star Cup might have been the best quidditch game of the season when it comes to both excitement and quality. Texas State scored the first three goals, but Texas answered to tie it 30-30. It was reminiscent of the World Cup final, when Texas State led 40-10 early, but then Texas took over and  their opponent was barely able to hang in snitch range.

This time, that was not the case. The teams went nearly goal-for-goal throughout the match, with both teams getting contributions from all over their rosters. Texas’s stud girls Audrey Wright and Kaci Erwin showed excellent scoring ability throughout the game, something that Erwin does not get enough credit for next to Wright. When the snitch took the field, things got crazy. Texas beater Kiki Crawford played as their starting seeker. His strategy? Block out Texas State seeker Steven Gralinski until he was beat, then take advantage of the 1-on-1 and attempt to catch snitch Gabe Garcez.

The quaffle game was even wilder with the snitch on the pitch. Texas State built a lead as high as 20 as Romie Lof scored to make it 130-110, but Texas was able to tie it again when Austin Springs LaFoy made the biggest statement of a snitch catch in Texas State’s history, winning them the game 160*-130 (22:47).

According to We Breathe Quidditch, Texas State held bludger control for 61.2 percent of the game and had the great majority of their success up against no bludgers, scoring nine of their goals in such situations on 11 drives. Texas only had one opportunity against no bludgers, which they converted. However, they were an impeccable 10-for-16 on scoring against one bludger. Texas State struggled to score if Texas held any bludgers, going 2-for-12 against one and 2-for-9 against two.

A strong finish at Lone Star caps an incredible 2014 for Texas State. They have been one of the most compelling storylines of the calendar year. This next year will be all about bringing home an actual title, with great opportunities to go down in history at the Southwest Regional Championship and World Cup 8.

The LA Gambits were one of the most anticipated stories coming into Lone Star Cup and boosted the hype around themselves with a strong start and a 40-10 lead against Texas in pool play. Texas had an undeniably slow start, but their lack of bludger control early can be explained by the balls being places on a line that was a couple feet closer to the Gambits hoops than the actual midfield line. Texas ate away at their lead though with a 70-20 run before pulling the snitch, but the Gambits looked solid throughout.

Tony Rodriguez, up against the best team he has played since the beginning of last season, had a disappointing game. He attempted several of his trademark long shots, but they all seemed to miss. Other than that, he played a solid game in terms of his passing and defense, and Andrew Murray and Ren Bettendorf picked up the scoring slack. University of Arkansas acquisition Peter Reynebeau also proved valuable to the Gambits quaffle game. If Rodriguez played like his usual self and hit 80 percent of those shots outside the keeper zone, the Gambits would have been up out of snitch range.

The Gambits biggest statement would have been a 180-100* dismantling of Texas A&M, but that only completed A&M’s freefall. It is hard to understand what happened to the team that went undefeated until the World Cup semifinals last year because they are still carrying a great deal of talent. They have not been able to keep top teams in snitch range—case in point a pool play game against Texas State they lost 140*-20 which they were unable to score a single goal before the snitch came on the pitch. Some analysts have said that A&M will still be right there when World Cup rolls around, but only time will tell. Other teams seem to be separating themselves even further, including Sam Houston State University—who has never won a Division I World Cup game. They overtook A&M with a 110*-60 win. The image of A&M is summed up perfectly by the jerseys of their legends being worn by strangers. While the DuPont #33 jersey still bears a great deal of pride, the team that wears it is unrecognizable.

In the quarterfinals, the Gambits found themselves, once again, matched up against Texas. Texas proved that they are still a level above the Gambits with a 200*-90 win. Rodriguez didn’t even have an opportunity to take those shots, as Texas’s aggressive beating let the Longhorns control the game. The Gambits will come away with invaluable experience that will give them a leg up at the Western Regional Championship in February and have an opportunity to adjust for another crack at the Southwest at World Cup.

Good competition by the Gambits and Baylor, as well as a huge win by Texas State made for a riveting Lone Star Cup, but, once again, it was Lone Star taking home the hardware.

Now, as 2014 comes to a close, we are left to wonder: Will Lone Star continue to dominate and carve out a tier of their own? Will Texas State make their biggest statement yet? Will Texas regroup for the championship? Did Baylor adjusting prove they could eventually knock off Lone Star? Unfortunately for us, we will be pondering these questions for the next two months before the more important half of the season gets underway.

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