Western Cup IV Recap
Editor's note: Dan Hanson is the founder and co-ca...
Editor's note: Dan Hanson is the founder and co-captain of the Lost Boys, Referee Development Team member, and a member of the IQA Board of Directors.
Photo Courtesy Kat Ignatova Photography
Teams on the Rise
University of California Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA)
Is it possible to say that UCLA exceeded the expectations placed upon them by the quidditch world? They are a team skilled for clean physical play, insanely aggressive beater, and precision passing, and they have only improved on all those skills. Asher King Abramson is in top form leading the beater game, while Adam Richardson has really taken control of their chaser line. With a rotation of Zach Luce and Alex Browne at keeper, and two of the most talented female chasers in the league, Vanessa Goh and Missy Sponagle, everything finally seems to be in place for UCLA to make the World Cup run that has been speculated about since their stellar play at last year's Western Cup.
The Lost Boys (Lomita, CA)
The world's most experienced team has been slowly and consistently building since their formation in January 2012. The recent addition of Tony Rodriguez filled the huge hole of an athletic point man, and he can draw so much of opposing defenses that he makes everyone else on the pitch better.
The first iteration of the Lost Boys essentially lacked dedicated beaters and seekers, but Steve DiCarlo has shown that opponents need to make sure they're out of snitch range in order to beat the Lost Boys. Chris Seto and Michael Mohlman have largely converted to beater, changing the pace dramatically on both sides of the ball. The Lost Boys have a small roster, but every player is dedicated, experienced, and never ready to stop improving.
The Silicon Valley Skrewts (Mountain View, CA)
The Skrewts may be the most improved team in IQA history. They used to be the Kevin Oelze show with a few distractions. However, the team has added pieces and developed the old ones so he is now surrounded by skilled shooters like Greg Abramowitz Weber and Craig Kaplan, thus allowing Oelze to become more of a distributing point guard. As an added bonus, Oelze is still a threat to rumble his way through chasers to power the ball through the hoop.
But the Skrewts are now the Kyrie Timbrook and Willis Miles show. Their beater chemistry and strategy is as good as it gets, both defensively and offensively. The Skrewts didn't get to show off against enough top teams this weekend, but they will be a unique team at the World Cup and should be able to show the rest of the quidditch world how to win by being smart.
Arizona State University (Phoenix, AZ)
ASU will be overlooked going into the World Cup after being knocked out by the Lost Boys in the quarterfinals, but the truth is that ASU dominated in that game. They have the best chaser defense in the region. In other words, they are effectively and mercilessly physical. They were beating the Lost Boys by 20 points and losing to University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA) by only 10 when opposing seekers caught the snitch. If they had won those games, we could've seen them ride all the way to the finals.
It's unfortunate that we didn't get to see them match up against other teams to see where they stacked up. We haven't had the pleasure of an ASU – UCLA matchup since April 2011, when West Coast quidditch was functioning as effectively as dial-up Internet. ASU vs. Skrewts could have gone either way had it happened, and I believe ASU would've avenged their Lumberjack Invitational loss if they had the chance to play Northern Arizona University (Flagstaff, AZ).
University of Arizona (Tucson, AZ)
All I can say is wow. This team was your quintessential brand-new team when they played at the Lumberjack Invitational in October. They got hammered repeatedly by their strong veteran neighbors of ASU and NAU, struggled to develop any plays, and barely had enough male subs to survive.
That has changed handily. They have a coach, Ian Benjamin, feature several athletic players - although the team is still on the smaller side - and are developing team strategy. Look out for Savio Vu, Andrew Hosking, Paul Schipou, and Troy Meyer to help the team make a name for itself in the future.
Northern Arizona University (Flagstaff, AZ)
NAU had a great run to the 6th and final qualifying spot for the World Cup, and their journey's only just begun. Their team doesn't get a lot of intercollegiate play as they are isolated in snowy Flagstaff, and their lack of experience shows as they throw the ball away behind the hoops time after time.
However, it was their heart and energy that created a 50 - 0 run against Cal, and capturing the momentum of a game can always make a big difference. The Narwhals will have to work tirelessly to improve their quaffle play and protect the ball. Even without their game-changing seeker Porter Marsh (lost in pool play against UCLA when he broke his leg on Niran Somasundaram's head), the Narwhals managed to do what it takes to win, just as they did to beat their rival ASU team at the Lumberjack Invitational in October. Justin Regan and April Gonzales lead an energetic and stalwart beater game, but talented quaffle players like Marc Hubble and Nate Cortazzo need to help formulate an organized offense.
