On the third day of Kissimmee, we have a college team with dreams of its first national title, some isolated teams that were surprise qualifiers, and a regional champion who surprised many with a deep run last year and will be looking to repeat the feat.
Texas State University – San Marcos
By Carrie Soukup
Editor’s note: The author is the Volunteer Coordinator for the Texas State Quidditch Organization.
If Texas State comes to your tournament, there is a fair chance it will take home silverware, as five of its six tournaments this year have ended with a first- or second-place victory. Its only elimination this year came at Diamond Cup V at the hands of Texas Cavalry, while at Alamo Cup, Texas State went 5-0, victorious on its quest for a trophy at last. At the Southwest Regional Championship, Texas State again came in second place behind Lone Star Quidditch Club, after knocking off tournament favorites Texas Cavalry.
With these results, it is easy to see why Texas State is a favorite to go into bracket play and beyond at US Quidditch Cup 10. The team’s physical play (stylistic of the Southwest region), interlaced with its highly adaptable roster, makes it a difficult team to pin down. Texas State is both deep and well-rounded, featuring players such as chasers Jenna Bollweg, and Hannah Shaw, who have an uncanny ability to both pop up where defenders aren’t, or drive through the defense to get the quaffle through the hoop.
Defensively, Texas State’s beater line, including Ryan Nawrocki and Jackson Johnson, assures that if the team has bludger control, its opponent will have a very difficult time regaining control. Johnson in particular seems to have another gear in snitch-range games. He is one of the best beaters in the Southwest in defensive as well as offensive beating. Finally, with top-shelf seekers like Austin “Springs” LaFoy, Steven Gralinski, and Craig Garrison, Texas State boasts depth in the end-game that is rivaled by few other teams.
For Texas State, making it far past the initial bracket play is expected and the finals is not out of reach. The team has put itself in a good place to do just that in Kissimmee, Florida, and at a minimum can expect to advance to the quarterfinals.
By Kenny Stowe
As the only community team based in Tennessee, inTENNsity comprises players from the neighboring area of Cookeville and some veterans from Tennessee Technological University. Last year – its first season – inTENNsity qualified for US Quidditch Cup 9 before being knocked out in pool play. This season, the team squeaked by with a bid by defeating College of Charleston Quidditch in the final consolation game of the South Regional Championship. Although inTENNsity may have had a very inconsistent showing this year, it enters its second US Quidditch Cup with a chance for redemption.
inTENNsity’s greatest strength is its size; it boasts at least half a dozen players who probably don’t need to jump to block the middle hoop. However, it is likely inTENNsity’s largest limiting factor as the team does not tend to use its size to execute drives. inTENNsity’s offense instead plays to its height advantage by relying on shooting abilities and cross-pitch passing, which when at its best, may be inefficient. Led by standout players Joe Stephenson and Gabe Greene, inTENNsity is a very traditional team that enjoys playing the sport at a competitive level but not with a must-win attitude. Unfortunately, this may mean that the team will struggle if it is pitted against others who will do anything to grab a victory. The determining factor to this team’s success will be its commitment to the Cup and utilizing its resources. If this squad can manage to adapt to the styles of modern quidditch and understand how to employ its assets, it might be able to avenge itself and reach the play-in round of the bracket. More likely, inTENNsity will find itself eliminated on Day One.
By Jaxon Matheny
After a successful 2015-16 campaign filled with senior leadership and capped by a Midwest Regional title, Minnesota Quidditch was expected to take a step backward this season. The Gophers had other plans. In spite of starting the season with only five players with more than a year of experience on the roster, Minnesota has been playing as well as ever.
“One of the biggest contributions to our success this year has been the leadership we’ve been getting out of our second-year players,” said captain and coach Paul Dvoracek. “Peter Nieman and Joe Reis really help anchor our quaffle and beater games, respectively, and the coaching and leadership they’ve provided has been phenomenal.”
