By Ben Strauss and Tyler Walker
In just the first year under the new circuit system for USQ club teams, the landscape is shifting to an increased significance in individually run high profile tournaments compared to Regional Championships. More and more tournaments like Heroes vs Villains and Crescent City are popping up to offer club teams opportunities to exclusively play other club teams.
What sets Hoot & Howdy apart from other club tournaments is the attendees. The two invitationals mentioned above are generally reserved for teams who consistently sit in The Eighth Man’s Media Rankings. They are either well-established teams with big wins throughout the programs’ histories, or in cases like the Texas Hill Country or the Diablos, they have so much “star power” to put them into the National title conversation before the season starts. There isn’t really anything at stake at these high profile tournaments as all of the attending teams are assumed to receive an at-large bid to Nationals anyway. That makes these tournaments rather boring in terms of their outcomes.
Unlike the aforementioned tournaments, Hoot & Howdy brings together seven teams outside of the USQ top ten, spread across four regions (MA, NE, MW, S.) Each team comes in looking to prove their mettle against new opponents with an auto-bid to Nationals on the line. Many of these teams are already on the cusp for an at large bid, weighing the importance of this tournament with a true March Madness feel. Every game played is just as important as the next for the future of each team’s season. Will a team be able to bump up or lock down their at-large status, securing their spot at USQ Nationals and scare the higher pot teams a la UMBC over Virginia in 2018? Can the winner of the tournament turn their luck into a Cinderella run at Nationals like UCONN 2011? We will just have to wait and find out.
Let’s explore each of the seven teams attending Hoot & Howdy Brawl and why they should be on your radar with this new tournament presented by first-year teams Space Cowboys Quidditch and New York Quidditch Club (aka the New Kids on the Block). You can see the full schedule here.
Philadelphia Freedom Quidditch Club
USQ Ranking: 12 – (10 Wins – 6 Losses)
The first team in the rankings is Philadelphia Freedom. The team is only in their sophomore season and has largely improved from last year. Already matching their win total from last season, in five fewer games. Philadelphia is looking forward to what they call their “most competitive tournament of the season.” This competition excites them though. Like most teams attending, Philly has played mostly in-region only having played two games against non-Mid-Atlantic opponents.
One of those games was a 190*-100 win over New York Quidditch Club (Nocturns) in early October. Neither team was able to gain a large lead until SOP when Philadelphia’s chasing depth was put on display and edged the Nocturns out of range. In the quaffle game, Philadelphia will look to the likes of Jonyull Kosinski and Lexi Raffa to close out teams at the end of games. At beater, “Sarah Ashworth and Caitie Probst have an amazing ability to work fluidly with any beater partner, even coming together to hold things down from time to time,” said a Philadelphia Freedom representative.
This weekend is their opportunity to branch out and prove they can compete outside of their region. With a big weekend, Freedom could easily move up a pot, easing up their burden in West Virginia.
USQ Ranking: 14 – (5-4)
Carnage comes in as the biggest mystery of the tournament. They are the only South team represented, and the only team here to not face another attending team this season. They have played the fewest games against club teams with their only club game ending in a 130*-30 loss to Terminus in September. In their second season, Carnage is in a great position to attend their second Nationals. Their main core of players have a ton of chemistry together and the team is “willing to go to war with each other.”
Carnage’s offense begins with their keeper Ebli De La Rosa Jr., a “freak athlete” who originally played for Florida Gulf Coast. This weekend he will look to lead his team past a gauntlet of club teams. Rosa is best when able to get out into transition but also runs a half-court set that keeps defenses guessing whether he will make a drive at a moment’s notice or find a teammate for an assist. If the team starts with Rosa it ends with their Seeker, Guntis Rutins. With Rutins, all Carnage really needs to do is keep games in range. As coach Kelby Brooks says, “[Rutins] is a mountain of a man. He overpowers snitches and catches quickly if he can get them within range.”
Carnage comes into the tournament with the fewest official games played. This means this tournament could shoot them up or down the standings more than the rest of the field. A good weekend could push them into a pool with a majority of winnable games, while a poor showing could easily land them looking up at three or four teams above them.
Space Cowboys Quidditch
USQ Ranking: 16 – (9-6)
The inaugural season for Space Cowboys Quidditch brings together a ragtag group of Appalachian State University grads and friends from the surrounding southeastern states. After starting the season 1-4 – the one win coming against TCQC 170-160* in OT – Space Cowboys has put together an 8-2 run, the only losses coming against DCQC and UMD in mid-October. Don’t let that recent record fool you – many of their wins this season have come in snitch range games, during which SCB is undefeated, mostly due to the stellar play of beater and seeker Devin Klasic. He has become a foundational member of the team with beating and seeking performances that one could call dominant (He even has his own fan page).
Other players to watch out for are Maggie Hancock and Alyssa Hayes. Hancock has some of the best arms in quidditch and can make nearly any beat and catch on the field. Hayes has a knack for finding openings slicing open defenses and is sure for at least one goal a game. We will see if they can use their current momentum to win the final auto-bid to nationals. A good showing from SCB may push them into some of the upper echelons of USQ rankings, but if the games don’t go SCB ways, they could plummet out of the top 24 club teams.
