West Regional Championship Preview: College Edition

By Elizabeth Barcelos and Ryan Smythe

Twelve teams enter, five teams leave with a guaranteed spot at nationals. We’ve broken down the college competitors into four tiers based on how likely we think they are to end up in Texas for US Cup 11. We’ll be tackling the community side later on this week, but for now, get ready for a cram session on the West Regional team contenders to see where everyone will end up after this weekend.

The Championship Contenders

The last time ASU and UCLA faced off in an official game was back in 2015. They played at Chandra College Cup,where ASU won the first game of the day 100*-70 before UCLA took home the trophy with a 180*-80 victory in the finals. Photo Credit: Phoebe VanGelder

These teams are the cream of the crop on the college side of the weekend. The only thing that will stop these programs from meeting in the finals is if they meet in the semi-finals. It will take a major upset to take the gold medal away from either of these teams.

Arizona State University

Why they’ll win regionals: ASU returns to regionals as the reigning champs after beating the Los Angeles Gambits out of range last year. They sport the strongest beating crew on the collegiate side of the bracket, and will have both Vicky Sanford and Caleb Ragatz back in the lineup after missing both for the entirety/part of Heroes vs. Villains. Dylan Bryant, who went down in the very first game at HvV, is also back, instantly turning ASU’s already good quaffle game into a potentially unstoppable force.

Why they won’t: The main thing standing in between ASU and a championship trophy is the risk of re-injury. With Sanford, Ragatz, and Bryant coming back from thumb, head, and knee injuries respectively, a bad hit could affect the team’s chances, but even that may not be enough to derail this team.

University of California, Los Angeles

Why they’ll win regionals: This team just beat the Silicon Valley Skrewts at Anthill Smackdown III in convincing fashion, using a deep and talented roster including established MLQ stars like the San Francisco Argonauts’ Jacob Metevia and the Los Angeles Guardians’ Ryan Harris along with lesser-known (for now) blood like Elizabeth Ng and Justin Van Ligten. UCLA has a storied history as one of the most successful college programs in USQ history, and if everything breaks right they could find themselves going back to LA with a new set of hardware.

Why they won’t: This is still a young team, and while they showed poise in the finals of Smackdown facing the Skrewts who beat them earlier in the day, there’s no telling what will happen in what would likely be the highest pressure game of their careers. If they end up facing ASU, a team filled with multi-year veterans used to making deep runs in tournaments, that experience gap could force UCLA towards a silver medal.

The Qualification Lock

If Cal thinks they can win this tournament with their eyes shut, they have another thing coming. Photo credit: Elizabeth Barcelos

This expansive tier is filled with teams who could potentially push for an upset of one of the top contenders, but will more likely fight for bronze and walk away with a spot to play at Nationals in April.

Cal Quidditch

Why they’ll qualify: Ignore their record; the schedule they played this year was a heroic effort. This weekend is the easiest major tournament they’ll play in all year.

How they could make it into the finals: Cal beat UCLA in overtime once before at Golden Bear Invitational, so why not again? They have an easier shot of winning the pool than they would against ASU, and that gives them an easy route to the final.

Why they won’t be in the final: On the other hand, a small Spartan roster also dragged the Golden Bears into overtime. If Ryan Pfenning gets carded out or injured, Cal loses their main offensive weapon. ASU and UCLA are far more well rounded.

The Fight for the Final Bids

Can the Anteaters make another Cinderella run and secure a spot at Nationals, or will there be a new belle of the ball? Photo credit: Chris Rothery

The drama isn’t isolated to the finals – odds are, the most exciting games will take place among the teams fighting for the fourth and fifth guaranteed bids for Nationals. These are the teams we think will be duking it out for that peace of mind.

Utah State Quidditch Club

Why they’ll qualify: After a slow start in 2017, they ended the regular season by going 3-2 at Tempe Brawl, including two wins over poolmates NAU. If Utah State can take care of business against the Narwhals again, then they’ll finish at least second in the pool and have an easier path through the bracket.

Why they won’t: After facing a very familiar pool, not knowing much about their possible California opponents may cause them to stumble against Anteater Quidditch or San Jose State in the bracket.

Chance for an at large bid: Solid. Being the #43 college team in the country when the top 60 get invites put them into driver’s seat. Only a catastrophic run at regionals could knock them out of contention.

