Quick Takes: MWRC
- Updated: November 3, 2017
By Austin Pitts, Correspondent
Tad Walters, Correspondent
The Border War
After a Final Four and Sweet Sixteen finish last season, respectively University of Missouri and University of Kansas are poised to meet again in the collegiate finals of the Midwest Regional Championship and put forth one of the best matches of the year.
Mizzou enters the tournament ranked as the No. 1 collegiate team in the latest Eighth Man Top 10. At Ball Brothers Brawl last month, the squad beat two of the top community teams in the country as well as Great Lakes Regional Champion Ball State University out of range. Kansas, however, is not far behind at No. 3. While Mizzou looks to repeat as regional champions, Kansas hopes to avenge their second place finish in 2016 and grab their first regional title since the 2011-12 season.
The teams have already squared off three times this season, albeit it in unofficial matches. Mizzou won the overall series 2-1, however all three matches were in snitch range. Mizzou holds the advantage in the seeker game thanks to Dominic Stelzer. Stelzer is continuing a strong season after breaking out last year and capping his season with a Final Four run at US Quidditch Cup 10. His combination of size and strength make him the best seeker in the region by far. Meanwhile, Kansas will likely rely on a seeker-by-committee with Bryan Weary and Ryley Andrews, in the hopes one will catch a hot streak in the semis and carry the squad to the finals.
Prior to snitch-on-pitch, Andrews will need to put in valuable minutes beating against David Becker and company. Mizzou lives and breathes through Becker, who will most likely be paired with Justin Dewick and Ben Schlueter the majority of the game. While Becker will be the most-talented beater in the game, Kansas’s depth should play a pivotal role. Behind Andrews, Adam McMorris and Jake Simon have experienced success against Becker in the past, and Kansas co-captain Rachel England has anchored the beating line since the 2015-2016 season and quietly made a case as one of the best beaters in the Midwest. The beater game should be an incredible matchup with no one side gaining the upper hand for long.
What decided the finals last year, however, was the quaffle game. While tied at the beginning of snitch-on-pitch, Mizzou was able to take the game out of range on the back of keeper Jacob Parker. After being mostly bottled up during regulation, Kansas regularly bit on pump fakes and lost one-on-one matchups as Parker diced through the defense and pushed Mizzou out of range with dunks and easy assists to Ruthie Polio. Even if Kansas is able to contain Parker, they’ll have to allocate resources to Polio, who could very well walk away with the most goals scored of any player this weekend. On top of that, Vincent Woolsey is a great point defender and third scoring option. Kansas has to shore up their defense if they want to walk away with the title.
For the past two seasons, TCQC (formerly TC Frost) has missed out on a bid to the national championship by one game. Entering the Midwest Regional Championship last year as potential favorites, they lost two games in overtime to University of Minnesota before bowing out to Marquette University in the last consolation match. While still residing in a similar situation, TCQC’s road to a bid is much more straightforward this year. Chicago United has shown flashes of potential but will come to regionals with a short roster, having lost players to their now official school team, Illini Ridgebacks Quidditch. The Brew City Warriors, however, could be an intriguing matchup for TCQC. The team is full of Marquette alums that play well together and were able to keep a depleted Kansas team in range in the semis of last month’s Jefferson Midwest Warmup. But even though they pulled players from University of Wisconsin graduates, Brew City is only bringing 12 players this weekend, hurting their overall chances to play well on day two. TCQC’s first game against Brew City is the most likely upset. A fresh Matthew Fiebig and Christian Van Scoy can keep the team in range for Jahi Brown to come away with a quick catch. Outside of that potential misstep, expect TCQC to leave Madison not only with their first nationals bid since US Quidditch Cup 8, but also with a regional title.
Weathering the Weather
The annual Midwest Regional Championship has traditionally been a cold, miserable affair. And, if the weather forecast holds true, the trend will continue this year. The forecast shows chances of showers on Saturday with a high chance of showers and potential thunderstorms on Sunday. If the rain does come, everything we know about these teams goes out the window. Bad weather is the great equalizer in sports, and quidditch is no different. For some teams, it may be the edge they need. Both Brew City and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville have shown they can run hoop zones this season, to varied success. Sloppy conditions bode well for teams that run hoop zones, as opposing players have problems passing around the zone or holding onto the quaffle as they attempt to finish strong at the hoops. While neither Brew City nor Southern Illinois look to be title favorites, each should hope for a storm.
The team that benefits most from the potential rough conditions is Minnesota. Their “Three Trees” defense inspired hoop zones in the Midwest and is adapted to play in rain, snow and mud. In the 2015-16 season, Minnesota took home the program’s only regional championship after a day one blizzard and a day two with fields coated in ice and mud. The team has shifted away from zone defense in recent years, but ran it twice this year against Kansas at The Cups Frost during two snitch-range games in muddy conditions. If regional weekend has similar weather, look for Minnesota to erase a bit of the gap between them and expected finalists, Kansas and Mizzou, by relying on their traditional hoop zone defense and the sloppy conditions to slow down the opposing athletes.
Players to Watch
- Vincent Woolsey – Mizzou
- Rachel Heald – Kansas
- RaeAnne Kolasa – Minnesota
- Sam Carter – Marquette
- Ruthie Polio – Mizzou
- Michael John Siwek – Illinois State
- Ian McCabe – Kansas
- Elizabeth Cerullo – Illinois State
- Jack Kochevar – Minnesota
- Grace Boothe – Creighton
Honorable Mention – Jared AuBuchon – Southern Illinois
- Jacob Parker – Mizzou
- Paris Nichols – Kansas
- Andrew Wagganer – Minnesota
- Jackson Faerber – Marquette
- Will Collins – Illinois State
HM: Adam Hanna – Creighton
- David Becker – Mizzou
- Rachel England – Kansas
- Jeremy Hoffman – Illinois State
- Robert Ehrhardt – Southern Illinois
- Nadja Melby – Minnesota
HM: Ryley Andrews – Kansas
HM: Crystal Jones – Illinois State
- Dominic Stelzer – Mizzou
- Joe Reis – Minnesota
- Bryan Weary – Kansas