The Eighth Man

Miami, Florida’s Finest Remain on Top in Florida

Credit: Deanna Yates

Credit: Deanna Yates

The Second Annual Canes Classic was very telling of what the quidditch community can expect from the isolated state of Florida this year. Most of the teams were carrying much larger rosters than last season, but with a lot less experience. Due to a combination of factors affecting the tournament schedule, organizers eschewed the bracket-play portion of the day, leaving only pool-play games to showcase these southern teams’ talent.

The South Regional Championship in February will host a handful of teams—nine as of press time—with four bids to USQ Cup 9 to win. Judging from their performance at the tournament, it looks like Canes Classic 2015 champions Florida’s Finest and runner-up University of Miami will be the only teams out of Florida that will earn those qualifying bids.

Miami took great advantage of its first tournament, mixing new players with veterans on its official and mercenary teams. The new players received more or less play time depending on the opposition. For instance, in the two-hour long game against Florida’s Finest, players such as Sean Beloff could be seen at all four positions throughout the game, but did not step on the field at all against Florida State University until about 18 minutes into the match.
Another bright spot for the Hurricanes came in seeker Daniel Cantrelle. This will be Cantrelle’s third season, but only his second one as an active Miami player, as he was out the majority of last season with an injury. Cantrelle came in clutch for the Hurricanes, with great defensive seeking against Florida’s Finest, pulling the snitch in regulation and overtime to send the game into double overtime. He also made a spectacular SWIM catch against Florida State to win the game.

Some areas of improvement necessary for Miami lie with its male beating game, its half-court offense and its physicality without drawing fouls. Keepers Tony Zhu and Stephen Ralph can do a great job of dishing the ball of in half court, but with Zhu injured mid-tournament and Ralph absent, the high-flying Hurricane offense was simply not there. Newcomer Marcos Perez showed a great natural understanding of the beating game, and if developed correctly, could fill the big hole at the position to complement the likes of Shannon Moorhead and Elen Edelson.

Although Florida’s Finest took first at the tournament, its greatest weakness is reminiscent of the Lost Boys last season, closing out games sooner than later. In the one snitch-range game played, the Flamingoes were up 40 to 50 points for a good while, but could not close out. The Hurricanes ended up climbing back in range to fall just short of finishing the comeback.

The Flamingoes’ ball movement has improved from last year, as well as their beating—two of their biggest holes last season. Beaters Mary Cueva and Sarah Simko led the pack, working most of their minutes with beater Sean Pagoada. Similar to Florida State’s woes, Florida’s Finest will need to have its beaters move to the modern era if it’s to move on from its regionals disaster last season.

Teams such as University of South Florida and Florida International University came with some of the most talented individuals in the state in Austin Webster of South Florida and Steven Paisley of Florida International; however, neither team seem up to the task of grabbing of one of those four regionals bids come February.

Florida Gulf Coast University came in with quite a few second-year players, but was missing its top scorer, Ebli De la Rosa. The FGCU offense consisted solely of fast breaks and showed no offensive identity in the half court.
Pablo Jaramillo was the standout player for the Eagles, replacing their top chaser of last year and using great speed and quickness to get around defenders as well as evading incoming bludgers. Out of all the lower-tier teams, Florida State University had the best passing game as well as providing great physicality. The team showed good off-ball movement, catching teams off-guard with sharp passes. However, its beating game was lackluster, and will need to improve if the Seminoles wish to move up above the other bottom-tier teams.

Rollins College Quidditch Club took the unofficial pool, going 3-0 against South Florida, University of Central Florida and the Friendly Rainstorms (mercenary team).

Every team seems to be preparing itself for the end-of-season tournaments—a very positive takeaway. The rivalry between Florida’s Finest and University of Miami should be an interesting one looking forward. The middle and lower tiers of the Florida Quidditch Conference are in flux right now, and it will be up to the fresh faces of Florida to push their respective teams out in front of the others and earn those bids.

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