Guest Column: Southwest Beater Analysis


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. 

A Model of Consistency
By Ethan Sturm
Managing Editor

When it comes to our rankings, the Los Angeles Gambits are nothing if not consistent. This marks the fourth straight preseason poll to rank the Gambits in the top eight, and the third to rank them between sixth and eighth. In two of the past three years, the team has made it to exactly the quarterfinals of nationals before bowing out. USQ Cup 10, when the team exited to Gulf Coast Gumbeaux in the Round of 32, was their only true hiccup.

This consistency, along with their division weakening around them, should all but seal up the argument that they will meet expectations. The loss of Chris Champitto and Shane Bouchard should only minimally move the needle in a quaffle game built squarely around Tony Rodriguez, especially with the additions of veterans Jake Tieman and Anthony Hawkins. Rodriguez will also have another year of experience with former UCLA Bruin Grant Rose now, who he often looked out of sync with this past season. If the quaffle game can take that extra step around Rodriguez, who remains one of the most dominant players in quidditch, the Gambits could return to the type of offensive force they were in their earlier days.

In the beater game, the Gambits may have the weakest corps amongst our top six teams, but that is nothing new for them. No team outside of the top five is ever going to outclass them at beater, and they have long done what is necessary to achieve parity at beating, allowing their quaffle game to shine. And with the additions of Erin Moreno and Dani Clarke, the Gambits will finally get some much needed depth behind Alyssa Burton at female beater.

But the team’s biggest addition this season might actually be Steven Gralinski, who will join a seeker rotation that has struggled mightily in recent years. The team went just 4-7 in SWIM situations this past season, and just 5-4 the year before; Margo Aleman clearly struggled to perform at the USNT seeking level he once maintained. Gralinski is a very different model from Aleman and should revitalize the Gambit’s seeking game. He will also reduce the need for Rodriguez to don the yellow headband in emergency situations, which will, in turn, enhance the team’s snitch-on-pitch quaffle game.

The Gambits should also benefit heavily from California’s evolving environment. With Chris Seto stepping away from the Lost Boys and Matthew McCracken currently not with the Nomads, West Coast quidditch has never been more open for the Gambits. This should allow them to roll to both a West Regional Championship title and a pot-one seed at nationals. Even if they can only convert that pot one placement into a second place pool finish, they should be easily positioned to return–yet again–to the quarterfinals, with real reason to believe they can go further. But, even if they can’t, a Final Four run is already more than enough consistency to meet our expectations.

 

Credit: Kimberly Cheng

More Game Show Wins Than National Titles
By Eric Wasser, Correspondent

Correction: The article previously stated that the Los Angeles Gambits lost to SHSU. The Gambits beat SHSU in overtime. This has since been removed.

It seemed like a given that the Los Angeles Gambits would win last season’s West Regional Championship club division title—until the upset machine that is the Long Beach Funky Quaffles came through. The sport of quidditch has developed past a point that favors the Gambits’s unwavering playstyle, and the team is yet to show an inclination to adapt. With Tony Rodriguez continuing to take the overwhelming majority of minutes at keeper, their offense is exceptionally one-dimensional, relying on Rodriguez to power his way through point chasers and keepers until he’s either beat or makes a 3-foot shot. With former UCLA keeper Grant Rose joining the team, there ought to be hope for a change of pace, but the rest of the offensive unit has been unable to rewire their habits.

Every year the Gambits have bowed out of nationals early in bracket play, primarily during in-range games with lower-level college and club teams. The short usage of their roster in the quaffle game has proven to be unsustainable through the two-day championship tournament, as they’ve previously been unable to push teams out of range, leading to their most infamous loss to the now defunct Gulf Coast Gumbeaux. Admittedly, USQ Cup 11 was their most successful championship tournament, posting losses only to the Bosnyan Bearsharks (150*-110) and the championship runner-up Lone Star Q.C. (200-60*); however, if they want to compete for a national title, they will have to develop an elite level snitch-on-pitch beating and seeking game to overcome their depleted quaffle resources. The Gambits went 2-4 in SWIM situations at USQ Cup 11, with an overtime snitch catch to beat the historically mediocre SWIM team Rochester United (10-23 all-time SWIM) and 130*-110 victory over the Nomads (5-6 SWIM before 2017 nationals, 0-3 at).

With the MLQ boon so apparent to championship-caliber teams like University of Rochester, Texas Cavalry and Q.C. Boston, it is an interesting move for the Gambits to be noticeably decreasing their affiliation and participation in MLQ’s Los Angeles Guardians and, thus, excluding themselves from the rising levels of competition at the MLQ championship each year. Being an insular program isn’t necessarily a death nail, but it doesn’t exactly help. Good news for them is the additions of Steven Gralinski, Erin Moreno and Anthony Hawkins, who will provide some fresh looks on defense for the team. But unless Martellus Bennett is the most electrifying snitch-on-pitch beater in history, the Gambits won’t close out big games.







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