Preview

World Cup

March to Myrtle

The IQA staff brings you the sixth installment in our series on the teams of World Cup VII.

World Cup VII is quickly approaching and qualified teams are scouring the internet for information on their opponents. Here at the IQA, we decided to help you along and introduce you to the 80 teams you could face in North Myrtle Beach, S.C.


University of California Los Angeles – West – Regional Finish: Semifinals
By Mitch Cavender/Guest Writer

UCLA finished last season nearly on top of the world, coming in second at World Cup VI to what many analysts have deemed the greatest quidditch team to ever set foot on the pitch.  However, the Bruins’ success was the culmination of years of dedication and training, with a senior heavy roster that was hungry to go out with a championship to its name.  Those players have since moved on, leaving the program in the hands of a group of underclassmen who look to uphold the legacy of the greats that came before them.

Strengths
Half-Court Offense – Whereas many of today’s top teams like to play fast-paced, high-energy games, the Bruins like to slow it down and methodically break down opposing defenses with a deliberate pace. UCLA has historically had some of the best ball movement in the IQA, stretching defenses via strategic spacing of its chasers to create wide gaps for its ballcarriers to work within. Upon setting up its offense, the Bruins can attack in a variety of ways: it can drive to the hoops with sturdy players like Michael Binger and Adam Richardson, slash through defenses with quick give-and-gos to speedster Corey Osto, or stand back and watch World Cup VI breakout star Zach Luce drain impossible longshots. However, what really makes UCLA’s half-court offense tick is its beaters, who work in unison with their chasers in a full-team offensive approach.

Weaknesses
Physicality – UCLA is a finesse team on both sides of the ball. It is not a team that is going to run through a brick wall to score on offense, nor is it a team that is going to make defensive stops by delivering strong hits to the ballcarrier (save one or two players). While this is rarely an issue for UCLA in its home region, it will cause problems come World Cup, when the Bruins inevitably come up against a Southwest powerhouse. While the Bruins can avoid some contact on the offensive side of the ball through strategic, offensive beating, the lack of size and strength is likely to be exposed on the defensive end. If UCLA is caught without bludger control, it will be nearly impossible for it to stop bigger, stronger chasers in one-on-one situations. The Bruins’ beaters are also on the small side, making them extremely vulnerable to strong tackle attempts from aggressive beaters.

Standout Player
Zach Luce – This should come as no surprise, as Zach Luce put on a show in the World Cup VI finals against the University of Texas (UT). Despite having a beanpole-like appearance, Luce has an extremely unorthodox style of play that makes him difficult to match up with even for the game’s best defenders. He has a knack for contorting his body in unpredictable patterns that allow him to effortlessly slip the grip of tackling defenders, even when they think they already have him secured in their grasp. Luce’s most dangerous weapon is his long shot, which is possibly the deadliest in the entire game not only because of its accuracy, but because he can drain it from even the most (seemingly) impossible positions. He can even go as far as to stand behind his own hoops, shoot the ball through that top hoop and have the ball proceed to go through the top hoop on the opposite end of the field. Consistently. Any day of the week. His wingspan also allows him to lock down any ranged attempts on the defensive end. 

Underrated Player
Brandon Scapa – Mr. Consistency himself. While he does not make highlight reel plays like the aforementioned Luce, Scapa has a great understanding of offensive positioning and is a key cog in keeping UCLA’s offensive scheme efficient and effective. He is a smart decision maker who rarely causes turnovers in the offensive zone and is extremely effective at helping a play progress as a first-pass option for the Bruins’ ballcarriers. While he can put the ball through the hoop when the opportunity presents itself, Scapa shines most as a support player who puts his fellow teammates in positions to succeed. Scapa is most valuable to his team on the defensive side of the ball, as he is UCLA’s best on-ball defender and tackler. He rarely misses tackles and was even able to take UT’s ball handlers to the ground in the open field at last year’s World Cup.  Additionally, Scapa has great utility value, as he can also beat and seek at a high level. 

