Guest Column: Southwest Beater Analysis


Credit: University of Texas

Credit: University of Texas

Attending teams: 12.

Attending teams in the Top 20: Three.

What could possibly happen at this tournament?

Alamo Cup started just like any other Southwest tournament: University of Texas defeating Sam Houston State University soundly out of snitch range; Texas State University, likewise, defeated University of Texas at San Antonio; and Lone Star Quidditch Club took home a win over Oklahoma State University.

However, it was the little things–as Peter Lee touched on in his letter–that made this tournament the most unforgettable one in the Southwest so far. Let’s add up the pieces that led to the end of a perfect season:

  • The absence of Baylor University ensured that Texas, Texas State or Lone Star would have a free ticket to the finals.
  • Clonestar Quidditch Club’s upset over Sam Houston State University meant that instead of facing a team like Silver Phoenix or the San Marcos Sharknados, Texas had to take on the 1-2 Sam Houston team in the quarterfinals.
  • Texas A&M University’s forfeit to Texas State in the quarterfinals meant that Texas State got to play one less game than their opponents before the finals.
  • Lastly, Texas A&M’s suicide snitch grab, as well as Oklahoma State’s excellent defense, made Lone Star the No. 3 seed, forcing a Texas vs. Lone Star matchup in the semifinals. We almost never get the chance to see that matchup.

Texas vs. Sam Houston

In the quarterfinals, Sam Houston played a fierce, but extremely slow, offense against Texas, often driving the quaffle far down the field only to reset. This slow, methodical offense allowed Sam Houston to maintain bludger control for far longer than it had during its pool play matchups. When the snitch was released, Texas was only up 50-20. Once again, Texas was struggling to put away a weaker team, paralleling its game against the LA Gambits. Thankfully for Texas, Sam Houston seemed determined to protect the snitch from Texas and shifted its beaters’ focus to the seeker game. The damage was irreversible. What was once a close, snitch-range game was now a blowout. The final score: 160*-20 in Texas’ favor.

Then came the one game that changed everything.

Texas vs. Lone Star
It began with 10-0 Texas. Then 10-10, and then 20-10 Texas. Tied again at 20-20.

After 4 minutes of intense back and forth, Texas started to pull away. It was 50-20 Texas, and the team looked ready to take a significant lead when Lone Star scored twice to bring the score to 50-40. After regaining bludger control, Texas piled on goal after goal. It was 17:30 game time when Texas scored once more and the score grew to 90-50. The snitch was almost on pitch and Texas was out of snitch range against the undefeated Lone Star.

Lone Star earned a breather by scoring right in time for the seeker floor to expire, earning the luxury of being in snitch range to tie.

Sitting on the sidelines, I watched as Lone Star fought back, and it was as though my feelings were being projected onto the pitch. The longer the game went on, the more and more certain I became that Lone Star would pull the snitch. And I was right–Joshua Tates did, indeed, pull the snitch…a second after a whistle was blown to stop play. The no-catch gave Texas renewed strength, and it was with numb disbelief that I watched Texas’ Evan Carr make the game-winning catch. It ended 140*-110, and Lone Star was no longer undefeated.

I have probably said this too many times to count, but patterns repeat in quidditch. In this sport, games are won by inches and seconds. An extra second taken by Chris Scholz to drive the ball to the hoop resulted in a beat before a goal; a second longer to blow the whistle, and Tates would have won the game for Lone Star; an inch lower and Texas’ goal to put the team up 90-50 just seconds before the seekers were released would have been no good.

Wolf Pack Classic       Alamo Cup
Brooms Up Score Texas Texas
Brooms Up Bludger Control      Texas Texas
Balanced Index Differential       Lone Star +20.87 Lone Star +18.69
Bludger Control Texas 54.2 percent Texas 60 percent
One-Two Difference 64 pts 54 pts
Score after 6 drives 20-20 20-20
Score at end of seeker floor Texas 70-50 Texas 90-60

 

(Balanced Index Differential predicts the score difference before the seeker floor in a hypothetical game in which each team has 50 percent bludger control. One-Two Difference predicts the score difference before snitch is on pitch between a game in which one team had 100 percent bludger control and one in which the other team had 100 percent bludger control.)

