An all-Texas affair, this year’s Lone Star Cup is the most anticipated tournament of the weekend of Nov. 8 and 9.
Editor's Note: Beto Natera, a guest writer for the IQA, is a member of the Lone Star Quidditch Club.
Despite a diminished field, the University of Texas Quidditch (UT) program’s showcase event will have eyes throughout the country tuned to various Twitterfeeds all weekend. The best of the Southwest will assemble, seeking to answer some of the questions lingering around their World Cup VII title hopes: Will Texas A&M be able to replicate its dominating performance at Wolf Pack Classic II? Can Lone Star Quidditch Club (LSQC) bounce back from the beating doled out by the Aggies in that Oct. 19 final? Will UT, the University of Texas San Antonio (UTSA) Roadrunners or Baylor University break back into a final and challenge for the tournament title? Can anyone outside the aforementioned five throw their name into the title conversation by the end of Saturday? Let us check out the pools and preview this weekend’s action to find out.
University of Texas, University of Texas San Antonio, Silver Phoenixes, Brazos Bruins
The marquee matchup of Saturday’s slate of contests is the 11:20 a.m. game between UT and UTSA. Deprived of this game in New Orleans, tournament organizers gave the people what they wanted with this highly anticipated matchup.
UT, coming off two disappointing tournament finishes at Breakfast Taco and Wolf Pack Classic II (WPC), needs its new players to step up if it is to capture its first tournament title of the season. New players Freddy Salinas, Hector Peralez, Paden Pace and Marty Bermudez Jr. must continue to develop and assume bigger roles within UT’s offense. At times against tougher opposition, the Longhorn offense functions solely through its veterans and its newer players have remained on the periphery. That needs to change if Texas hopes to defend its 2012 Lone Star Cup title.
The Road Runners return to the national spotlight with the team's inclusion in the field at Lone Star Cup. When asked which players need to step up for UTSA to return to a final, Captain Craig Garrison said, “You'll want to watch returning chaser Hunter Turner and chaser Sarah Martini.” Garrison backed up his two players, elaborating on the subject by asserting that “Hunter averaged the second highest points per game for UTSA, game high of seven, at Southwest Regionals and this is his first game back since last season. Sarah Martini, first year playing quidditch, has scored at least one goal per game. She is an amazing passer and can drive and dunk better than I've ever seen from a girl.” Take this with a grain of salt as it is a captain speaking of his own players, but UTSA has proven that it is not a team to be taken lightly. Highly athletic and intelligent on both sides of the ball, this Roadrunner team will need to replicate its performance in the finals of the Breakfast Taco Tournament to legitimize its place among the national elite.
Rounding out the pool are the Silver Phoenixes and the Brazos Bruins. Both are the second travelling teams of regional powers and highlight the player depth of Texas A&M and Baylor. Led by former A&M chaser David Gutierrez, the Phoenixes have produced talented players for its varsity programs, new A&M utility player Keegan Adlis being a prime example. However, having a level of athleticism that is just a notch below its varsity team hamstrings the Phoenixes. Despite this, it always proves to be tough competition.
Competing in its first season, the Brazos Bruins will be attending its third tournament of the year following a venture north to the Cowboy Cup under the team’s Spanish pseudonym the Osos. A modest showing coupled with elimination, losing on a Whichita State University snitch snatch 70-120. That loss left many wondering if Baylor B can snag a World Cup VII bid in the spring like its Austin and College Station Counterparts did last season.
UT and UTSA will play a nail biter to a snitch catch finish. In that situation, I will take the experienced seeking corps of Texas over UTSA’s as of yet unproven bunch. If the Roadrunners can spare Garrison or Cullen Carter for the seeking game, I think its chances will improve immensely. UT must solidify its chaser defense in order to stop the high-powered offensive Roadrunner attack. After this game, the rest of the pool will fall into place. Expect UT and UTSA to cruise in their two remaining pool play games against the Phoenixes and Bruins. That leaves the two B-teams fighting for third place. I will again side with experience and pick the Phoenixes to win in a tightly contested game.
Silver Phoenixes: 1-2
Brazos Bruins: 0-3
Texas A&M, Texas State, Austin Quidditch, University of Houston
Many feel Texas A&M, fresh off its dominating victory at Wolf Pack Classic II, is the favorite to win this tournament. Clearly the class of its pool, A&M will use day one to better integrate its new players. As if its performance in New Orleans was not enough, the Aggies are also returning seeker Andrew “Dirk” Hryekewicz to an already stacked lineup. If the Aggies replicate last month’s play throughout both days, teams will struggle to get within snitch range. Couple that with Hryekewicz bullying opposing seekers and you have an Aggie team ready to win its second trophy of the season. Offensively, A&M has clearly improved its spacing and passing. Take a look at the 11:55 mark of the WPC finals video.
We see chaser Becca DuPont pick up the ball in a crowded keeper zone. She and her scoring teammate know exactly where to be and the pass is out of her hands in under a second. That is quality chaser play.
Asked her opinion of the biggest rival for the Aggies, DuPont said, “I think it's hard to pick a single team as a top rival. Lone Star has been in the finals of both SW tournaments so far, so they'd seem to top the list. But it'll depend on if UT can bounce back to their Breakfast Taco performance and if UTSA will be the same team from that tournament as well… A&M doesn’t plan to underestimate any team we face.”
Joining A&M in the pool is Texas State. Seemingly the second team in the pool, Texas State has turned in a lackluster performance so far this season. We know about utility player Jordon Parisher and power chaser Eric Reyes. What we have yet to see is any coherent strategy or additional player step up in games against the elite. Texas State was supposed to be the next Texas team to step into the national elite but still lacks that signature victory over a top regional team this season.
