Antwerp QC, Much of Belgian Core, Leaves Competitive Quidditch

Credit: Tess Acosta

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. 

The Southwest Club Curse
By David Hoops, Correspondent

2013: Lone Star Q.C. enters the season ranked No. 1 in The Eighth Man’s pre-season poll, ultimately entering nationals ranked third before bowing out in the quarterfinals.

2015: Texas Cavalry enters the season ranked No. 10 in the same poll, climbing to No. 4 before nationals, where they ultimately finished in the Sweet 16.

Both of those teams had high ceilings and huge potential. Both would go on to make the finals in their second year. But neither could make that chemistry click in their first year. Right now, the burden is on Texas Hill Country Heat to show us they will not face the same issue.

Like the aforementioned dominant Southwest club teams, Heat is bringing together a “Who’s Who” of players from a mix of regional powerhouses. Heat is looking to use the framework of an experienced Lone Star corps and attach the speed and dynamism of Texas State University and UTSA’s dynamic graduating classes—a combination that if, or when, it works, will be one of the scariest to play against in the country. However, the chances that these playstyles will mesh fluently from the get go is a far cry from a guarantee. Even with nearly half the team returning to the playbook of Coach Jackson Johnson, history has shown that powerhouse combination club teams are often good, but rarely great. That fact becomes even starker when the expectations put upon the back of this No. 2-ranked team is to make the finals or bust.

Texas Hill Country will certainly be a good team, no doubt, and it’s very likely that in the turbulence of early season tournaments, their corps of talented athletes pulls off a tournament win or two—but the USQ season is a long game and, come April, they will be going up against multiple teams of players that have years of chemistry in their back pocket. Expect great things in the future for Heat— just don’t be surprised if they don’t come this year.

Credit: BSouder Photography

Can’t Stand the Heat?
By Tad Walters, Correspondent

Quidditch is Heat-ing up in central Texas!

With Lone Star Q.C. experiencing huge changes in leadership and personnel, players looking for a competitive alternative to Texas Cavalry have turned to a new club team: Texas Hill Country Heat. While they might not have the “big” names from Lone Star, eight players from last season’s Lone Star roster are confirmed for Heat, dealing a huge blow to the former Southwest powerhouse.

In Lone Star’s stead stands a team with 22 players confirmed, three of which are world champions and 15 of which have played in either a USQ final or MLQ Championship.

Heat’s ranking may seem absurd seeing as this is their rookie season. However, they are already an incredibly deep team that boasts quaffle players such as Robby Sluss, Christian Rodriguez and TJ Martinez—all important facets of Texas State University’s finals run at USQ Cup 10. Joining them is a bevy of talented UTSA and Austin Outlaws alumni with Austin Villejo, Craig Garrison, Luke Langlinais, Brook Willet and Miguel Esparza. This team is primed to be one of the most—if not the most—athletic in the country and will excel through their physical defense transitioning to a fast-break offense. With Rodriguez and Sluss taking turns facilitating, Heat’s half-court offense will be quick and deadly, with options to drive, pass or shoot no matter who has the ball.

Heat’s biggest strength is familiarity. Most of the confirmed players have been playing with and/or against each other for the better part of five years, so expect Heat to come out of the gate extremely fluid and comfortable. There will be growing pains, of course, as aggregating the talent of so many experienced players into a cohesive team can be a difficult endeavor. With the level of competition the leadership of this team is used to, the lack of synergy Heat might experience in the fall will be a temporary symptom and not a problem they will have come April.

Expect Heat, coached by USNT gold medalist Jackson Johnson, to play extremely up tempo to match Johnson’s pace. His ability to blow up plays in transition will give his quaffle players the ability to easily run fast breaks. Paired with Outlaws beater partners Taylor Tracy and—come spring—Hallie Pace, Johnson will anchor an explosive and dynamic beater corps, which may see more talent once the dust settles and free agents decide where to play.

With a quaffle line that can hang with any, a beater line anchored by two USNT players and a proven clutch seeker in TJ Goaley, Heat has the opportunity to do what no new team has done before: win USQ Cup.

Come April, if you can’t stand the Heat, stay out of Round Rock.

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