Guest Column: Southwest Beater Analysis


COUNTDOWN TO

mIAMI-OHIO Modest-Proposal
5Miami University has slowly been building another solid if not nationally relevant season on a decent recruiting class and excellent fundamentals. This is not a team that is going to beat itself with stupid mistakes—you have to play solid quidditch and execute on both sides of the ball, because this squad make you pay for your own miscues. For a team that has long been consistently above average, something is going to have to give for Miami to step forward into the national spotlight in Columbia.

My suggestion? Think outside the box on offense. Miami’s catching, throwing and movement away from the ball are all more than adequate to run a high level passing-based offense. Michael March can be an effective 1.5 tool at times. Matt Mignery and Sam Rapnicki are capable of playing some good give-and-go offense. But Miami’s losses are marked by low offensive outputs—something has to change. Miami has to become more unpredictable and put Gracie Rapnicki in a larger role. She is a natural scorer in traffic, a skill few non-male chasers in the Great Lakes possess, and her goals clearly inspire her teammates to follow her lead.

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5Miami University has been one of the more consistent performers in the Great Lakes region for years, if not for the best of reasons. The general consensus has always been that Miami takes care of teams that do not qualify easily, but has always struggled to find a way to beat the elite teams that crack the Top 20. So far this season, that pattern has continued, with a 0-3 record against Top 20 teams (with only one of those in snitch range) and a 8-2 record against all other opponents. However, the manner Miami has been taking is slightly different from seasons past.

A team that used to be one of the most balanced in terms of quaffle and bludger play complementing each other has started to take a swing toward its chasers. A bevy of new point defenders, led by Sam Rapnicki, creates the best tackling chaser core Miami has ever had. Gracie Rapnicki has had a bit of a breakout season, seemingly inspired by her new teammates by growing into one of the hardest female chasers to tackle while driving in for close-range shots. Keeper Mignery runs the show on offense and is adept if not great at both driving through a defense and spreading the ball to an improved chaser core.

The loss of Tina Kinstedt to graduation is definitely felt in one of the more conservative beater strategies you will come up against. On occasions where it knows it is outclassed, Miami tries to pack its beaters with control well into its own keeper zone and dare teams to shoot from distance against the massive wingspan of Mignery. Do not fall into the trap—keep your beaters going aggressively and do not be afraid to lose control to pick up easy goals. This is a defense-oriented team with a good seeking rotation. Get as many goals as you can early and make Miami force on offense to come from behind, a role the team is not comfortable filling.


App

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6The Appalachian Apparators have had some early success since joining USQ just two years ago. The program has made appearances in both World Cup VII and World Cup 8, finishing 2-3 and 3-2 respectively. However, after World Cup 8, the majority of its veteran players graduated, leaving a team mostly comprised of first- or second-year players. As a result, the Apparators struggled early in the fall season while they began to integrate new teammates.

The Apparators demonstrated great improvement at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship. Continuing to play against high-level competition should only help this young team to develop. Its main competition comes from UNC, as these two teams seem to meet almost every other weekend. This season the Apparators have a 1-3 official record against UNC with two of those games being in range. While playing against the Tar Heels gives the Apparators good practice, they will need to test themselves against a variety of opponents and strategies before US Quidditch Cup 9. The experience gained by exposing their younger players’ weaknesses, as well as getting more playing time as a unit, will be invaluable heading into April.

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6Very few teams outside of the Mid-Atlantic know much, if anything, about the Apparators. If you did happen to have a gameplan, it is going to best if you start from scratch because this team does not resemble its previous iterations. This year’s team is based around speed, not physicality. On offense, the chasers love to get out in transition and exploit defenses that are slow to get back. Look for Zachary Thompson or Brandon Poole to use their speed on the wings to drive past defenders while the beaters clear lanes. First-year chaser Grace McCall also provides a viable scoring option. A former Appalachian State University soccer player, McCall is great at finding the open spaces on the pitch and, when given the ball in the open, she has a proven ability to score. On defense, the Apparators typically likes to play man-to-man with a point defender. Its fast chasers are good at staying with their marks; however, there are only a couple of people on the roster who are able to consistently make hits on defense. As a result, the beaters are often in the middle of the field and committed to stopping the drive. A well-coordinated attack between beaters and chasers should lead to success on offense for opposing teams.

The main thing hampering this team right now is a lack of experience. Like a lot of young teams, the Apparators are athletic, but live and die by the fast break. When teams get back on defense and force the Apparators into a half-court offense, the team often struggles. It will force passes and drives that lead to turnovers, and when the game starts to slip away, the Apparators have a tendency to rush even more. Teams that have been able to dictate the pace of the game have had success against the Apparators this year. Teams typically get hurt by the Apparators when they underestimate their athleticism or get too complacent and let them hang around. This team is about even in SWIM situations and they have the ability to surprise some teams.