Teams on the Decline
University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA)
USC had their sights set this tournament on qualification, not winning it. They knew they wouldn't be able to play at the same level after losing three of their most valuable players. USC raised the bar when they beat two top-ranked teams at the Hollywood Bowl in October: the University of Miami (twice) and their crosstown rivals, UCLA. At Western Cup IV, Team USA selection and the face of USC, keeper August Lührs was out with an injury—in the words of a fellow USC player, “his leg exploded.” On top of that, beater Spencer Gold and chaser/seeker Remy Conatser were missing and won't likely be back for the World Cup.
Chaser David Demarest and keeper Harrison James have only been improving over the course of the year, and are still major difference-makers on both sides of the ball. Demarest in particular showed more ability than any other player in the Western Cup to turn catches by the hoops into dazzling goals, and James has grown into a great passer and leader on the field. Ryan Parsons played skillfully as usual, but he will need to step up further as the veteran backbone of the team and protect the quaffle better. Parsons made some excellent passes and shots from distance, but too many of those ended up as turnovers.
USC's major weakness for a long time has been the dominance of their male players. They had some great plays from a variety of their girls all weekend, but their roster still doesn't have enough game-changing girls to avoid mismatches.
The return of Lührs and the development of USC's new players should be fascinating to watch going into the World Cup, but right now they don't stand a chance against the stronger teams.
Utah Crimson Fliers (Salt Lake City, UT)
Nobody is more disappointed in the Utah Crimson Fliers' performance this weekend than themselves, or perhaps their health insurance providers.
Utah was considered one of the bubble teams to receive a qualifying spot, but between the overall lack of experience and injuries to several of their core players, it just wasn't going to happen. Ben Reuling stood out as their most threatening new acquisition, with a formidable physical presence and ball skills to go with it. Andy Hopkins hardly seems new, as he's stepped into the role of captain and can play multiple positions on the field. Dakota Briggs and Brady Groves were the Fliers' only two returning players from Western Cup III, and they hope to turn their largest roster ever into skilled veterans to compete for a World Cup spot next year.
University of California Berkeley (Berkeley, CA)
Cal's superstar chasers of last year, Gavin Saldanha and Sam Harris, just couldn't cut it this weekend. They were more successful when strong and quick chasers ruled the game, but with the evolution of beating in the West, Saldanha and Harris were shut down and forced to make tough shots and passes that ended up as turnovers. Captain and chaser Sean Robbins was Cal's shining star over the weekend, leading the team on and off the field. Despite being one of the smaller male chasers in the tournament, he made excellent physical defensive plays and used his speed to maximize offensive opportunities.
All-in-all, Cal was just exhausted. They played nine games total --most in the tournament, and had lost two of their valuable new chasers to injury before the tournament began. Overall, Cal just did not have what it took to qualify for the World Cup.
Top Games of the Tournament
UCLA 130*, Lost Boys 60. Time: 21' (Final)
Adam Richardson seemed to singlehandedly tear the Lost Boys apart in this game, starting off strong by scoring UCLA's first three goals. Richardson added a fourth goal later in the game when he stripped Lost Boys keeper Tony Rodriguez and drove it through the hoops himself. The Lost Boys hung around the entire game, and were even within snitch range to tie just before the snitch returned to the pitch.
Richardson forced Rodriguez off broom, picked up the ball and threw to Michael Binger in a play that would turn out to be the dagger that put UCLA over the top, giving them a 100-60 lead and knocking the match out of snitch range.
Lost Boys 100^, Skrewts 60*. Time: 18' (Semifinal)
16 minutes into the game, the Lost Boys only held a lead of 40 - 30. The Skrewts' slight edge in the bludger game allowed them to stifle the Lost Boys' offense, while the Skrewts were able to capitalize on the few opportunities the Lost Boys gave them to create their 30 points. Tony Rodriguez drove the ball the length of the pitch on his own to make it 50 - 30, and thirty seconds later passed to Ross Lopez for a goal on the short hoop, giving the Lost Boys the all-important 30-point lead.
30 seconds after that, the Skrewts' Sam Fischgrund returned to the pitch having completed an off-pitch snatch. Fischgrund likely got the snitch right around the time of Lopez's game-saving goal. The Lost Boys' goals on their final two possessions allowed them to sneak into overtime.
