The Eighth Man

Gambits Pay Off as Los Angeles Side Takes West Title

When Edgar Pavlovsky pulled for the LA Gambits, beating the Lost Boys by a score of 160*-100 in the finals of Western Regionals, you could not have asked for a scenario that was a more perfect microcosm of the team’s title run.

Less than two weeks ago, Pavlovsky was the captain of Crimson Elite, a rival Utah-based community team the Gambits ended up defeating in the semifinals. Less than a week before the tournament, his transfer still had not been approved.

Pavlovsky is just the latest in a long-line of player moves from other community teams that have, in less than a year, built the infantile program into a champion. Steve DiCarlo and Tony Rodriguez left the Lost Boys to start the program, bringing Alyssa Burton with them and adding on Ren Bettendorf from the Santa Barbara Blacktips and much of the core of Long Beach Funky Quaffles to form a functioning roster. Ericka Phanthip, Tyler Bryce, Daniel Daniels and Rich Hatch came Quid Pro Quo in Las Vegas, which has since all but disbanded, and mid-season transfers netted them Kelby Brooks – who moved from Texas, where he played for Clone Stars – and Samanda Sweet, who previously played for Long Beach. But it was the final acquisition of Pavlovsky that, quite literally, pushed them across the finish line, with his snitch grab scoring the Gambits their first-ever win over their cross-city rivals. It couldn’t have come at a better time.

While the Gambits added to their roster all season, the Lost Boys were subtracting throughout the tournament. An injury to Madeleine Wodjak, who was having a breakout season at beater for the team, left her out of Sunday afternoon’s proceedings, forcing the team into a heavy reliance on their two-male beater sets as well as Missy Sponagle, who was still recovering from an injury herself. But it was a red card penalty on Jake Tieman for a hit on a defenseless receiver in the finals that left the Lost Boys without one of the bulls of their offense and reeling.

Even before Tieman’s sending off, the Gambits started out the match on the front foot, opening up a 30-10 lead with a series of passes behind the hoops – the type the team struggled to convert in earlier matchups – that put the pressure on the Lost Boys. While the reigning champions would eventually tie up the game at five, they never gained a lead in the match, and, without Tieman, allowed a 30-0 run that put the Gambits up, 120-90, with the snitch on the field.

At that point, the result felt inevitable. The Lost Boys were stuck between a rock and a hard place, needing either to dedicate their beaters to protecting the snitch or getting them back in the game. Eventually, their efforts did come up short, with Pavlovsky’s catch giving his team the win.

The Gambits became just the sixth program to ever play in a West Regional final, and the fifth to win one. They denied the Lost Boys from becoming just the second team to win two Western Cup titles, a feat managed only by Arizona State University all the way back at Western Cups I and II. The Gambits also improved to 1-2 on the year against their rivals, and ended the Lost Boy’s run of 55 wins in their past 56 games against West opposition.

While Pavlovsky’s new team came away with the title, it was his old team that turned heads all weekend, as the Crimson Elite started the tournament with a shocking 130*-90 victory over UCLA, and kept going strong all the way through the quarterfinals, where they scored a 70*-50 win over a short-handed Arizona Quidditch Club, who came with a small squad that got even smaller when Ethan Kapke was suspended for an incident during the team’s match against the Wizards of Westwood. Though the Crimson Elite came up short in the semifinals, losing 120*-40 to the Gambits, it was by far the best Western Cup run by a Utah team since the infamous Crimson Fliers mercenary team of Western Cup III.

UCLA ended up having to scrap and grind its way to a bid, in no small part due to former Team USA member Zach Luce remaining sidelined throughout the tournament with a foot injury. Though they followed the upset loss to Crimson Elite with a pair of strong victories to grab the sixth seed in bracket play, they fell to Arizona State in the Round of 16. This forced the Bruins to qualify the long way, but a pair of convincing wins over Arizona and the Wizards of Westwood got them the bid. As an added bonus for the school, the Wizards responded with a win over Riverside Quidditch to capture the region’s final spot at World Cup VIII.

Arizona State, which entered bracket play as the 11th seed, didn’t rest on its laurels after the shocking victory over UCLA, but instead proceeded to knock off the third-seeded Santa Barbara Blacktips as well, becoming the second team this season to make a regional semifinal as a double-digit seed, alongside the University of Missouri. Though they came up well short in the penultimate game, losing to the Lost Boys, 240*-70, it was an impressive run from an embattled side.

The full list of qualifiers for the tournament includes the LA Gambits, Lost Boys, Arizona State, Crimson Elite, Silicon Valley Skrewts, Long Beach Funky Quaffles, Santa Barbara Blacktips, Arizona Quidditch Club, UCLA, Northern Arizona University and the Wizards of Westwood. The University of Southern California, two time Western Cup finalists and winners of Western Cup III, were the most notable team to fail to qualify, being eliminated by Northern Arizona in the last-chance bracket, 140*-60, after a pool play round that included losses to Wizards of Westwood and Riverside Quidditch. Though they did show signs of life in a 120*-50 loss to the Gambits in bracket play, it was not quite enough.

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