Antwerp QC, Much of Belgian Core, Leaves Competitive Quidditch

Credit: Sana Sadiq

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. 

Nothing but Athletes
By Ryan Harris, Guest Correspondent

The Nomads may be the most feared team in all of USQ. They are notoriously physical athletes who play the sport like it’s football. They do not care if the game is in range or out of range; against athletes or people playing more for fun. They will hit everyone, and they will hit everyone hard.

The Nomads are coming off a roller coaster season that ended in disappointment. Early in the 2017-18, they traveled to Utah and defeated the Lost Boys Q.C. to win Crimson Cup IV. In January, they traveled down to Los Angeles for the competitive Heroes vs. Villains Invitational where they went an official 6-0 before the lights went out while they were down to the Lost Boys in the final. (Still a very impressive showing.) The Nomads went on to cruise through their regional as expected, but then bowed out just after pool play at nationals. Entering as a pot one, the Nomads suffered a crippling loss early on to the pot six Bad and Rougie Q.C., followed by losses to the Los Angeles Gambits and Bosnyan Bearsharks, tarnishing what had been an impressive 21-1 debut season.

Coming into this year, the Nomads are ranked No. 7 in the club rankings. The question on everyone’s mind: Will they live up to the hype this time around? Unfortunately for the club from Boise, it is going to be tough.

First, the Nomads have some key personnel losses. Neither Matthew McCracken nor Stewart Driflot are currently slated to return. McCracken was arguably the most athletic player in the game. His temper and physicality got him carded and thrown out of games frequently, but he undoubtedly helped the Nomads defeat top-level competition, like the Lost Boys, the Gambits and Lake Erie Elite. In addition to keeping, McCracken was a backup seeker. This hurts the Nomads’s ability to cope with losing Driflot, who was their go-to seeker. Driflot was also an effective driver with a big, physical body. Losing both of these key players will surely make it tough for the Nomads to compete at the high level they did last year.

The second issue the Nomads face is being penalized. Whether they play dirty or not is up for debate, but the Nomads certainly play physical and it results in a lot of cards. This is one area where losing McCracken should help the Nomads, but the rest of the team is still very physical and cards could be an issue. Deserved or not, star beater Brenden Bixler was carded out of more than one game last year. He is probably the quickest beater in the sport, and he comes from a football background that taught him to hit hard—harder than you would expect for someone of his size. If the Nomads want to compete at a high level, Bixler will absolutely have to stay out of the penalty box, which is difficult for anyone playing as aggressively as he does. The bottom line is: Cards, especially red ones, are so dangerous in a tournament where dropping a single game could ruin the weekend. It is near impossible to win a competitive game when a team loses a star beater to a red card. Not only does the team lose that player for the rest of the game, but they also have to play with only one beater for a full two minutes, which is extremely difficult against any competent team. If Bixler gets a red card against any club team, you can expect the Nomads to careen out of nationals just like last year.

Another problem for the Nomads is their lack of players, and especially their lack of non-males. The Nomads roster has extremely talented players like Brenden Bixler and USNT chaser Mercedes Natali. The roster also has unsung heroes that compete at a high level, like Nick Vandy, Wyatt Egger and Owen Egger. While most of the players on the Nomads roster may be very talented, they still have the issue of a lack of bodies up in Boise. The team actually wanted to compete in the college division this year, as most of their players go to Boise State University, but they are competing club due to a lack of college-enrolled women. Playing in the club division adds a couple names to the roster, but a preliminary roster for the squad still appears to have only 17 names. Even assuming every name on that roster could make the trip to Texas, it would still be difficult for the team to battle through a contentious two-day tournament. Fatigue would certainly play a factor and could stifle the Nomads’s performance.

All in all, the Nomads are a group of very talented players with a lot of potential, but there are still a lot of hurdles to them being a contender. It is hard to imagine the Nomads overcoming all of this adversity to shine as a national contender. Anything is possible, but don’t expect too much from this group of athletes out of Boise.

The Most Athletic Team in the Nation
By Ardin Lo, Editor, Social Media

The Nomads burst onto the national scene after last year’s infamous Heroes vs. Villains Invitational finals run, which saw them collect 15 yellow and red cards over the course of a single day. Of equal note in that high-profile tournament, the Nomads took out Lake Erie Elite twice, UC Berkeley (Cal Quidditch), the Los Angeles Gambits and Twin Cities Quidditch Club, quickly making the Nomads known as the one of the league’s most athletic yet controversial teams.

Credit: Cullen Clark

Their incredible athleticism carried them to an impressive one-loss record entering USQ Cup 11, but foul trouble reared its ugly head and led them to a disappointing end. After an unexpected loss to Bad and Rougie Q.C.somewhat enabled by a plethora of cardsthe Nomads failed to make bracket play and ended the year on a low note. Despite all that, the sky’s the limit for the updated version of the Nomads.

With the departures of Matthew McCracken and Stewart Driflot, this new Nomads team will be different from what many expected going into the season. It’s unlikely that they’ll lose their fast pace and hyper-physical playstyle, and with more team chemistry and less on-pitch issues the Nomads may finally hit their stride. With McCracken and Driflot gone, ball-carrying duties will fall to the very capable pair of Nick Vandy and captain Bryan Bixler, both of whom have extensive experience leading the offense and will provide different looks for their wing chasers to work with. Their quaffle game is bolstered by the athletic Andrew Brion and USNT chaser Mercedes Natali, whose physical presences on defense will be central to the team’s success.

This strong quaffle core will only get better this year with the addition of new keeper Noah Turner, who impressed with his speed and agility at the Top of Utah Classic this past weekend and looks to fill the McCracken role. As a two-sport athlete in high school, Turner holds the Saugus High School record for high jump (6-foot-2-inches) and also ran a 23.78 second 200 meter while playing corner and safety for the football team. With more game experience, he will be a lethal driving threat who provides a completely different look from Vandy and Bryan. Most notably however, is the addition of four new female chasers in Taylor Tye, Kendall Tate, Kate Maryon and Olivia Maryon, all of whom play for the Boise State University club basketball team. With the Nomads running an exclusive double-male beater set, they needed additional female chasers outside of Natali, and these four showed great athleticism and physicality, helping to shore up the only weak position for the Nomads.

But this Nomads team will only go as far as their beating can take them. Led by Brenden Bixler and Wyatt Egger, the Nomads’ double-male beater set only works due to the impressive stamina of all their beaters. As shown by his 1,000+ yards receiving his senior year in high schoolno easy feat in Southern California footballBrenden has the speed, elusiveness and stamina to compete with anyone. Throw in former Cal captain, Owen Egger, and Dylan Schilling into the beater rotation, and the Nomads are as deep as ever. But the fact that the Nomads are competing in the club division this year will present a much stiffer test for Brenden and company. Elite male beaters on the club teams ahead of the Nomads in The Eighth Man rankings include Max Havlin, Tyler Walker, Perry Wang, Jackson Johnson and Cole Travisall of whom are USNT beaters or alternates. Brenden and rapidly-developing sophomore beater Wyatt Egger have the potential to step up their game and match these other elite beaters, and their doing so would allow the Nomads’ athletic quaffle core to stage a complete takeover of games.

Come April, the Nomads will have greater discipline, leadership and team chemistry, the lack of which may have been the one thing keeping them living up to their record. When those once-missing pieces fall into place, the most athletic team in the nation will show their true potential in Round Rock.

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