Southwest Regional Preview
With the World Cup looming less than two months aw...
With the World Cup looming less than two months away, the Southwest region is gearing up for its Regional Tournament this weekend in College Station, Texas. The tournament will decide which ten teams will advance to Kissimmee, FL. There is no doubt that players will have to bring their best effort to gain one of these limited spots; not only is the region known for its no-nonsense playing style, but two of the top five teams within the International Quidditch Association will be attending.
Photo Courtesy Chase Paxton
“At several events around the country you will hear voices of announcers or bands, and see vendors, extras, and crowds of super fans,” Alex Clark, the tournament director for the Southwest Regionals, said. “However, at Southwest tournaments like the Regionals you might hear one announcer's desk, there will be no bands, and there are usually very few extras. Our region is 100 percent focused on the gameplay aspect, and the teams and spectators understand that fact.”
No. 1 Texas A&M University (College Station, TX) will act as both hosts and defending champions of the tournament, as they placed first last year and went on to play in the semi-finals of World Cup V, where they lost to Middlebury College (Middlebury, VT). “Our goal is simply to do our very best and achieve the title of Southwest Regional Champions,” Drew Wasikowski, head coach for the team, said. Indeed, the team will likely go far, as they have not lost an official match since April 2012 when they opposed No.4 University of Texas Austin (Austin, TX).
UT Austin has also had an impressive season thus far, going undefeated since November. “UT is going to be a front-runner in this tournament,” Wasikowski said. “Yes, they had a few setbacks last semester, but Mardi Gras Cup has proved that they have gotten back into their funk, so to say, and I would be surprised if they did not make the finals.” UT won the second annual Mardi Gras Cup this month as well as their own tournament, the Lone Star Cup, last April.
Other registered teams include No. 13 Baylor University (Waco, TX), No. 34 Arkansas Razorbacks (Fayetteville, AR), No. 31 Louisiana State University (Baton Rouge, LA), No. 89 Loyola University (New Orleans, LA), No. 73 Sam Houston State University (Huntsville, TX), No. 21 Texas State University (San Marcos, TX), No. 35 Oklahoma State University (Stillwater, OK), No. 121 University of North Texas (Denton, TX), No. 83 Rice University (Houston, TX), No. 78 the Silver Phoenixes (College Station, TX), No. 75 Roadrunner Quidditch (San Antonio, TX), and No. 52 Austin Quidditch (Austin, TX).
With the World Cup so close, teams face many challenges such as the risk of injury without a chance to recover in time and the cost of travel to both the tournament and to Florida. Yet teams also gain many benefits. “Playing in our Regional only six weeks before [the] World Cup allows us to really gauge where our team stands,” Wasikowski said. “It allows us a perfect amount of time to analyze our performance, decide what things we need to work on, and have enough but not too much time to get it all fixed before [the] World Cup.”
In contrast with previous years, fifteen teams registered for the 2013 tournament, which is nine more than the past two years. However, one Arkansas team withdrew from the tournament this week, and forecasts of bad weather could leave teams stranded mid-route. Luckily, tournament director Clark, Regional Director Becca DuPont, and their staff have worked tirelessly to ensure the tournament's success. “[The potential weather issues] spurred a movement to set up contingency plans across the region in case unlucky travelers might be caught en route. We have also dealt with a team dropping less than four days to the event. This forced us to enact our contingency plan that redraws the schedules, hours of operation for the fields, on-call hours for medics, and to rewrite parts of our live feed spreadsheet, which we have spent over 20 hours perfecting with thousands of formulas.”
Clark and DuPont began brainstorming and basic planning for the tournament in July, and concrete plans and the hiring of staff happened later in the summer. The staff overcame obstacles from the beginning, including finding a location after lacking, according to Clark, a “realistic venue bid to host our regional on the city government level.” After researching numerous sites, Penberthy Fields at Texas A&M University was chosen for its ability to accommodate the dates of the tournament and its padded turf fields, which will increase player safety. “I am extremely proud of my staff,” Clark said. “We were able to take all of these issues and come together to find a common, workable solution. I wouldn't rather have any other group of people with me to face these unique challenges.”