Austin Quidditch (AQ), fresh off a semi-final appearance at Wolf Pack Classic, seems primed to steal the second spot in the pool from Texas State. Captain Nathan Vest has impressed throughout the season with fundamentally sound chaser play. However, as is the case with other second groups, AQ struggles with a lower level of athleticism. While it has proved it is the better of the regional second teams, AQ still flounders in those games against the elite and should not challenge for the title.
Hovering as a dark horse candidate is the University of Houston (U of H). Coached by world champion chaser Hank Dugie, the vocal pundit was quick to defend his team from those who would assume this U of H team will be playing for its tournament life on Saturday night. Dugie claims that all his team simply needs to do to compete with the best is to show up: “We have significantly improved our skills and strategy since day one and have enough high caliber athletes to create ripples at any tournament.” The facebook firebrand clarified by stating, “By show up, I mean field a complete team consisting of our top players. We aren't deep enough yet for key members to miss a tourney.” Houston will be vastly improved and I would not be surprised if it pulls off upsets against both Texas State and Austin Quidditch. While victory against A&M is a little out of the question, U of H’s presence makes this pool a three-way battle for second place.
A&M will face tough games against all three opponents but is too skilled, deep and physical in all aspects of the game to lose. That leaves us with the second team out of the pool. AQ, gaining experience from its semi-final loss to A&M at Wolf Pack Classic, seems better prepared to handle the physical styles of both U of H and Texas State. I think AQ keeper/chaser Daniel Bellini and company will eek out close wins over both teams and snag the second seed. The 10 a.m. matchup between Houston and Texas State will give us an early indication of what this U of H squad can do. I think Texas State will be caught looking ahead to its tougher matchups and lose to Houston in a shocker.
U of H: 1-2
Lone Star Quidditch Club, Baylor University, Sam Houston State University (SHSU), San Marcos Sharknados
With a 1-1 record in finals this season, Lone Star has shown a consistent ability to make it to the final game of a tournament only to deliver a lackluster performance.
Asked for his impressions of the Southwest thus far, first-year chaser Alexandre De Nes asserted that, “To my knowledge, this is one of the toughest regions with some of the most physical teams. Breakfast Taco was fun but the real experience was at Wolf Pack. Once we were out of the group stages, play got very intense. In my opinion, physicality (especially defensive efforts) are what ultimately determined the victor of Wolf Pack.”
De Nes points to a fact of life within the Southwest: teams do not have the ability to rest on their laurels. The level of play will only improve throughout the season and LSQC must do the same.
Sluggish in the final against A&M at WPC, LSQC could not match the energy it brought in its dominating victory over Texas. The addition of veteran beater Reed Duncan should help give fellow beater Eric Willroth some opportunities to rest and mentor new recruit Bo Roth. This is crucial, as LSQC needs to develop the player depth necessary to keep everyone fresh for a final matchup against an elite Southwest team. The continued development of chasers Amir Alpert, Ethan Banner and Paxton Casey will be essential for this team’s hopes to steal the tournament title from any of its numerous rivals.
The Baylor Bears come into this tournament off the team's first tournament victory of the season at Cowboy Cup II. Dominating the opposition throughout, Baylor demonstrated it was still a team to be feared. However, the health of star beater Brittany Ripperger weighs heavily on the minds of analysts. Baylor needs her to be able to compete at an elite level. Beater Tim Brestowski is also crucial to the Bears’ hopes to repeat as Southwest Regional champions. Injured prior to Breakfast Taco, Brestowski’s status is uncertain for this tournament. Should he attend, Baylor will be deadlier for it. However, the Bears can count on strong chaser play from facilitator Trent Miller. Miller’s ability to see the field, coupled with pinpoint passing, makes him deadly running a fast break or as a ball handler in a halfcourt set. Seeing and playing with Miller and Ripperger in person within a team setting at THE Southwest Fantasy tournament this past summer, I came away extremely impressed with both players. Miller has a killer arm and can sky for Baylor’s trademark alley oop passes while Ripperger is incredibly physical, intelligent and tireless on defense. When healthy, this core alone should justify Baylor’s continued inclusion in the top 10 of any team ranking. Only one of them has played at all this year. The Bears are getting the best out of workhorse beater David Gilbert and an experienced chasing corps that includes star Beissy Sandoval. Baylor can compete at a high level this weekend, but until this team gets healthy, theirs will continue to be a story of unfulfilled ambition.
Sam Houston, a perpetual cellar dweller in the Southwest rankings, will face a tough task of avoiding a Saturday exit from the tournament. Unable to beat an 11-player Louisiana State University side at Breakfast Taco, I am not expecting it to be able to compete with either Lone Star or Baylor. Its one chance at victory is a 12:40 p.m. matchup with the San Marcos Sharknados. Texas State’s second team--the Sharknados--are an unkown. As such, I approach it as I would any new team. I do not think the Sharknados will have the ability to compete with the top two teams in this pool, but I can see it forcing a close game against SHSU. Depending on which seeker comes through for its team, that game is anyone’s to snatch.
A great 12:40 p.m. matchup between Lone Star and Baylor should give us an indication of whether Baylor will be in contention at this tournament. While this will be nothing like the 70*-0 scrimmage to open the season, I do see Lone Star with a slight edge given its performance throughout the season. Baylor’s chances rest in the availability of its injured players. Without its entire lineup, I don’t see the Bears matching Lone Star’s depth. Baylor will win the rest of its games, locking up the second spot out of the pool in the process. I will give SHSU the nod based on its greater level of experience over the Sharknados in a close game.