Northern Arizona University Narwhals

Why they’ll qualify: Dominant, aggressive beater play led by captain Adam Beller will frustrate inexperienced opponents. While they may have lost to poolmates Utah State twice at Tempe Brawl, both were close games and the Narwhals have had the time to learn from their mistakes and prepare for their revenge. With a second place spot in their pool, NAU can wreak havok on the bracket.

Why they won’t: Despite a strong start to the season at Crimson Cup, they’ve flagged since. Poolmates ASU and Utah State handled them easily at Tempe Brawl, which means they may be facing a hard path to the final bid again if they take third or fourth.

Chance for an at large bid: Extremely likely. As of publication, they’re #3 college team in the west and #13 overall per the USQ standings. Even if they stumble at regionals, they can still put away lower ranked opponents easily and secure the record they need for an at large bid.

San Jose State University Spartan Quidditch

Why they’ll qualify: You may not know most of their names, but this squad is comprised of veteran juniors and seniors (supported by promising rookies like Maxine Gutierrez and Aron Cortez) hungry to make it to the national stage before graduating. With regionals on their home turf, there’s no reason for their roster problems to hold them back.

Why they won’t: And yet they only brought 12 players to Lucien Weiss Invitational, which was less than 10 miles from campus. Depending on Hugo “I caught Gabe Garcez and you didn’t” Quiroz to catch every snitch all weekend is a big ask.

Chance for an at large bid: Good. As of publication, they’re the #5 college team in the West and #41 overall. Even if they have roster issues again, they’ve played well enough while shorthanded to keep their record up to at large standards.

Anteater Quidditch

Why they’ll qualify: Anteater Quidditch lost to a short-rostered SJSU at Anthill Smackdown III, who they beat earlier in the year at Lucien Weiss Invitational when SJSU had a slightly more complete roster, so the winner of this final bid could also be the tiebreaker for these two teams. The 2017 squad managed to beat NAU last year, but this team has a lot to prove now that Austin Sharp moved to the Northwest. However, if Phillip Arroyo Long can translate his skill of snapping clipboards to catching snitches, Anteaters could pull out a clutch win or two.

Why they won’t: There’s a good chance that Anteater Quidditch is the youngest team attending regionals. While there’s a lot of talent on this roster, it’s very raw and could buckle under the two days of games against increasingly difficult opponents.

Chance for an at large bid: On the bubble. If they have an impressive performance at regionals and other teams in the hunt stumble, Cinderella may make it back to the ball. As of publication, they’re the #7 college team in the West.

We’re just here so we don’t get fined

Will playing so close to home give Stanford enough of an edge to push its way to the top of this pack? Photo credit: Elizabeth Barcelos Photography

Nothing in sports is guaranteed, but these are the teams on the outside of the bubble looking in. Hopefully the experience gained playing against and watching the rest of the West will pay off if any of these programs choose to compete at Consolation Cup or Best Coast Classic.

Stanford Quidditch

Their marquee win this year was a snitch range win over Anteater Quidditch at the Lucien Weiss Invitational in December. It’s also their only win, and they lost to the Wizards of Westwood that day on the snitch grab as well. They’re rebuilding… which is what we have been saying since David Saltzman and Hailey Clonts left.

Will they make bracket? They’re more experienced than SDQ and WoW, but lack numbers and veteran leadership. Beating SDQ and winning the revenge match against Wizards is their only way in.

Utah Raptors Quidditch

Cut off from Crimson, this squad is still figuring out who they are. With just two official tournaments under their belt (in addition to Crimson Cup, where they competed unofficially), they are still unseasoned and in need of experience.

Will they make bracket? Their best chance of any win at all is squeaking one out against Arizona.

Wizards of Westwood

Their desire to play any opponent at any time bodes well for their improvement. Simon Zeiger showed off some driving ability during Anthill Smackdown III, and could keep this team in range if he can keep up momentum throughout regionals.

Will they make bracket: Sofia de la Vega has the know-how to coach them into a win over Stanford, so they may very well join their A-team in bracket play.

Sun Devil Quidditch

As the only non-Cali team in their pool, they’re about to gain a ton of great experience. While they have wins against Zona and Utah Raptors under their belts, they won’t be facing them this weekend.

Will they make bracket? Only as volunteers.

University of Arizona Quidditch

With only 8 players rostered for regionals, Zona’s biggest priority may very well be staying healthy.

Will they make bracket? Unlikely. If anything, they’re the team most likely to forfeit.

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