With Regionals Imminent, Southwest and Northwest Showdowns Headline US Weekend

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Three regions soon to host their regional championship tournament will hold tournaments this weekend that will give attendees one of their final chances to jockey for positioning before pools are drawn and teams attempt to earn their bids to US Quidditch Cup 10.

Diamond Cup V
By Alex Stewart

Editor’s Note: the author is the treasurer for Texas A&M Quidditch

Date: January 28
Number of Teams: 16 teams (1 unofficial)
Host: Texas State Quidditch
Location: San Marcos, Texas

Diamond Cup, known for being one of the Southwest’s most competitive tournaments, should certainly live up to those high standards this year. For the fifth time, Texas State welcomes some of the strongest teams in the league to San Marcos, setting the stage for an entertaining tournament. Of the 16 teams attending this tournament, two of them are ranked in the top 10, and six in the top 25 according to the current USQ standings. However, if you ask just about any player in the Southwest, those standings are only modest predictions of how these teams will perform at US Quidditch Cup 10.

Texas Cavalry appears to be the favorite of this tournament; the team’s coordination between its chasers and beaters helps it to control the speed of play, especially on offense, making it a force to be reckoned with. Cavalry comes into Diamond Cup with only one official loss this season to Texas A&M Quidditch, a team with a lot of talent that appears to lack consistency. With both teams drawn into Pool Two for this tournament, there is the possibility for early fireworks. The two have also drawn the San Marcos Sharknados and Houston Cosmos in their pool and should be able to handle both of those games with ease.

Lone Star Quidditch Club (LSQC) is another story entirely. Once the powerhouse of the Southwest and former runner-up of Diamond Cup, this team has yet to show if it is going to make a comeback this season. Currently sitting at an uninspiring 6-8, Lone Star’s record does not tell the full story as it lost out of range only three times, and all of its losses have come against strong opposition. Though at the Lonestar Invitational the team had a few more familiar faces on the pitch, it’s hard to tell whether we’ll see any rebalance of the famed quidditch club. However, rumors are flying about potential Team USA beaters joining the roster this spring. Could the possible addition of Michael Duquette aid in LSQC’s return? Other teams to look out for in Pool Four include the University of Texas at San Antonio and SHSU Quidditch. Neither of these teams should be taken lightly; both have brought a lot of talent to the table this season and show a great deal of promise going into the Southwest Regional Championship. Their matchup in pool play should certainly be a good game. Due to some last minute drops, an unofficial mercenary team rounds out Pool Four.

LSQC seeker Stevie Bell fights the snitch, Gulf Coast Gumbeaux’s Tad Walters at the Bat City Showcase | Photo Credit: Sana Sadiq Photography

Pool Three appears to be the pool of death, with three out of the four teams ranked in the top 20 in the nation. Gulf Coast Gumbeaux’s strength is definitely its beaters, Oklahoma State University’s (OSU) strength is its chaser game, and Texas Quidditch (UT) is the most balanced of the three teams. The difference in strengths of the these teams will likely make this the most interesting pool of the tournament and will definitely result in interesting bracket seeding. Deathrow Quidditch rounds out the pool and is unlikely to overcome any of its opponents in pool play.

Michael Duquette, captaining UT at Diamond Cup IV, may become another obstacle for Texas in this tournament. | Photo Credit: Sana Sadiq Photography

The Warriors are the headliners of Pool One, traveling from the New York City area to Texas to escape the cold and test their mettle against some of the nation’s top teams. Their pool play match against the hosts, Texas State, should be a good judgment of the regional strength of the Mid-Atlantic and Southwest. Silver Phoenix and Austin Quidditch (AQ) make up the rest of this pool. As two of the most historically dominant second teams in the Southwest, the Silver Phoenix vs. Austin Quidditch matchup is always an exciting one. Silver, per usual, will be bringing a roster of mostly young talent led by a few more experienced players. Though not likely to come out on the top of their pool, Silver and AQ both will likely pose stiff competition for the Warriors and Texas State.

Subdued Excitement Showdown 2: The Streets
By Misha Whittingham

Editor’s note: Misha Whittingham is the Head Coach and Captain of the UVic Valkyries

Date: January 28
Number of Teams: 7
Host: Western Washington University Wyverns
Location: Bellingham, Washington

The second Subdued Excitement Showdown in Bellingham, Washington features every NGB-registered team from British Columbia and Washington. The tournament will feature Quidditch Conference of the Northwest (QCON) official games, as seven of the eight member teams will be in attendance. This will be the only event featuring a majority of the QCON constituent teams prior to the playoff weekend in March.

The tournament will be a seven-team round robin between the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds Sports Club (TSC), University of British Columbia Quidditch Club (UBCQC), Emerald City Admirals (ECA), Rain City Raptors (RCR), Western Washington University Wyverns (WWU), University of Victoria Valkyries (UVic), and Simon Fraser University Quidditch (SFU). Each team will play four games, many of which will make up for QCON games missed due to weather earlier this month.

Of the QCON games to be played on Saturday, there will be two of major consequence to the conference’s standings:  WWU vs. SFU and RCR vs. TSC.  The host Wyverns will engage in a game against SFU for the fourth place position in the conference, unless the Valkyries pull off a seismic upset against one of TSC or RCR. Both SFU and WWU exhibit play styles highly reliant on the skill of their beaters, albeit with opposite philosophies. SFU uses its skill at beater to lock down defensively, whereas WWU employs a highly aggressive beater strategy to create offense. The game between these two should provide a good test of the efficacy of both strategies.

