By Carly Jordan and TJ Goaley
Teams around the Southwest are preparing for the Southwest Regional Championship on Feb. 18-19 in College Station, Texas. Over the past several years, many Southwest teams have consistently made it to the Sweet 16 at US Quidditch Cup, not to mention all nine teams that qualified from the Southwest also qualified for bracket play at US Quidditch Cup last year, so all eyes will be on this tournament. Soon 21 Southwest teams will be competing for 12 bids for US Quidditch Cup 10, but certain key players may have what it takes to help push their teams to the top.
Seven Players to Watch:
1. Joshua Andrews — Texas Cavalry
This is Andrews’ first year on Texas Cavalry after playing on the University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) team. Andrews is easily one of the most talented seekers in the Southwest and has been a main contributor to Cavalry’s 21-1 season. Andrews has shown what a formidable keeper and chaser he can be, and his stature makes him an intimidating force. It’s unusual to see a seeker with as much strength and height as Andrews, but obviously it’s working out for him and his team.
2. Katherine Hayworth — SHSU Quidditch
Hayworth has come to be one of SHSU’s leading chasers in just her first year of playing. According to Sam Houston’s captain, TJ Goaley, Hayworth is able to chase just as well as anyone in the sport, but where she really shines is tackling. Hayworth can match up with just about anyone, and her ability to easily take out chasers on the opposing team has really helped Sam Houston’s defense this season.
3. Mikaela Gonzalez — UTSA
This is Gonzalez’s rookie season and she’s already proven herself to be a formidable beater for UTSA. UTSA captains say that Gonzalez has picked up the beating game faster than most new beaters, which is saying something since there is not really any other sport that can prepare you for beating. Gonzalez’s sheer athleticism on the pitch is one that cannot be ignored.
4. Eddie Molina — Texas Quidditch (UT)
Molina has proven himself to be one of the best beaters in the Southwest this season. It is only his second year playing, but his skill level has developed to that of a well-seasoned veteran in just the past year. Molina really shines when the snitch is on pitch, and he is a huge contributing factor to UT’s number of snitch pulls this season by its stellar seeker lineup of Joey Castellano, David Huber, and Randy Lott, all of whom are underclassmen. Whether during the main game play or while the snitch is on the pitch, Molina can be a big influence on a match.
5. Brittany Laurent — Gulf Coast Gumbeaux
One of Gumbeaux’s newest players, and one of the reasons that its beating game has stepped up this season, Laurent has an excellent combination of speed, aggressiveness, and talent. While there are quite a few noteworthy beaters on Gumbeaux, her play has stood out and allowed Gumbeaux to keep up with even the best beating lineups.
6. TJ Martinez— Texas State University – San Marcos
Martinez is one of the low key, offensive and defensive producers who has stepped up on Texas State this season. He has the talent to be considered one of the best chasers in the country and often volunteers to be the guard for the opposing team’s best quaffle players. On top of his quickness and his innate ability to practically score at will, his experience allows him to know the right thing to do in almost any situation.
7. Ryan Bobbitt — The Silver Phoenix
While the Silver Phoenix is a relatively young and inexperienced team, Bobbitt is one of the veteran pillars on its squad. He has developed his game as a beater over the past few years and is now a key player in Silver’s game play. He is a smart, athletic player who can catch just about any ball thrown his way, which has allowed Silver to retain bludger control for long periods of time in close games. This, paired with his athleticism, has become a huge part of Silver’s defense and snitch play.
Five Southwest Storylines
1. Texas vs. Cavalry
The entire tournament stopped just to watch Texas Quidditch and Texas Cavalry play each other at Lone Star Invitational in December 2016, and these two teams could easily play each other in the finals at US Quidditch Cup 10. While both teams are competitive and will do what it takes to win, many players on Cavalry are ex-Texas players, creating a strange dynamic when the two face off. Both of these teams had an earlier exit from bracket play at US Quidditch Cup 9 than was expected of them. If the two meet this weekend, it will likely be in the semifinals or the finals.
2. Community Teams Debate
There are valid points on both sides of the debate as to why community teams should be allowed to play in the same league as collegiate teams, but the controversy remains that many community teams in the Southwest are just too good. It is not just Cavalry. Lone Star Quidditch Club’s (LSQC) finals appearance at Diamond Cup V firmly announced its return to the top of the region. Still, teams like UT, Texas State, and Texas A&M have regained the form that makes them among the top programs. Even though many of the community teams in the Southwest have shown their dominance, the top college teams have been able to put themselves in positions to win games against them. Most recently, at Diamond Cup, Texas State and UT both were tied or in range of Cavalry and Lone Star (respectively) when the snitch was on pitch. While the community teams are strong, there are teams that have the potential to beat them in the Southwest.