Key to Success
One of the biggest changes that UCLA made in the month leading up to World Cup VI was an increased focus on physicality and tackling. If the Bruins want to have a legitimate shot at making a repeat appearance in the final this year, it’ll need to adopt a similar mindset, as it does not have beaters who can carry a defense like it did in seasons past, nor can it expect Scapa to go an entire tournament without subbing.

603939_458556014214170_1891528512_nPhoto courtesy of UCLA Quidditch

Prediction
As it stands now, Sweet 16. If the Bruins are able to increase its physicality on defense, it could very well make the Elite Eight.


Marquette University – Midwest – Regional Finish: 7th
By David Hoops/IQA Midwest Correspondent

Just for fun, let’s take a look back into the history of Marquette University’s quidditch team. Marquette made its first national mark when it was leading Middlebury College in bracket play of World Cup V before the brackets were rearranged. The following fall, a relatively unknown team ran through the 2012 Midwest Regional Championship to a title with all wins out of snitch range. Marquette then received what many perceived to be a gift group at World Cup VI and was famously confident it would earn the overall #1 seed in bracket play, only to lose twice in pool play before being bounced out in the Round of 32 by the University of Kansas. This season’s team overcame a massive roster turnover to a quarterfinal appearance at the Midwest Regional Championship, but questions still abound for this historically tumultuous team.

Strengths
Defense – Last year’s Marquette was known for putting points on the board. This season, the script has flipped, as Marquette’s man-to-man defense boasts a spectacular 3.5 goals against average. Although a lot of the faces from last year’s squad have left, the new players are all extremely scrappy and physical. Putting 10 points on the board against this team is rarely a fluke and tends to come at a price to your body.

Weaknesses
Consistency – Marquette has played five matches this season that were decided by a snitch grab. One of these matches was one not many teams can boast of—against the University of Kansas. A second comes against another top Midwest squad, Ball State University. However, three others come against two World Cup VII non-qualifiers: Purdue University (twice) and Eastern Michigan University. If Marquette is looking to enter the cluttered top of the Midwest, matches like the latter three simply cannot happen.

Experience – Marquette has played five matches in snitch range and only 10 matches total. This past weekend added to the lack of experience as weather hampered its plans to travel to Minnesota’s North Star Invitational. As I wrote a few weeks ago about the University of Michigan, this is simply not enough competitive play to hope to be ready for quidditch’s largest stage.

Standout Player
Nathan Digmann – To put it simply, this kid gets buckets. Digmann’s driving ability draws comparisons to last year’s Marquette standout Bobby Roth, and for good reason. A devoted student of the game, Digmann possesses top-notch ball skills and prefers to use his agility to juke and spin around defenders on his way to the hoops. He also understands as a chaser how to kick the quaffle out to open teammates created from his drives, making him the catalyst of this Marquette offense.

Underrated Player
James Wenzel – Marquette’s go-to seeker hasn’t had many chances this season to make grabs when they matter, but that hasn’t stopped him. Wenzel was huge in Marquette’s Midwest Regional OT victory against University of Minnesota, securing the regulation grab before time expired. Wenzel is 3-2 this season in SWIM situations, with his two losses coming against the established powers of Ball State and Kansas. Look for Wenzel to add more moves to his relentless style of seeking this semester.

Key to Success
First, Marquette must find a way to play more matches this semester. If this happens, it must find a way to more consistently put points on the board against top teams. Marquette’s seeking is not a weakness, but Wenzel is not quite yet at the level of seekers like DiCarlo or Marsh that can be relied on to bail them out of close games. Winning games out of snitch range is a must.

Prediction
I do not see Marquette advancing out of its group… but barely. There are still a lot of weekends to find more experience, but I’m still not completely sold that even that will be enough to find the two wins necessary to advance to the play-in round. Marquette’s current IQA ranking sits at #36. It cannot afford to drop out of Pot Three into Pot Four. More than any other team I’ve covered thus far, I wish I could be writing Marquette’s preview closer to April 5, as this team’s lack of matches proves hard to analyze.


University of Richmond – Mid-Atlantic – Regional Championship Finish: 5th
By Erin Mallory/IQA Mid-Atlantic Correspondent

The Spiders are headed back to World Cup this year to avenge an early pool play exit from last year. With lots of experience leading the team, expect Richmond to come in fired up and ready to go. Currently sitting at a 14-3 record with just about a month until the Cup, Richmond is on a warpath to show that it is not a second-tier Mid-Atlantic team and can hang with the top teams not only in its region but others as well.