Overtime was far less climactic. Ross Lopez scored on the run-up and Steve DiCarlo didn't even let the snitch on to the Skrewts' side of the pitch before making the snatch within fifteen seconds of the start of the period. The Lost Boys won 100^ - 60, avenging their Sunshine Bowl loss and moving on to the Western Cup finals in the only overtime game in the tournament.
NAU 80*, Cal Berkeley 40. Time: 20'. (Qualifying/Elimination Match)
Cooper Davis, NAU captain
: Our whole trip to Roseville came down to this game. The twelve hour car ride, thousands of dollars invested, and six hard fought games to get us to this match would all be for nothing if we lost here. Last time we met Cal at Western Cup III they romped us, but we weren't about to let that happen again in this high pressure game. After all, we were playing for a chance to go to [the] World Cup.
As historically occurs with the Narwhals we came out cold as ice. Personally, I blame the lack of a pre-game Harlem Shake, but I figured the refs were getting sick of us wasting all that time. We were down 30-0 before we knew what hit us. Going into the game I knew we were better than Cal: bigger, more aggressive, and smarter. We weren't showing it though, and stuck on the sideline with my broken fibula I could do nothing but fume at the inability of our offense to get it going. Two bludgers are a chaser's greatest enemy, but we couldn't get control. Finally I made the decision to do what we have never practiced and send our final bludger on a suicide mission to get our offense moving. It was the right decision and that play with the aggressiveness of our beater Steven Grunewald, not only did he clear a path for an easy goal, but returned with the second bludger. The momentum shifted in that play and the Narwhals got their groove back.
From that point on our defense locked it down. I remember watching as time after time Cal chasers took one on ones against point Chaser Luke Sanchez only to be met with his iron grasp for a clean and effective fall tackle. I swear that kid, weighing in at 145, could take down anybody in the IQA. With the new fervor gained through some big defensive hits, our chasers powered in goal after goal, meeting little to no opposition in the way of tackles. Fire was in our eyes and I could tell by the way even our smallest chasers, like Bridget Petersen, scrapped for the ball to the last second that everybody wanted this win more than anything. At one point, our chaser Schyler Harris went down hard on his shoulder and looked for a second that he was injured. My heart stopped and I hobbled off the bench to make sure he was ok; the game depended on him. Not only was he one of our most productive chasers, but he was to seek as soon as the snitch returned with our usual seeker out also with a broken fibula. He got up and was ok; what a sense of relief. We scored 30 unanswered points before the snitch returned to the field, and in the midst of the madness that ensues with a snitch on pitch scored another 20. Scoring 50 unanswered, we had almost escaped snitch range in a massive comeback, but our bludgers focused on the snitch and a missed tackle [allowed Cal to] put another through the hoops.
This game was coming down to the snatch… my least favorite part of quidditch as a chaser and a coach. I remember the sinking feeling I felt as their seeker grabbed onto the snitch's shorts and pulled. I thought he had it for sure, but he was an inch shy. The game went on. I don't know how long the snitch was on the pitch but it seemed as if [it was for] my entire lifetime. Schyler needed to catch it or I was going to explode! Out of the corner of my eye I saw him dive and rise to his feet holding that horrible yellow sack in his fists. He threw down his broom and assumed the B-Boy stance like any good Narwhal would, and without waiting for the ref's confirmation of a clean snatch I was on the pitch at a full sprint to hug him, forgetting my broken leg entirely. The snatch was good and we had won 80-40. All the stress that had [built] up throughout the tournament and the months of nonstop prep to get us there washed away, and the feeling was pure ecstasy. No pain in my leg, no anger at all the things we did wrong, no worries about the daunting task of fundraising to come. Nothing mattered but that moment and it was (freaking) awesome.
Lost Boys 60*, ASU 50. Time: 22'
ASU made it known in this game that they have the most dominant chaser defense of any team in the West. They used physicality to shut down Tony Rodriguez and the Lost Boys' offense.
ASU's offense scored some skilled shots from long distances and narrowly missed a few more. ASU looked to be headed to the World Cup as they held a 30 - 0 lead over ten minutes into gameplay, but then the Lost Boys' offense kicked it into gear. It wasn't pretty, but they clawed their way up to a 40 - 20 deficit when the snitch returned to the pitch and focused their beaters to stop Wesley Rose from catching the snitch. Alex Makk and Santiago Gonzalez exchanged goals while the snitch was on the pitch, and then Steve DiCarlo delivered what may have been the biggest snitch grab of his life.
