Antwerp QC, Much of Belgian Core, Leaves Competitive Quidditch

Credit: Chris Rothery

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. 

A Storm Formerly Known as United
By David Hoops, Correspondent

In a field where even our rankers struggled to define the lower half of the top 10 club teams in the league, Rochester Hailstorm sits at No. 8, an easily achievable goal for a team made up of longtime teammates with MLQ experience.

Though the squad will be losing Shane Hurlbert and Maria Jackson, they will retain the majority of the Rochester United chasing core. Jon Jackson will continue to be the centerpiece, but will be expected to shoulder even more of the workload. Jon has taken on this type of role before, so he should be able to keep Hailstorm competitive. Jon is one of the most complete players in the game; his athleticism allows him to play with anyone. Defensively, his communication and awareness frequently stop drives and do not afford offenses many, if any, mistakes. Offensively, Jon plays patiently and uses a combination of both passing and driving ability to keep defenses guessing and respecting each player on the pitch.

One of those players is to Sam Dinga, who was a key piece to the USQ Cup 11-winning University of Rochester, to fill the gap left behind by the departure of Maria Jackson. Though Dinga lacks the height of Maria, she plays a tight defense and will make up for it with her hustle. Hailstorm also maintains Alyssa Giarrosso, who continues to provide consistent support on both ends of the field.

Also departing from the squad is beater Lisle Coleman, leaving Hailstorm with Sara Smacher as the only non-male beater with experience in big games. Though Rochester will need to train up Laura Hossenlopp in order to run more traditional beater pairings, this isn’t a death sentence for the squad. It’s likely that we will see the reemergence of the double-male set Rochester United lived and died by during the USQ Cup 9 season. Josh Kramer and Patrick Callanan now have three USQ seasons together as a pair, and while they will be missing the talent of Kyle Savarese and Daniel Gagne, the addition of Patrick Bobbit of Silver Phoenix, along with Devin Sandon, will swap in with physical play that is sure to throw off many beaters in the club league.

The addition of seeker Chris Pike, who played with much of the group on Rochester Whiteout this summer, will allow Solomon Gominiak and Cody Keefer to spend more time at quaffle during snitch play. This will be of the utmost importance as Keefer and Gominiak will need to step it up this season, filling the role of Hurlbert on offense. Gominiak in particular will be looked at to take another step forward. Since his arrival on the quidditch scene in MLQ’s inaugural season, he has taken steps each year toward being an elite player in the sport and is currently cemented among the best point defenders in the country. This season, look for him to take over as a primary offensive contributor alongside Jackson.

One of the biggest benefits for this team as they attempt to meld new pieces into their identity will be their consistent encounters with top-level competition. They will be expected to regularly compete with Q.C. Boston, Bosnyan Bearsharks and The Warriors. These games will help athletes like Bobbit, Dinga and Gominak grow into the players they need to be in order to compete at the national level. It may be rough early on, but Hailstorm should be ready to go by nationals. And that’s when it counts.

Credit: Shirley Lu

A Tough Ranking to Crack
By Tyler Walker, Editor, Managing

It is going to be a frigid opening for Cold Boi.

You may be tempted to think of Rochester Hailstorm as a rebranded Rochester United, and while much of the two rosters overlap, there are major holes in Hailstorm’s case for a national title.

Hailstorm should still play just as well as United in-region. Last season, United nearly forced a three-way tie for the Northeast Regional Championship. Depending on the format and schedule for the 2019 rendition, expect Hailstorm to challenge the two top teamsQ.C. Boston and the Bosnyan Bearsharkswho each rely heavily on the top of their roster. If Hailstorm hits either team coming off a tough game, it has the talent to sneak a win. The keyword there being sneak, as this year’s Rochester club team is not talented enough to compete on equal footing. It may not show over a single game, but the talent gap will certainly become more prevalent over the course of a two-day tournament.

In the past, the Rochester model has been two players who have the ability to take over a game offensively while their defense is a team effort with tons of players ready and willing to hit. The latter will still be true, but Hailstorm will lack the offensive talent to compete later in a tournament when Jon Jackson’s back starts getting sore.

For this team to meet expectations this season, Jackson will have to play Herculian minutes not just at the national championship, but in every game, as a few too many losses will put them in a bad seeding for pools, and, in turn, likely translate to poor seeding in brackets. Either way, an Elite Eight finish means overcoming teams like Boom Train, Lone Star Quidditch Club and Terminus Quidditch. Hailstorm is good enough to solidify a Sweet-16 finish but anything further would be too tough to crack.

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