Miami Takes South; Tennessee Tech Second

Amid snow, rain, and several injuries, No. 11 Univ...
Amid snow, rain, and several injuries, No. 11 University of Miami (Miami, FL) dominated the Southern Regional Tournament on March 2 and 3 in North Augusta, South Carolina, winning first place over 13 competitors. Along with five other teams, Miami secured the final Division I spots for the World Cup, solidifying which teams will represent their region in just over a month. south regionals slider The University of Miami dominated en route to the Southern Regional Championship| Photo by Ali Fishman Miami's win came as no surprise, as they have not lost to a team in the South since October 2011 when they fell to No. 30 University of South Florida (Tampa, FL) by just ten points. They went undefeated throughout the tournament, trouncing their opponents in all ten games they played. Their semifinal game against No. 93 University of Southern Mississippi (Hattiesburg, MS) was the only game they beat their opponents by less than 100 points, and one of three games where they did not catch the snitch. Miami's stellar performance ended in a decisive 120-0 victory over No. 38 Tennessee Technological University (Cookeville, TN). A  surprise of the tournament was TTU's second place finish. “I had played against them [Tennessee Tech University] in the summer and they were a brand new team,” Sean Pagoada, the tournament's Gameplay Director and Miami captain, said. “I did think that they would get a spot [at the World Cup], but I didn't think they were going to make it to the finals [of the Southern Regional Tournament]. That was a big surprise.” Founded in Spring 2012, TTU has played against a number of other teams in the region during their first season and even hosted their own tournament, the Rocky Top Rumble, in February. With so little experience compared to the more veteran teams in the region, most didn't consider the team a contender for a spot at World Cup VI. Landon Smith, a keeper for TTU, said, “As a relatively young team, we were considered to be an ‘underdog' that would not make it very far this season. However, we have proven that we are not a team that should be underestimated!” The newcomers did lose to USF 60*-30 on Saturday in pool play. However, that was TTU's last defeat until the finals as they went on to defeat all of their opponents, including No. 54 Florida State University (Tallahassee, FL) in the quarterfinals and No. 41 University of Florida (Gainesville, FL) in the semifinals. “Our defense was very strong, and we were able to slow down some of the quicker teams,” Kellie Davis, chaser for TTU, said. “All of our players played their toughest. We are already beginning to work on improving our offense and speed. We'll be ready to keep up with the top teams at the World Cup.” Eric Schnier of FSU summarized TTU's performance. “I don't think anybody was too shocked to see Miami come out on top, but TTU definitely took everybody by surprise,” Schnier said. “My team played them at Rocky Top, and while we came out with a win, it was extremely hard-fought. They improved vastly between the two tournaments, and I think they deserve to be commended for it.” Other qualifiers for the World Cup include Florida State University, University of South Florida, University of Florida, and University of Southern Mississippi. No. 131 The College of Charleston (Charleston, SC) and No. 121 Florida Atlantic University (Boca Raton, FL) both made it to the final eight, but failed to secure a spot. Notably absent from the list of World Cup competitors is No. 62 Ringling College of Art and Design (Sarasota, FL). Said Pagoada, “Ringling not getting a spot was a big surprise, but they were going into the tournament a little bit short handed and then with some other injuries that happened on the first day, that really hurt them against the top teams…When they lost [to newcomers College of Charleston], it was definitely a big surprise because they were the oldest team in Florida.” Another relatively new team to the IQA, never mind the World Cup, is FSU. During Regionals, the team was only defeated by Miami and TTU.  “Our main goal was simply qualifying for World Cup,” Schnier said. “We're still a new team, so we didn't want to set goals that were too lofty. Once we qualified, we wanted to do as well as we could, but it was all about World Cup. We also wanted to make a statement for the rest of the IQA to see. We went into the tournament ranked No. 118, and the Eighth Man article described as as "really only the 5th-best" team in the region… I think our play at Regionals established us to be better than we'd been given credit for.” With Regionals so close to the World Cup, many teams worked on perfecting their strategy and lineup before the Kissimmee games. Schnier of FSU, said that his team learned a few things from the tournament that will be valuable going into World Cup. “I think we played well in some games, but had problems in others,” Schnier said. “Our biggest issue is just maintaining an organized sideline so that instruction from the captains can be effectively issued from the bench without confusing our players. If we couple that with everybody playing within the team mentality, I think we will be able to do some serious damage at World Cup.” USM's strategy caught many teams off guard. Using speed in an unusual way, the team drastically slowed down the pace of the game to their advantage. “[USM] had a very unique strategy,” Pagoada said. “They would drive up the ball very slowly…and it really slowed down the pace of the game. You had to be patient and really just wait for them to bring the ball up.” Schnier agreed, saying that it was “a strategy that I've never seen in the FQC [Florida Quidditch Conference].” One of the biggest factors playing into this year's tournament was the unexpected weather. Ironically, the region faced arguably the coldest temperatures, as it snowed and rained during several games. “On the first day, we had snow flurries,” Pagoada said, laughing. “It was really, really cold. Then after the snow flurries we had rain for the rest of the day. It was definitely not the weather we're going to have at World Cup.” While teams from Northern regions may not have been affected, many of the competing teams had never played in such conditions. Davis of TTU said that her team was used to the weather, however, which may have played to their advantage. “The cold weather certainly was not ideal for the tournament, but as a quidditch player you have to be ready for anything,” Davis said. “During the Rocky Top Rumble, the teams played all day in snow with a windchill of 17 degrees! This past weekend was uncomfortable, but we have definitely played in worse.” Another interesting dynamic was the greater geographical diversity. In past years, the Southern Regional has consisted almost exclusively of Floridian teams. At the region's first tournament, five teams from Florida and one team from South Carolina competed, while last year eight Floridian teams played. This year there were fourteen teams representing four states: Florida, Mississippi, Tennessee, and South Carolina. While many Floridian teams often  play against each other, the addition of more teams added greater suspense to the results of the tournament. “We had experience playing most teams already, and have played all five other qualifiers from the region in the past,” Schnier said. “It was interesting watching teams we were familiar with (all the Florida ones) play against TTU and USM to see how they did.” The addition of new teams also added a new social dynamic. “It was definitely different in that we didn't all know each other and even some of the Florida teams were going into it with a lot of newer players,” Pagoada said. “Everyone got along actually really well, no matter how well they did in the tournament. It was nice, definitely cool, seeing teams that we'd never played against. It was a good environment.” With the Southern teams decided, the region will now gear up to host World Cup VI. Along with the duties that come with hosting the IQA's largest and most esteemed event of the year, these six teams will have to prove their region's talent and skill as they go up against other regions, which statistically rank above the South. “I think every team that qualified in this region has a lot of potential for success in World Cup,” Schnier said. “The region is extremely deep, and I think it'll show come April.”
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