Strengths
Beating – No questions asked this is where Richmond thrives. The experience of juniors Natalie Pollard, Derek Roetzel and, of course, Julia Baer makes for a solid core of players. Roetzel is a fierce and aggressive beater in the Mid-Atlantic, many times winning bludger control on brooms up and not relinquishing it while he is in. Beating also provides Richmond with a solid defense. In the fall, Richmond only allowed one team to score 100 or more points in a game, and that was a marathon game against Steel City Quidditch Club at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship where Richmond ended up winning out of snitch range anyway. Playing 17 games and only allowing more than nine goals once says a lot about its defense, and Richmond’s beaters are the core of that.

Heart/Hustle/Determination – This may sound corny, but it has never been more true of a team. No matter who Richmond is playing, the players are always out there ready to take on the challenge and prove that they can hang with anyone. Diving on any and every loose ball, going for tackles and strips and never giving up no matter what the score makes this team a scary draw in pool play. Currently sitting as a Pot Two/Pot Three team, Richmond will fight until the end with every team in its pool, meaning that if anyone relaxes, an upset is very likely. With as much heart and desire to win as this team brings to the table, one always knows an interesting match will ensue.

RichmondWeaknesses
Chaser Depth – Although a few names do come to mind when I think of Richmond chasers, after the first line and a half, the talent level seems to drop. With a killer defense, Richmond needs a just-as-lethal offense, and, right now, it does not. With some very solid players, Richmond will score at the beginning of the game, but those players cannot play the whole time. Quaffle goals against other World Cup-qualified teams seem hard to come by at times for Richmond. If it can get its third line of chasers to the caliber of its first line and get everyone scoring a bit more, the combination of its defense and offense will finally pull Richmond over the hump and make the team more capable of competing with out-of-region teams.

Diversity – Throughout the fall 2013 semester, Richmond only played two out-of-region teams, only one of which is World Cup qualified. That team was Tufts University, which Richmond played at Turtle Cup III and lost to 120*-40. With World Cup following the same format as last year, keeping the pools regionally diverse, this may cause a few problems for a team that has not seen much diversity. Most of Richmond’s opponents play the same type of game and all have similar strategy. Competing against out-of-region teams give teams a chance to evaluate themselves on a national level and witness different styles of play. This fall, Richmond did not get this experience and it looks as though the team will not this spring, thus forcing it to go into World Cup regionally blind. The players will have to be able to quickly adjust to new strategies and attacks in order to stay in the games.

Standout Player
Julia Baer – She’s backkkkk! Back from a semester abroad, Baer is once again the cornerstone beater for a team that already has solid beaters. After officially making a name for herself outside of the region at fantasy tournaments this summer, she immediately went to study abroad, leaving people doubting how Richmond would fare without her. But the team held down the fort and did well in the fall. Now with Baer back, Richmond’s beating core is complete again. Her tenacity on the field is the best of any female beater in the region and can rival that of others outside of the Mid-Atlantic. That, partnered with her strategic mind and knowledge of when to make the perfect beat, makes Richmond’s defense very hard to penetrate.

Underrated Player
Paco Darcey – Quick and agile, Darcey is a chaser that can cut through defenses and find openings to score. His off-ball cuts happen quickly as he darts from side to side, leaving his defender behind, and then when he gets the ball in his hands, although he doesn’t have the typical size of a driver, he can still power through and get to the hoops. His quickness also brings a huge advantage on brooms up because he can win and often has won the race to the quaffle, leading straight to an easy 10 points for Richmond. With Darcey in the line-up, Richmond will have a multitude of options of what to do with the quaffle. He should never be taken lightly, otherwise he’ll make the defense pay severely. 

Keys to Success
Score, score, score! With such a solid beating line-up, Richmond needs its chasers to respond. The defense is solid, but if the chasers do not score, Richmond will not win games against tough opponents. The team must take advantage of having two bludgers and penetrate, cut and score on its opposition so that it is not always relying on its seekers. 

