On the fourth day of Kissimmee, we have a community team looking to maintain last year’s strong showing, two regional champions looking to make national claims, a regional transplant fighting for pride for both its home and adopted region, and a college team with a historic pedigree making its long awaited return to the national stage.
The Southern Storm
By Kenny Stowe
The Southern Storm (SS) is a community team based in the Carolinas that began its legacy attracting players from three different schools – namely Coastal Carolina University, Western Carolina University, and Winthrop University – who wished to pursue quidditch at a competitive level. Fast forward to the present day, and no one can say SS has not accomplished its goal to qualify once more. SS entered the scene three years ago, has qualified to each of the US Quidditch Cups since, and was the South Regional Championship runner-up last year. This year, SS has emerged to the national stage with prominent wins against inTENNsity and Gainesville Siege, despite a 2017 regional championship shortcoming in the quarterfinals.
The Griffins have evolved both physically and mentally over the last year. Their greatest strength is their incredible depth at the beating position, anchored by Darbi Harriman and Ginny Ostgaard. The Storm’s chasing game, led by Michael Linares and Jalann Little, is another story. They can produce at times but lack disciplined defense that can consistently stop a drive. SS prides itself on handling adversity in game situations by demonstrating persistence and hopefulness, which can potentially be its secret weapon. Captain Joey Galtelli highlights the importance of teamwork that SS uses to come back by encouraging a calm atmosphere on the sidelines and stressing the importance of learning from past games. If this team is to make bracket play, the crucial element to success will be its leadership’s ability to rally a squad in a national environment where every game is expected to be close. This team has what it takes to make Day Two, but won’t go much further than an initial bracket appearance, if it can make it that far.
Lone Star Quidditch Club
By Carrie Soukup
Look at Lone Star’s roster and familiar names pop out: Stevie Bell, Becca DuPont, and Kody Marshall. With six veterans of Team USA and multiple national champions in its ranks, the talent of Lone Star Quidditch Club (LSQC) is undeniable. Unlike past years, however, this year’s ascendance was not always predetermined. Entering the Southwest Regional Championship with just a 10-9 record, the slow assembly of this year’s LSQC roster put its continued dominance in doubt for the first time since it was founded by veterans of Texas Quidditch’s World Cup VI triumph; by capturing a regional championship medal, it has put all of these questions to bed. That victory makes Lone Star one of the clear favorites entering US Quidditch Cup 10, where some of the team’s University of Texas at Austin alums will look to recapture the glory they once earned in Kissimmee, Florida four years ago.
Lone Star has always been a program bursting with talent, but in previous years, most of that was concentrated in the quaffle game. While the talents of Stevie Bell, Becca DuPont, Kody Marshall, Eric Reyes, and Mathieu Gregoire are still present, this year’s Lone Star team stands out with two newcomers whose names you may recognize: Tyler Walker and Michael Duquette. More than just providing elite beating, the arrival of these two does wonders for LSQC’s snitch game. At this point in the sport, it is rare to see top-tier teams meet in a game that ends out of snitch range, and in Duquette, LSQC has arguably the best snitch-game beater in the world. Jonathan Ruland and Josh Carroll will likely be the X factors for Lone Star in Kissimmee. Both have developed over the years into top-tier seekers, and Lone Star’s success will likely turn on how many grabs they can make, along with Reyes, Bell, and the team’s numerous other seeking options. Lone Star is all but assured a deep run in the tournament, but the question is how far; a national title is a possibility, while a quarterfinal run seems all but assured.
Arizona State University
By David Sager
As if being 20-0 during the regular season is not impressive enough, Arizona State University (ASU) also won USQ’s West Regional Championship, going 8-0 over both days and coming back to beat the Los Angeles Gambits 270*-220 in the championship game. This is an extremely talented team with depth in its numbers, especially with its beating corps led by Ryan McGonagle, Caleb Ragatz, and Vicky Sanford. Even without bludger control, ASU’s beaters can shut down an offense with relative ease. During important games, ASU beaters get caught up in a firestorm that has seemingly no organization; however, this works in its favor. They have great aim, sticky hands for catching, and impressive dodging skills. And while the ASU beaters duke it out, its chasers never stop. ASU relies on the physicality of keeper Dylan Bryant to roll through defenses and put up a wall on opposing offensive drives. ASU’s biggest threat, again, comes with its depth. Each of its 21 players is talented and physical, and they all work as a cohesive unit. As long as the team can keep the momentum on its side throughout the tournament, ASU could reach the finals.