The Thunderbirds and Raptors both have a chance now to seize first place in QCON with what should be the tournament’s marquee game. So far this season, the two clubs have had each of their three games against one another decided by snitch catch, with the Raptors holding the edge, 2-1.

The Thunderbirds and Raptors play through muddy conditions at the 2016 Northwest Regional Championship | Photo Credit: Tasha Kiri Photography

Beyond QCON-relevant games, both ECA and UBCQC will be looking to prove themselves in Bellingham this weekend. The Admirals earned their first win of the season against a depleted UVic squad in December and will be looking to show that is something they can repeat. UBCQC has has seen more success this season in Quidditch Canada, but are the only QCON team held pointless so far. With no games against either of TSC or RCR this weekend, UBCQC has an opportunity to show how it measures up against most of of the QCON teams it will have to leapfrog in the standings over the next month. Indeed, UBCQC’s first game against UVic will likely prove one of the more exciting ones on Saturday, as the two evenly-matched teams have developed a somewhat heated rivalry over their three games this season.

This weekend’s games in Bellingham should give us some insight as to what we should expect from both the upcoming QCON playoffs weekend and USQ Northwest Regional Championship. With the entry of Utah State Quidditch Club and Provo Quidditch into the Northwest Regional Championship, the play of the Raptors will be under heavy scrutiny as they gear up to compete for a spot at USQ Cup 10. They will need to convincingly dominate their opposition if they want to remain in serious consideration going into the regional championship.

Anthill Funkdown Invitational
By Jessica Ward and Lexie Fields-Austin

Editor’s Note: The authors are players for the Long Beach Funky Quaffles

Date: January 28
Number of Teams: 7
Host: Long Beach Funky Quaffles and Anteater Quidditch
Location: Long Beach, California

The weekend of January 28 marks the first tournament dual-hosted by the West’s Long Beach Funky Quaffles (LBFQ) and Anteater Quidditch. Anthill Funkdown will feature seven California teams going head to head: Long Beach, Anteater Quidditch, UCLA, Wizards of Westwood, the Lost Boys, University of Southern California (USC), and South Bay Blazers.

Four of the teams – UCLA, USC, the Wizards of Westwood, and the South Bay Blazers – have combined to play just 12 games so far this season. The first three of those teams competed at Next Best West, where UCLA and USC each went 2-2.  UCLA won out of range against USC and Anteaters but lost out of range to LBFQ and the Los Angeles Gambits. USC pulled off in-range wins over the Wizards of Westwood and California Dobbys, but lost out of range to Anteaters. The Wizards went 0-4 at the tournament with their only in-range game being a loss to USC.

An exciting turn of events for Irvine has shown the best incarnation of the team this season. Despite a record of 3-6, the Anteaters have improved their offensive strategy in comparison to past seasons, playing within snitch range against the Arizona Jackalopes earlier in the season and proving they can put up some points against upper-tier teams like the Los Angeles Gambits and UCLA. Though not a likely finals contender, Irvine is displaying its best self this season and should not be underestimated by any of its opponents.

Anteater Quidditch at Next Best West | Photo Credit: Chris Rothery

The most anticipated game of the tournament is the one that will potentially be held between the Lost Boys and the Long Beach Funky Quaffles; both SoCal-based teams went undefeated in their pools at Next Best West, but the finals match was cancelled.

After the most talked about game of the season in its victory against the Los Angeles Gambits, Long Beach has been eager for the finals match against the Lost Boys that the teams were unable to have in November. Long Beach will probably look to play a dual-male beater set once again to take down yet another top-tier team. If beaters Andrew Burger and Jake Malloy can maintain bludger control and clear the lanes on offense like they did during their match against the Gambits, the team should be able to score consistently on its opponents, the quaffle being driven in by Darrell Miller or dished off for a dunk at the hoops by Jessica Ward.

However, despite the Funky Quaffles having their strongest season in the history of their program, their opponents cannot be underestimated. Even after a major hit to their roster in the loss of Alex Browne and Missy Sponagle, the Lost Boys have managed to maintain a 6-1 record over the last two tournaments they have attended, with their only loss being to the Gambits. The Funky Quaffles will have to not only gain bludger control, but also maintain their cool if they wish to match up against the Lost Boys’ defensive line, something that has caused their team to have inconsistent performances in past seasons. Lost Boys’ quaffle players Kyle Epsteen and Justin Bogart, are known to be hard hitters; if they can intimidate the Funky Quaffles from attempting to drive, something the Gambits failed to do during their Next Best West match against Long Beach, all they will have to do is intercept the pass to Ward.

Lost Boys keeper Kyle Epsteen taking down his opponent at Bat City Showcase | Photo Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography

This match will most likely be a snitch-range game unless Long Beach psyches itself out early on. In the case of a snitch-range game, the Funky Quaffles will most definitely need to maintain bludger control if they want to give their seekers any chance against Justin Fernandez, a talented seeker for the Lost Boys who will catch the snitch quickly if a beater is not on him.

If anything, Anthill Funkdown will most likely provide insight into Long Beach’s shot at a regional championship. The Funky Quaffles have proven they can take down the top team in the West, but if they cannot match up against the other top teams competing in February, they may not even get the chance to take down the two-time defending champions in a finals match.