3. Three Teams Outside The Top-Tier to Watch
Oklahoma State University (OKSU) has been one of the more consistent mid-tier teams this season with a 10-6 record and wins against similarly-tiered programs such as Baylor University and SHSU. Despite a somewhat disappointing display at Diamond Cup, Oklahoma State is unlikely to repeat that performance this weekend. Its beater presence has diminished, but its chasers’ ability to shoot and drive at will makes up for that. While it was the last team to pick up a spot for US Quidditch Cup 9 last year, it’ll probably snag one a lot earlier this year.
Texas Tech Quidditch was certainly a team to watch this season. Tech has been very close to winning games against top-tier teams like Texas Quidditch and Texas State, and was tied with Cavalry before a snitch grab earlier in the season. That, along with its great chemistry, talent, and athleticism, makes Tech a team that can easily compete with any top-tier team.
Gulf Coast Gumbeaux has really raised the bar this year. Going into the Southwest Regional Championship, the team is 10-4, with its losses coming exclusively from very top-tier teams (UT, Texas State, and the Los Angeles Gambits). The only time it was out of range in those losses was in its 170*-60 loss to Texas State. Every aspect of its game looks more complete and solid than last year, making it a mid-tier team no one should underestimate this season, and possibly a candidate to replace one of the top four teams in the Southwest.
4. UTSA and Baylor: chance for redemption
No one is likely to forget the insanity that was the 2016 Southwest Regional Championship. With only nine bids for US Quidditch Cup 9 last season, everyone knew there would be some deserving teams that would miss out, but many were shocked when they heard it was Baylor and UTSA. This year will be their chance to redeem themselves. Both teams seem to have been able to reinforce their rosters with added athleticism and talent. Baylor and UTSA will have a much better chance of getting a bid this year, though, since three additional bids opened up, giving 12 teams a chance to qualify. But unless both teams can up their game and not be overconfident, there is a chance they might both find themselves back at Consolation Cup.
5. Battle of the B-Teams
San Marcos Sharknados (7-18), DeathRow Quidditch (0-11) , Austin Quidditch (AQ) (1-14), and the Silver Phoenix (8-8): four B-teams that will be fighting for a spot at US Quidditch Cup 10. Twelve bids is more than enough room to fit a few B teams. All of these teams’ A teams have a decent chance to make it to US Quidditch Cup 10, so these four will be looking to make their schools proud. The Silver Phoenix is certainly the favorite to get a US Quidditch Cup bid this year. The team has proved that it can play at a high level when it needs to, and if it can kick its snitch game up a few notches, Silver will be a fierce competitor at the regional championship. Next is a toss up between Austin Quidditch and the Sharknados. The Sharknados’ record against teams at their level is 4-0, and they have a tendency to play close games against these teams and then pull away at the end. That being said, AQ has the talent and physicality to beat anyone at or even near its level. It is unlikely that we will see DeathRow at US Quidditch Cup 10. The team will have the manpower available to propel itself at the end of its games, unlike the past where it attended with very few players. However, it is unlikely that DeathRow will be able to threaten anyone outside of the lower tier of the Southwest.
Three Burning Questions
1. Will we see the same unexpectedness that we saw at last year’s regional championship?
Bids at the regional championship will be anyone’s game if the same unexpectedness occurs this year as it did last year. SHSU beating consecutive three-time national champions Texas was the icing on the cake, but Texas Tech beat Texas State and teams like the University of Arkansas Quidditch Club, Baylor, and UTSA, who are usually competitors in the region, didn’t even get a bid to US Quidditch Cup. Many upsets occurred and it wouldn’t be very surprising if there were many this year as well. The Southwest has a lot of teams that boast deep and talented rosters.
2. Who has the best chance to end Cavalry’s reign?
Cavalry has had a good run this season, but many of the Southwest’s top-tier teams have come close to beating it. The teams with the best shot are Texas State and Lone Star. Both were tied or just ahead of Cavalry when the snitch was pulled. Both teams have a solid seeking corps and anytime they are put into that position they have a good chance to win. If Cavalry sees too many close games like that against teams with elite seekers, it may lose before the finals.
3. Which teams will get the 12 bids for US Quidditch Cup 10?
LSQC, Texas, Texas State, Cavalry, Texas A&M, and Texas Tech have a very good chance of getting a bid. The Southwest has three more bids this time around, which is going to significantly help other teams who could compete at US Quidditch Cup but maybe do not do as well against other top-tier teams in the Southwest. Teams with a decent shot of getting a bid are UTSA, SHSU, Tech, and OKSU. This leaves two US Quidditch Cup bids for the remaining 10 teams. The four who have the best shot of getting one of these bids will probably be the Sharknados, Austin Quidditch, the Silver Phoenix, or Baylor. This season, three of these teams have tended to win games against other teams of the same level, but if Austin Quidditch can give its A-game, it has the potential to surprise a lot of higher-tier teams. At the end of the day though, these bids could go to any team that wants them badly enough.
One Regional Champion
This prediction is not exactly surprising, as Cavalry has won every tournament it has competed in this season. It is 21-1, and playing at a very high level. While there are a few teams that can no doubt challenge Cavalry toward the semifinals and finals of the regional championship, it is without a doubt the best bet to win.