The Southwest Regional takes place this weekend and Hank Dugie tells you why you shouldn't count out the reigning World Cup champion, Texas Quidditch, as a victor.
After providing the highest amount of championship-caliber teams of any region in the 2012-2013 season, the Southwest has outdone itself once again. Even with the recent collapse of the University of Texas San Antonio, which became a household name in the fall semester, this weekend’s Southwest Regional Championship is bound to be the most crowded field to date. Shockingly, all of the region’s best teams are even better than before, except for one: Texas Quidditch.
Texas A&M University, University of Arkansas, Baylor University, Lousiana State University, and Texas State University have all significantly improved. Add Lone Star Quidditch Club, Sam Houstn State University (last year’s D2 champ), Loyola University New Orleans (last year’s D2 runner-up) and a whole slew of new and growing teams to the mix, and there is no debating the fact that the world’s strongest region has only become more formidable.
That being said, I believe this is the tournament that the University of Texas gets back in the metaphorical saddle, jumps back onto metaphorical high horses and literally gallops beautifully off into the sunset with sights set on another World-Cup title.
What to Expect
No more excuses. Texas only has veteran payers now (it does have some changes to its fall roster, but many of the new players have had at least a semester and 10 games worth of experience), and they know the roles they must play for the team to be successful. This is a team that is physically gifted enough to win games on pure athleticism and skill alone but has learned that in order to beat the best of the best, each individual player must adopt the “Texas Swagger.” Something the quidditch community has come to know as the "Chris-Morris-I-don’t-deserve-the-luxury-of-sleeping-in-a-bed-until-we-win" mentality.
Expect nothing less than an exciting showcase of ability and desire by a team that is coming together at a perfect time in the season. Texas easily sweeps its pool; heads straight back to its hotel to eat, sleep, and mentally prepare; then returns on day two to prove those leaving the team out of the championship discussions are sadly mistaken.
“We're going to feed the ball to our athletes, bring high energy and play strong. If a focused Texas team shows up, we're going to be successful. That's all there is to it.” - Augustine Monroe, Texas Quidditch co-captain
Keys to Success
Defensively, Texas stays true to its mantra of hitting opponents hard, early and often but also focuses on doing so with purpose and within the flow of the game. The players must deny pass options and punish teams that are brave enough to drive on the hoops. Beaters will naturally click better from more time together. They need to focus on maintaining bludger control while applying steady pressure on quaffle-carriers, distracting them from long shot opportunities.
Offensively, look for better ball movement and decision making. All of Texas' keepers and chasers contain extreme play-making abilities – they need the confidence and green-light approval to attack at will. They absolutely must be able to score against one-bludger and no-bludger defenses.
Players to Watch
All of them. This truly is a special team. It will be scary to them once they too come to that realization.
More specifically, I will be honing in on the following:
Ryan Davis C Intensity player. Momentum creator.
Paden Pace C Ferocious hits. Midrift.
Kiki Crawford B Chaser converted to beater. Physical beater style.
Christian Dowdle B Phenomenal young beater. Can do it all.
Shelby Manford C Utility. On a team with only five females, she is key.
Margo Aleman S Violent seeking. Big-time improvement this season.
Freddy Salinas B With improved consistency, one of the best.
Augustine Monroe K No reason necessary.
Audrey Wright C She is a wall. Look at those legs!
Cody Tadlock C Signature padlock defense.
Equally impressive others: David Acker, Hector Peralez, Aryan Ghoddossy, Marty Bermudez Jr., Kenny Chilton, Alex Fort, Daniel Rice (P), Jackson Clifford (IR), Kaci Erwin, Michael Duquette, Katy Matz