USC 120*, ASU 80. Time: 21' (Pool Play)
Nicté Sobrino, USC: ASU was one of our most physical games of the day, and our first game at that. It was actually my very first time chasing, ever, so I was particularly terrified. The players that made the most difference on our team are the duo that we call the Ice Climbers: Nick Metzler and Nicky Guangorena. They have insane beater intelligence and work so well together. Alex Makk on ASU was someone we were looking out for from the very beginning; we've played on his team in the past and we know what he's capable of. He played great. Our own David Demarest caught the snitch from the ground, between the snitch's legs. We were exhausted and so happy to have won our hardest game of the day!
Utah Crimson Fliers 80*, Stanford 50. Time: 12' (Pool Play)
Dakota Briggs, Utah: I feel that the team as a whole was more of a winning factor than any one individual. I mean, you have Alan Black, who made a couple crucial points against a very solid defense, and you've got Andrew Hopkins, who in the most intense part of the game came through big with the snitch grab. Plus making that snitch grab possible, our beater line, who isn't as weathered as many veteran players, they still held their ground against Stanford's Offense and Defense. We kept the game play a very physical, close contact match, which in the end proved to work at our advantage. Having the whole team working in tune with each other, I feel, helped us keep a level head when the pressure was high, and overall produced a very exciting victory for The Fliers. 'Big time players step up in big games.' That's all I've got to say.
San Jose State University 70*, University of British Columbia 60. Time: 18' (Play-In Game)
Dávid Danos, UBC
: SJSU, or more affectionately "One Big Team," and us [UBC] held a bitter rivalry for approximately the time it took for the first game to finish. Enemies became friends once the snitch was caught and brooms were down, and, so obviously, we were cheering on our brethren in carbon copies of our jerseys. When we learned we were to play the new-found community, I was in the process of signing (using the language-ASL) across the field with Rowan Alani, one of SJSU's beaters. The minute we learned [we were to play against one another], our signs turned hostile, but our faces showed none of this; instead we laughed whilst "yelling out" things like, 'you are going down!,' 'you will lose!,' and 'boo on you.' Honestly, the game proceeded similarly, with compliments and false insults being hurled at each other for a good bludger strike or a nice tackle.
Tristan West, SJSU
: After playing UBC once already and being surprised at their physicality and good play, the [SJSU] Owls came out ready and physical and were able to keep UBC in check. When the snitch returned to the pitch, SJSU was down by 30 and were looking to at least send the game into overtime. As John Crooks (playing in his first ever tournament) attempted to catch the snitch, SJSU moved the quaffle downfield. After a couple of good passes, keeper Jose Seneris scored a goal, and a split second afterwards, Crooks wound up with the snitch in his hands. The referees convened for while, and it was determined that both the goal and snitch catch were good, which gave SJSU a wild 70 - 60 victory. This was a bittersweet ending, as it knocked UBC out of the tournament before the second day had even begun, and SJSU and UBC had quickly bonded (calling themselves the One Big Team), thanks partly to having identical jerseys aside from the team logo. SJSU, however, would live to play another day after what I would describe as the craziest ending to a game I've ever seen.
: SJSU put up an extraordinarily good avenge match, and although we began to take the lead and show our strength, we failed in the end. We are pushing that this was a good game. We came out of it heartbroken and devastated, but reinvigorated for next year. And, hell, the team that beat us was ourselves, quite literally. One Big Team, UBC is looking forward to a rematch.
Hollywood Harpies 110*, Oxy Doxies 100. Time: 24' (Bracket Play)
The Harpies and Oxy Doxies (Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA) have something of a rivalry going after kicking off the 2012 quidditch season against each other in Los Angeles. Although the Harpies dominated that series behind now-Lost Boy Tony Rodriguez, the two teams now operate on even footing.
Harpies' captain Becky Wangberg credited defense and bludger control for the Harpies win, but also explained that her squad wouldn't have won if Anthony Hawkins hadn't just scored the Harpies' 80th point when Martin Pavez caught the snitch.
Pavez, the newest addition to the Harpies, described his game winning play: “For the snitch snatch the key was to not be physical. Oxy's seeker Grace Bender tried to take on the snitch physically and got more worn out doing so, getting tossed to the ground and beaten off her broom. To catch the snitch I kept him on our side of the field mostly and kept pushing for feints until I managed to slip through his grip and get the game winning catch.” After scoring four goals in the game and securing a comeback, game-winning snatch, Pavez has set the bar pretty high for himself for his career with the Harpies.
Update: A previous version of this article incorrectly classified the USC-Arizona State match as being in the quarterfinals. It actually occurred during pool play.
Update: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Cal played two more games than any other team. This has been corrected.