Antwerp QC, Much of Belgian Core, Leaves Competitive Quidditch

Credit: Samanda Sweet

In addition to our preseason rankings, The Eighth Man staff will be releasing a series of articles focusing on the top 10 club teams and top 10 collegiate teams. Each article will be written by two members of the staff, one who believes the team will live up to or exceed expectations and one who thinks they will come up short. 

Where There’s a Will, There’s a Way
By Jackson Johnson, Correspondent

UC Berkeley (Cal Quidditch) is a new powerhouse amongst colleges, and they are ready to prove it this season. With an Elite Eight finish at USQ Cup 11 and a regional championship under their belt, Cal is looking to build upon their success from last season. The team enters the new year with minimal turnover and a promising recruitment class. Cal’s biggest losses are their starting point chaser Jonah Phipps and their backup keeper Jordan Tate. Besides these two losses, Cal is bringing virtually the same squad into the regular season, but a squad that will be more equipped and experienced than ever before. Fulfilling their pre-season ranking as one of the top four college programs in the league will be no easy feat, but they have a lot of things going for them.

Boasting one of, if not, the best current keepers in the college division, many teams are going to find themselves outmatched against Ryan Pfenning leading the quaffle game. His height and speed allow him to bulldoze his way through most defenses and–if his momentum is matched–chasers Maddi “No. 8” Erdall and Elijah Phipps have proven themselves as lethal offensive threats. Erdall especially thrives on quick catches and jukes to maneuver around defending chasers. When Pfenning draws in the defense, Cal has been able to find success in a drive-and-dish offense; if defenses start to cheat toward the dish pass, Pfenning will commit to his drive. With an offense anchored by Pfenning and complemented by Erdall and Phipps–Cal will always find a way to score.

At beater, Cal will likely run a two-male set this season. Ardin Lo, Connor Hughes and Kyle Berquist are now fully committed to beater, as opposed to last season when they had only five months, three months and two weeks of experience, respectively, at the position prior to Cup. With more focus on the bludger game this season, Cal will take full advantage of aggressive beating to open up the field, using Pfenning, Erdall and Phipps to capitalize on the inevitable opportunities created.

Seeking is probably the biggest question mark for this team. Without a dedicated seeker, Cal will continue last season’s struggle to win SWIM games. But this is no secret; Cal is aware of this vulnerability and should spend this entire season finding and developing an elite level seeker. Although that is no easy feat, Cal had over 100 new recruits at their first practice; surely one or two of them will have the potential to develop into a great seeker. If Cal can find this key-piece to their team and show up to play at USQ Cup 12, expect them to be in the Final Four. And from then on who knows? Maybe they can win it all.

Cal Can’t Commit
By Raghuveer Achukola, 

Coming off their first regional title, UC Berkeley (Cal Quidditch) looks poised to take the next step forward this season, but a lack of depth and missing pieces could lead to underperformance.

The team returns this year without captain Owen Egger, top point defender Jonah Phipps and backup keeper Jordan Tate, the trio that carried the team in their upset win over the Bosnyan Bearsharks two years ago. With these departures, Cal will need to find physical replacements to anchor their defense in addition to finding a new seeker. Egger was instrumental last year in critical games, catching the game-winning snitch in numerous snitch-range games against UCLA, Arizona State University and Boston University.

By Shirley Lu

To replace Egger, Cal needs more than just a run-of-the-mill seeker; they need an extraordinary one. They were one of four schools at nationals last season that played more games in range than out of range. The close score lines remained consistent, even if the strength of schedule fluctuated; Cal played in range against weaker teams like Ball State University, UNC and Boston University. Such a performance is plainly unacceptable for a team ranked in The Eighth Man top four. True contenders should be able to comfortably beat weaker opposition well out of range.

Another cause for concern would be the team’s lack of commitment, which very well might have contributed to last season’s lackluster pre-regionals results. In the past few seasons, the Golden Bears have only fielded a full roster once–at last year’s Western Regional Championship. For a variety of reasons including schoolwork, midterms and money, Cal has been unable to field a full roster, even at their home tournaments. This undoubtedly hinders team chemistry as new wing chasers and beaters have to constantly adjust to different play styles. Based on their inability to put lesser opponents out-of-range and bring a full roster to USQ Cup, don’t expect the Golden Bears to crack the final four in Round Rock.

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