One thing that ASU struggled with at the regional championship was its seeking game. During the semifinal game against the Lost Boys and during the final against the Los Angeles Gambits, ASU seekers, most notably Jarrod Bailey, had multiple opportunities and potential snitch grabs, but they kept getting called back. The persistence and skill of its seekers led to ASU eventually catching the snitches and securing the trophy, and ASU will want to prove that this was not a fluke with a deep bracket run at US Quidditch Cup.
Utah State Quidditch Club
By Cameron VomBaur
Editor’s Note: The author is a captain of Utah State Quidditch Club
Utah State Quidditch Club (USQC) will be attending US Quidditch Cup 10 following a very active season that saw the team compete in 26 games at seven tournaments including the Northwest Regional Championship, despite relative geographic isolation in northern Utah. Last year’s US Quidditch Cup squad had five non-rookies, each in their sophomore season; this year’s holds a whopping seven, including three in their third year. However, USQC will again look to bring a very small roster, with many rookies unable to make the trip to Florida.
Utah State’s strength lies primarily in its beating. Star captain Paul Davis and veteran stalwart Brandon Handy lead a rookie-laden beater corps, including Hadley Kirk, the starter of choice for a female beating rotation that has thinned out significantly since the fall semester. Having played with subpar offensive quaffle talent in the past, Davis and Handy have mastered the ability to aggressively carve out a driving lane for keepers Garrett Elmy and Cameron VomBaur to run a simple drive-and-dish offense. However, while USQC does resort to this simple offense on occasion, its quaffle players have developed a stronger passing offense that allows successful possessions without the potential to overextend its beaters and allow quickly-returned fast-break goals. After a summer playing in Major League Quidditch for the Salt Lake City Hive, VomBaur, Devon Anderson, Sierra Whipple-Padgen, and Madison Ransom have honed their chemistry and rarely commit costly turnovers when sharing the pitch. This season, Davis has emerged as a somewhat capable seeker, going 4-7 in SWIM games he played in as part of the team’s 5-9 overall SWIM record. While the numbers don’t indicate a stellar snitch-on-pitch game, it certainly paints a better picture than last year’s US Quidditch Cup 9 roster, which saw zero players that had ever caught a snitch. While USQC’s inability to close many games may make it vulnerable to an upset from a good team seeded below it, USQC’s ability to keep from being blown out (with only one out-of-range loss on the season, to the Los Angeles Gambits) and Davis’ potential for clutch grabs means that USQC may earn its first-ever opportunity at bracket play.
Marquette University Quidditch
By Jaxon Matheny
In the midst of injuries, constant player turnover, and even a curse, Marquette Quidditch has been defying the odds this season and now looks to bring its underdog attitude to US Quidditch Cup 10 and prove that the Golden Eagles are a force to be reckoned with. Amidst all the turmoil Marquette has faced this season, its leadership has glued this team into an extremely close unit. Wins against the Ball State Cardinals, Ohio State Quidditch, and Minnesota Quidditch, along with an incredible victory in an epic game against TC FROST for the final Midwest bid to Florida, shows the potential this team has when at full strength. While it has lost various players to graduation and study abroad, Marquette has baptized its new players by fire with many games against top-tier opponents this spring. This process has led to some lumps taken this semester, but the experience gained will be invaluable come April.
Marquette’s success begins with its quaffle game. The Golden Eagles have a nice blend of size and speed when attacking the hoops. Nathan Digmann, however, is the cornerstone to the offense running smoothly. Long, fast, and extremely athletic, Digmann has an exceptional ability to know when to drive in and when to dish to an open option. He makes everyone around him better and can play every position at an elite level. With excellent supporting pieces in Brandon Kwak, Nathan Batty, Matthew Angel, and Melissa Kurtzweil, Marquette has the potential to score many points very quickly. The Eagles’ beating game tends to be conservative and defensive. Beater captains Scott Crawford and Cammy Lang lead a unit that forces other teams to work hard for both quaffle points and bludger control. While still a work in progress, Jackson Faerber and Marquette’s other seekers do have the size and athleticism to exploit mistakes and finish games. There is no doubt that Marquette has a mountain to climb in order to accomplish success at US Quidditch Cup 10. If its pool takes the team lightly, do not be surprised to see Marquette squeak into Day Two.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article said that Utah State competed in the West Regional Championship and listed Marquette’s Cammy Lang as a chaser.