Boise

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7Boise State University has clearly been the dominating force of the Northwest since its founding. Playing snitch-range games against teams in its region is a rarity and its a back-to-back regional champion in a region that has only existed for two years. As such a dominating force and after this year’s undefeated Northwest Regional Championship run, the Abraxans currently boast one of the best records in the USQ (17-2), which gives them a No. 6 ranking in USQ’s ranking algorithm.

Although a large majority analysts do not consider the Abraxans a top-12 team, it is extremely unlikely that we’ll see Boise State come into US Quidditch Cup 9 as anything less than a Pot 1 team in its pool. This alone means it is more likely to get a favorable pool draw–and such a favorable pool would not be un-winnable for the Abraxans.

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7Boise State’s biggest strength is probably its snitch on pitch gameplay. Rookie seeker Daniel Donnelly is easily one of the most underrated seekers in the league and the Abraxans have a variety of beaters who know how to give him enough time alone with the snitch. While being able to commit their beater play to the snitch, their chasing offense has enough driving and scoring ability to endlessly keep the game in range. Bryan Bixler is near impossible to stop when he has enough momentum running toward the hoops. Brenden Bixler is easily one of the most agile players in the game and can weave endlessly through defenders until he finds the hoops. And, last but not least, Stew Driflot is tall and fast enough that he’s nearly impossible to tackle before he gets into shooting range. The list goes on, but just know there is talent in the Boise State chasing pool.

The Abraxans are also able to completely change their play style to create better matchups with their opponents–which is uncharacteristic of a Northwest team. Their smart play style allows their beaters to dominate and break the game open when they’re able to, or create low-scoring games against more intimidating opponents, leaving the games in the reliable hands of Donnelly.

In short, Boise State has big upset potential. But feel free to rule them out–they’re only from the Northwest, after all–right?


UBA

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If University of British Columbia did not exceed your expectations last April at World Cup 8, you were either misinformed or from the Northwest (or, most likely, both). As last year’s third place finisher out of what was, and is, widely considered the weakest region in the nation, British Columbia played snitch-range games against historically respected opponents in VCU, University of Arkansas, UTSA and 2014 Midwest Regional Champion OSU—and finished 2-2 against these four teams. Pretty impressive for a team that was predicted to win zero games.

3But after a stellar World Cup performance, British Columbia started the 2015-16 season out slow. At Boise State University’s Tree City Tournament, the team came away with a less than impressive 1-3 record and ended pool play in a three-way tie with rookie Utah State Quidditch Club and Provo Quidditch squads. With out of range losses to Crimson Elite and Boise State, British Columbia seemed to have fallen out of contention with second-tier teams.

However, despite the Thunderbirds’ slow start, British Columbia showed immense improvement in the few months between Tree City and their regional championship. In 6 inches of mud, they were able to compete with the best teams there using their smart playstyle to keep Boise State University in range until around the 18-minute mark and nearly upset the (thus far) undefeated Rain City Raptors. If this improvement is any indication of where they’ll be by April, expect British Columbia to be able to compete with top teams in their pool, depending on their draw. They’ve shown in the past that they’re able to keep tough opponents in range and their snitch on pitch seems to basically come down to a coin flip. It’s hard to see them making a deep run at US Quidditch Cup 9 unless they continue their dramatic improvement and the snitch tail happens to swing their direction. But it would also be ignorant to say British Columbia doesn’t have upset potential.

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1British Columbia’s weakness this year has been their beaters and their inability to control the pitch. Although they are competent and always improving, their beaters have yet to show they can match the dominance of their sizable chaser line. Their chasers have consistently shown they can slug it out with the most physical of teams, but British Columbia tends to struggle against teams that hold a tactical advantage. Their mediocre beating corps and strategy are what keeps them from winning big games consistently.

Their chaser line has a wide range of weaponry–from Lendl Magsipoc’s size and physicality, to Cameron Cutler’s historically well-rounded play style to Austin Wallace’s speed (which he also brings to seeking). They also showed they’ve been working on forming a smarter chaser offense, showing off a much more patient offense at Northwest Regional Championship than we’ve ever seen from them before.

It’s hard to say where their development will take them by US Quidditch Cup 9. It seems they’ve recognized the need to play smarter and they’ve been working hard to apply these changes. But from what we’ve seen so far this season, dominant beaters can shut down their driving offense and create exploitable holes in the chaser defense. Although this currently stands as a weakness, it would be a surprise to not see an improved beater corps develop before the main event.







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