Chicago United Quidditch Club
USQ Ranking 17 – (8-4)
To say that Chicago United are in the middle of their breakout season would be an understatement. United formed in 2016, but have struggled to compete until this season. The program has won more games this season than all their previous seasons combined, and to cap it all off with a trip to Nationals would complete a true glo-up for the season.
The success of the season first goes to the combined efforts of captains Scott Rein and Dany Yaacoub. Each put a lot of effort into Chicago United, but also into the sport in the area. As Hannah Mueller says, “[Rein and Yaacoub] have spent so much time, effort, and money volunteering, traveling and inspiring the next generation of quidditch players. Dany not only is one of our co-captains but also spends his free time coaching the Illini Ridgebacks. Scott spends his time working on youth programs of Chicago, and promoting quidditch anyway he can. He has led the charge in multiple youth programs across the city of Chicago. On the field, they’re both powerhouse players and leaders both on and off the field.” Carolyn Quick is another player who has been crucial to the team’s success this year. “Just like her namesake, she’s a fast player and quick thinker on the field. She’s a force to be reckoned with and has grown so much as a player since her time with Indy Intensity this summer,” says Mueller.
New York Quidditch Club
USQ Ranking 18 – (9-5)
Nocturns – the nickname of New York Quidditch Club – created its name out of two locations. The first, Knockturn Alley, a famous shopping area for young witches and wizards in the Harry Potter series, and the second, New York City, which never sleeps. This first-year team has played nine of their 14 games against competitors from New York City. The team is composed of New York players who have played in other college and club teams in-region, and out-of-region and brand new first-year players to the sport. With minimal team chemistry coming into the season, they made a point to provide as many local opportunities to play as possible.
The Nocturns have had mixed success this season. Teams like the Atlantic Dragons (130*-110 Nocturns in the most recent match) or Salisbury (160*-80 Nocturns in October) have kept them in snitch range throughout the season. In their most exciting game to date, the team was a snitch catch away from beating Revolution Quidditch at Northeast Regionals, the No. 5 team in the country, with a final score of 120*-70. That game was led by beater Suwaiba “Su” Afonja. Su consistently sets the tone for the Nocturns, being able to work with any partner on the team and win one-on-one beater battles with her ability to catch, dodge or make a timely beat. Off the pitch, Su is a constant source of positive energy that ignites the teams’ camaraderie and sportsmanship.
Nocturns sit right on the edge of the lowest pot. This team has a lot of potential, and this weekend will be a good litmus test for how well their Nationals could go. A big weekend solidifies their spot outside of the cellar at Nationals, and a truly stellar performance could even push them a pot up.
USQ Ranking 22 – (5-6)
Southern Storm has been around since 2014, started by Tanner Morris and Joey Galtelli. Since then, Josiah Nostrand has taken on a leadership coaching role using his knowledge of southwest strategy he gained from playing in the Texas Secede League.
Storm started this season hot, going 5-0 and winning their first tournament. However, since then, they have played tough matches at Mid Atlantic regionals and Cold Cocks Invitational and were unable to pull out a win. However, these losses were not blowouts. As evidenced by their most recent loss to Space Cowboys (40-80*), it was a snitch range game that could have gone either way. They are talented and know the in’s and outs of the sport, and rely on tight defense and their ability to pass the ball in the half-court. This provides a perfect recipe for slow, close games that can come down to a snitch grab. Their team is filled with players who have all been playing together for multiple years. This connection is the foundation of their team success. Let’s see if they can use it to earn a bid to Nationals.
Twin Cities Quidditch Club
USQ Ranking 27 – (5-12)
If you judge TCQC’s season based on numbers alone, it would be hard to understand why they are widely considered the favorite to win this weekend. They sit the lowest in the standings by a large margin, they at least double every other team’s losses, and on top of that, TCQC comes in with just three wins against another club team in 14 tries this season. What makes them the favorite is who those losses came against, with only one of those club losses coming from a team outside of The Eighth Man’s Top 8. That one team happens to be Space Cowboys, who TCQC was able to take to overtime when they met at Oktoberfest. No other team at this tournament has played as grueling a schedule this season, and this is when it will need to pay off.
In order for TCQC to get this bid, they will need to play stout defense throughout Saturday. That starts at point defense and they have one of the best in Terry Carlson. Carlson not only acts as TCQC’s first line of defense but is also a force on offense. If opposing ball carriers are too careless with the quaffle, they could easily see Carlson rattle off a number of steals leading to fastbreak dunks. If teams are able to get past Carlson, they will face Mary Vollmar ll. Vollmar has been with Frost since the beginning in 2013. That type of chemistry is only part of what makes Vollmar, “lowkey the best defensive player on the team,” said coach Cody Narveson.
TCQC comes in with by far the most to lose, but also the most to gain. This is a team that has seen everything within USQ this season. Nothing should surprise this team come Nationals. The trick is for them to get there and “not play themselves along the way.”
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