Despite only having two games outside of the Midwest, the Gophers have wins over Mizzou, Lake Erie Elite, and two over TC FROST that prove this is not a team to take lightly. On pitch, Minnesota plays an intelligent brand of quidditch. Dvoracek and Cole Wensman lead a strong quaffle attack when firing on all cylinders. Minnesota loves to work the quaffle around quickly, often leading to high-percentage shots by chasers Karlee Onstad and Bridget Guillen. On defense, the Gophers have limited their use of the famous Minnesota Zone, favoring physical play and group tackling instead. Combined with the smart beating of Reis, Alexa Temme, and company, it becomes quite a challenge to score on this team. The seeking is anchored by Reis and Wensman, and is characterized by constantly pressuring the snitch runner and exploiting the mistakes they eventually make. While this is a much different Minnesota team than what US quidditch teams may be used to, do not assume the Gophers to be a weaker team for it. Minnesota could attain a bracket spot and possibly an extra bid for its region.
By Chris Dewing
Cal Quidditch is a talented college team that is still growing in experience. After languishing in the cellar of the West region, Cal has experienced a renaissance over the past two years and has transformed into a solid and competitive team. Led by keeper Ryan Pfenning, last year’s captain Jake Stanton, and chaser Maddi Erdall, the team is full of consistent performers and is built to succeed over long two-day tournaments with a deep roster – though the quality of opposition at US Quidditch Cup 10 presents a steeper challenge.
While successful against Northern California Quidditch Conference opposition, it has struggled against the wider West region over the past two years. Each time an underwhelming performance on Day One was followed up with turnaround victories on Day Two to secure a bid to US Quidditch Cup 10. Whether Cal can avoid a similar slow start in Florida will rely on the play of Pfenning. As the team’s primary offensive point and a key component on defense, when he is able to drive and successfully score, Cal can often put even quality opposition out of snitch range. To qualify for bracket play, Cal will need to get more offense out of its behind hoops play and avoid frequent trips to the penalty box that are a constant feature of its play. An inconsistent seeking game presents a separate challenge that its high-flying offense will seek to cover over. Cal is certainly a tenacious team, but qualifying for bracket would be an accomplishment and any further victories would be exceeding expectations.
Boise State Abraxans
By Cameron VomBaur
After many of the stars of Boise State’s surprising Elite Eight run at US Quidditch Cup 9 have moved on, one might assume Boise would be incapable of making similar noise at the national level this year. Without Casey Thompson, Joel Johnson, and Team USA keeper and current member of Quidditch Club Boston Stew Driflot, Boise was never going to be the same team this season as it was during the 2015-16 season. In addition, Bryan Bixler, captain and longtime veteran presence, is out with a torn patellar tendon, leaving the Abraxans with only four players who made the trip to Columbia, South Carolina last year in Matt McCracken, Jessie Gibson, Nick Vandy, and younger brother Brenden Bixler. However, these new-look Abraxans have enough potential to manage another Cinderella tournament. While they have only played against two other nationally-qualifying teams (Utah State Quidditch Club five times, going 3-2; and Crimson Elite, going 2-1), the Abraxans have not ended a game having been put out of range all season.
Besides coach/captain Kevin Kelley, who captained the Abraxans’ B team (the Boise State Thestrals) last year, the rest of Boise’s modestly-sized roster is a crop of very physical rookies. It is largely the play of these rookies that has allowed Boise to impose its smashmouth style, whether through fast breaks from Skeeter Thomas, quick beating from Dylan Schilling, bruising drives from Spencer Adams, or tight defensive coverage and highly effective screen-setting from Estefani De La Rosa. The biggest key to Boise’s success, however, has been the emergence of McCracken as a four-position superstar, after a 2015-16 season that saw him only practice for one week before attending US Quidditch Cup 9 in a supplemental chasing role. While he starts every game as a beater, it is his dominance as a scorer and seeker that has been crucial to Boise’s 8-3 SWIM record; many games hinged on a McCracken burst at chaser to pull the game back in range before he caught the snitch. Like the rest of the Abraxans, his relentlessly aggressive play is prone to card; however, even without the luxury of a Pot One seeding, if Boise can manage to stay disciplined and healthy with a small roster, another impressive showing could be in store for the three-time Northwest regional champions.