By Frank Gao
On November 12, Next Best West IV was hosted on the campus of the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). Of the tournament’s highlights, there is one in particular that deserves mention above all else, the Long Beach Funky Quaffles (LBFQ) 110*-80 victory over the Los Angeles Gambits.
Let’s take a step back and recall the aftermath of World Cup VII in North Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. This was the tournament where the Lost Boys were eliminated in the Round of 32 by a hungry Louisiana State University (LSU) squad, back when Tony Rodriguez and Steve DiCarlo were still on the team. That World Cup would culminate in a finals match pitting University of Texas-Austin against Texas State, when so many anticipated a Lost Boys and Lone Star match-up.
The rest is history. Rodriguez and DiCarlo left the Lost Boys to start the Los Angeles Gambits, and in their inaugural season, they pulled Kyle Epsteen, Alex Richardson, Tanna Bettendorf, Caylen McDonald, and Andrew Murray from the Long Beach Funky Quaffles to form their new team. The season prior, LBFQ had made major waves by sending the Silicon Valley Skrewts into the consolation bracket to fight for the west’s last World Cup bid. LBFQ would make it to the play-in round at North Myrtle Beach before being eliminated just shy of the Round of 32 that year.
LBFQ struggled with consistency in the wake of those several key players departing the team for the LA Gambits throughout the season leading up to USQ World Cup 8. Captained by Michael Aguilera, Hannah Moroz, and Anthony Hawkins, the team fell just shy of any reputable performances in Rock Hill, South Carolina. Then came the following season, in which a two-male beater set anchored by Andrew Burger’s relentless offensive pressure and reliable scoring options in female chasers such as Jessica Ward and Elle Wong allowed LBFQ to level the playing field against the stronger teams in the west. That season, LBFQ forced the Gambits into overtime at Next Best West III before failing to qualify for US Quidditch Cup 9 a few months later. At this point in time, it wasn’t a question of whether LBFQ could achieve respectable results, but whether it could do so on a consistent basis. The turning point for the team may very well have been its performance at Consolation Cup I. Despite not initially qualifying, the team was able to attend and advanced to the semifinals. Perhaps more importantly, the team made some lineup tweaks during the tournament that proved fortuitous.
Then came the match against the Gambits at Next Best West IV. During the post-tournament celebrations, several of the LBFQ players recounted how prior to the start of the game, rookie Darrell Miller had laid on the turf, loudly refusing to get up, complaining about how he didn’t want to face off against Rodriguez and his formidable Gambits’ lineup. And if Miller had followed through with his supposed misgivings, I would not have spent the last three paragraphs discussing the history of the Long Beach Funky Quaffles.
By his own admittance, Miller was to be utilized as a second-string keeper to inject energy into the quaffle game during snitch-on-pitch. LBFQ scored eight goals that game; at least half of those can be credited to Miller either through his own scoring or his assists. As the game stretched on and daylight quickly dwindled, Miller played a patient ball-carrier, fleeing the two-pronged Gambits point-defense and swiftly capitalizing on driving lanes as soon as his beaters opened them up. There were moments when Miller twisted and spun away as the Gambits’ chasers pressured him further and further up the field; in one play, Rodriguez pursued Miller to his own hoops before he sprinted away on fresh legs into a now-keeperless defense. And the LBFQ beaters, switching between Burger, Sam Weisser, and Jake Malloy to maintain a hectic tempo and consistently seize the initiative, were doing all the dirty work to make this happen. Every goal the Gambits made was quickly answered by LBFQ: a drive-and-dish by Miller, a catch and release by Ward. When the snitch came on pitch, the LBFQ beater corps turned their focus to mitigating veteran beaters DiCarlo, Brian Vampola, and Alyssa Burton. The Gambits got the first look at the snitch and Margo Aleman was able to dislodge the tail but failed to maintain positive control as he bobbled it and let it drop onto his chest. Shortly after, Shea Hillinger made a pull and after much deliberation the referees called a good catch, giving LBFQ a 110*-80 win.