In the big picture, there are not many differences between the Alamo Cup and the Wolf Pack Classic performances. Texas won its Alamo Cup game with the subtle differences: The 60 percent bludger control which allowed for more last-minute beats to deny goals, the presence of seeker Evan Carr and one or two catches by Texas’ Michael Duquette to keep bludger control with the snitch on pitch.

Everyone expected Lone Star to make it to the finals and their opponent would be either Texas State or Texas–and that is what made the Alamo Cup finals so intriguing. Texas State would have the opportunity to win its first major tournament in the history of the organization. Texas could go undefeated in a major, non-World Cup tournament for the first time since the World Cup V season.

And now, let’s address the finals match no one expected.

Texas vs. Texas State
In quidditch, where the big picture is rarely different from matchup to matchup, this game was the one major exception. At Lone Star Cup, Texas State’s offense was 4-for-21 (19 percent) on all drives against bludgers (whether one or two were held by the opposition). Nine of Texas State’s goals were against zero bludgers. Texas State’s one-bludger defense was pitiful, letting in nine goals out of 16 drives (56.3 percent). The game was won not through excellent play by Texas State but on horrible mistakes made by Texas.

Alamo Cup was a different story. Texas State showed that it could compete with Texas. After a fierce back-and-forth, Texas State obtained bludger control 7 minutes into the game after Texas beater Christian Dowdle appeared to have torn her ACL. Bludger control was traded several times between teams in this game, and the quaffle game was just as intense. The score climbed higher and higher, and when the snitch was released, the score was roughly even–just like the Lone Star Cup matchup.

There was one crucial difference: Texas held bludger control during the snitch-on-pitch portion of the game. The importance of these subtle differences cannot be understated. Despite maintaining bludger control for nearly all of snitch on pitch at Lone Star Cup, Texas State was only able to match Texas’ quaffle points. Texas State at Alamo Cup didn’t have bludger control for nearly as much time but was still able to match Texas’ quaffle points. Texas State had bludger control during snitch on pitch at Lone Star Cup. Texas managed to successfully score against one bludger just as easily as Texas State managed to score against none. Texas had bludger control during snitch-on-pitch at Alamo Cup. Texas State managed to successfully score against one bludger as easily as Texas managed to score against none.

Texas State proved it could handle Texas by itself at this tournament. Unfortunately, it was Texas who pulled the snitch and won the Alamo Cup.

Champions of Alamo Cup or a War of Attrition?
There are many asterisks we can put on Texas’ success. Lone Star had Kedzie Teller out with an ACL tear as well as multiple other injuries and illnesses among its players. The team was clearly not at 100 percent. But that is not the important part. At World Cup VII, people felt cheated and claimed Texas won through a war of attrition: Baylor’s David Gilbert was injured at brooms up and the team might have beaten Texas otherwise; and Texas A&M’s Drew Wasikowski was injured from an illegal tackle by Texas’ Margo Aleman and Texas A&M could have destroyed Texas otherwise.

These sentiments shared among spectators are ridiculous.

If one player on a team makes the difference between a blowout and the 30 or 40 quaffle-point advantage Texas had during those games, that player’s team is simply not elite. Furthermore, quidditch is, by design, a war of attrition. The most physically fit team is usually the one that survives. Texas taught us all that lesson during World Cup VI, and this is what we can take from the Alamo Cup.

Texas won this tournament even after suffering great injuries. Augustine Monroe did not play for reasons unknown, Paden Pace was out due to injury, Kiki Crawford got injured before the Lone Star game and, as mentioned, Dowdle went down during the Texas State game.

Eight players from the World Cup VI Texas squad returned to World Cup VII. Nine players from the World Cup VII Texas squad survived until the end of Alamo Cup.

Baylor is clearly the No. 4 team right now, having yet to win a game against Texas State, Texas or Lone Star. Texas State has proven its parity with Texas during this tournament.

Combining statistics from this season and the prior two, Texas is 11-1 when it has bludger control against The Eighth Man’s top 10 teams. Its only loss was to Lone Star at Wolf Pack Classic this year. Without bludger control, Texas is 4-7, but it managed to hold 60 percent control against Lone Star this tournament. The fate of the Longhorns, the Southwest Regional Championship and even World Cup 8 depends on how well other teams manage to control Texas’ beaters.







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