by Ryan Smythe
Phoenix: whatever pilgrimage you needed to set out on, whichever ancient deity you needed to pray to, or whoever you needed to meet deep in a bog, somehow you have pulled together a solid roster out of the brink of defeat.
I only have a few hundred words to use here, so I will use my time wisely before turning my eye on the San Francisco Argonauts. I’m going to talk about Justine Taylor, the AC (assistant coach, I think?) of the Phoenix Sol and chaser for the Los Angeles Gambits.
Say what you will about the new seeking changes (Erin Moreno did a fantastic job saying things about it), make whatever bigoted/sexist comment you want, but we should all agree that this new rule adds to the value of nonmale players. Whether it’s because nonmale seekers create lineup flexibility while still providing high levels of pressure to the end of game—Molly Pietroski, you retired a season too soon—or because some teams may think it’s a good idea to put a player on the snitch to stall, every bit of added pressure from the two or more nonmale players on the pitch’s value just increased.
Justine Taylor is one of these players. This change won’t affect her already insanely high value this MLQ season (second round draft pick for MY TEAM at Funky Fiesta, and I couldn’t be more stoked to finally get a chance to play with her), but it will add to her value in USQ once the summer is over. A few months ago, she told me that she could squat 250 pounds. I don’t know too many quidditch players that weigh more than 250 pounds; last I checked, someone who could squat 250 pounds can easily generate enough force to stop a vast majority of chasers in their tracks. Add on to that her low center of gravity, and she could challenge to be one of the top point defenders in the west, if not the entire U.S.
One more time for those in the back: 250 fucking pounds. She can squat me plus an average 12-year-old.
Now imagine pairing her with an elite seeker—say, a Margo Aleman or Dan Howland-level talent. Every single time an opposing team chooses to put anyone, nonmale or male, on the snitch to get in his way, that team is laying its head down on the chopping block and daring the opposing team to take a swing. With Taylor’s ability to match up physically to almost any quaffle carrier, her team should never feel the desire to limit its seeking game by putting in a stopgap to “beef up” the chaser lineup. That’s not to say teams won’t be able to find and develop the next Pietroski, but the way the league stands now, seeking is arguably the most male-driven position.
That all being said, we didn’t get to watch the Phoenix Sol last Saturday. I don’t mean that as an insult; I mean that as a commentary on how little practice it’s had compared to its opponents. Using the footage from its game against San Francisco as scouting material would be a mistake. This team still needs time to figure out how it wants to manage rotations, defend against aggression, and attack weak points in opposing teams. It could very well upset some teams on championship weekend if it’s underestimated, providing it figures out how to gel and work around star players like Taylor.
However, San Francisco capitalized on its opportunity to sweep a series beautifully. Scoring over 100 points in each of its victories is impressive; this Phoenix team, however rocky the start to its season may have been, is filled with talented players. Bouncing back like this after getting swept by Salt Lake City should do wonders for the team’s confidence. If Los Angeles goes into its games expecting an easy 3-0 weekend, there’s a slight chance the Argonauts could steal one of those games.
Given that Salt Lake clinched a victory with the sure hands of Howland, San Francisco still has an uphill battle if it hopes to end its season with a fourth win.