Prediction
This year I see Richmond taking the step out of pool play and making it to bracket play. Its defense will be able to lead it to at least an even record in pool play and allow a move on to the Round of 32. However, unless Richmond gets a good match-up, I’m afraid it won’t make it past that. Richmond has consistently been on the verge of being elite in the Mid-Atlantic, but I don’t think it is there yet compared to other regions. Maybe next year it will finally take that step, but for now I see them making bracket play, then falling short.


Texas A&M University – Southwest – Regional Championship Finish: Champion
By Hank Dugie/Guest Writer

Texas A&M’s biggest skeptic is now a believer. Displaying the perfect combination of athleticism and skill at last weekend’s Southwest Regional, A&M looks like a team finally ready to take home a World Cup title of its own. Tired of always being the bridesmaid and never the bride, no team worked harder or smarter over the last year to recruit and train than this group of young 20-somethings.

Strengths
Offensive Precision – A&M’s passing game is on point. More importantly, its roster consists of players who routinely make the right decisions. Point chasers know when to pass, when to drive and when to reset—and once they make a decision, they execute it with deadly precision. On the receiving end, A&M’s pass options always seem to be in the right place at the right time, which can be chalked up to plenty of preparation and flawless field awareness.  

Chaser & Seeker Depth – According to A&M player Becca DuPont, “our biggest focus this year has been developing all of our new players to be able to compete at the highest levels alongside our veterans. Because of this, we can sub in fresh lines of players without suffering a lack of skill, giving us an advantage in long games and in later rounds of bracket play because our players are still rested and ready to go.” In order to get over the hump this season, A&M had no choice but to recruit more athletes and develop its second and third string players. Based on the performances seen at these last few tournaments, it seems A&M’s depth has finally reached Olympic-pool level. Its starter and sub lines produce equal results, eerily similar to last year’s World Champion.    

1743589_10151896691783202_1486576508_nPhoto courtesy of Lauren Claire

Weaknesses
Finishing Drives – Although its defensive aggression has increased ten-fold and really propelled A&M to what I believe is the next level of play, A&M’s physicality in finishing drives against opposing chasers and bludgerless defenses is still lacking. It has become so good at passing that it is almost too reliant on its players being in the right positions. Sometimes a good ol’ fashioned drive through an opponent is the quicker, more efficient way to score, not to mention the fact that plowing through a defender builds momentum, gains fan support and demoralizes the opposing team. There is a reason why THE Kody Marshall of Lone Star Quidditch Club is still known as the IQA’s fan favorite.   

Slow Starts – A&M has been hindered by subpar starts all season. It has managed to overcome poor beginnings against Lone Star Quidditch Club, Baylor University and the Lost Boys so far, but A&M is asking for disaster if it can’t find a way to bring the intensity at brooms up. Letting lesser teams linger in a sport like quidditch is a losing recipe. I expect to see the captains come up with a solution by the time World Cup VII arrives.

Standout Players
Drew Wasikowski, Kifer Gregoire and Becca DuPont –  These three are all phenomenal athletes on the field and widely known as the team’s playmakers. What makes them most impressive has been their ability to persevere through heartbreak and improve year after year. They have surrounded themselves with better and better athletes and now find themselves in the perfect position to strike.

Underrated Players
Joe Wright – Chaser Joe Wright has gone relatively unnoticed for the past two seasons but has a way of appearing in the Wright place at the Wright time. He has the perfect blend of physicality and finesse to juke past defenders, sink long shots or drive for a dunk. He is equally as capable on defense as he routinely brings down some of quidditch’s most powerful chasers. If A&M is to find success at WCVII, Wright needs to show up big time and play the game he is capable of playing.

Key to Success
Mindset – A&M has been in this position before–it went into WCVI as the favorite–and refuses to let confidence get in the way of continuing to prepare. Training will continue as usual if not even more rigorously.

Health – Players must stay healthy and uninjured. A&M will be on the receiving end of each of its opponents best shots come April, and it will need its depth for the entirety of the most brutal tournament of the year.  

Prediction
WCVII finals is a given. Will A&M win it though? Probably.

 

University of Richmond photo courtesy of Dani Palmer

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