By Ryan Smythe
The San Francisco Argonauts aren’t the first team at risk of finishing their season without a win – they would join the 2016 Ottawa Black Bears, the 2016 New Orleans Curse, and the 2016 Phoenix Sol – but it’s not a good position to be in morale-wise heading into Championship Weekend. They would also be the first winless team to earn a spot at championship weekend since MLQ started limiting the teams last year, and that’s definitely not something to brag about.
Unfortunately, they’re facing off against the two-time West Division champion Los Angeles Guardians, who haven’t lost a regular season game since June 18, 2016 when the Salt Lake City Hive won the first game of that series 90*-50 to start off the franchise’s career 4-0.
While Salt Lake has struggled at Championships, the franchise’s regular season record of 16-8 is nothing to scoff at. They play Los Angeles on July 28. Photo credit: Tayyeb Mubarik’s Photography.
Both Los Angeles and San Francisco needed to make significant changes to their rosters after losing a number of key players to injury (Chris Seto, Willis Andrew Miles IV), new home locations for the summer (Duran Allison, Perry Wang, Jacob Metevia), taking new non-playing positions (Justin Bogart), and other personal reasons (Stephanie Breen, Anna Huang, David Saltzman).
One of those players, Allison, moved up north and will face off against his old team, albeit as a beater rather than as a keeper. While his sheer size adds an unusual wrinkle to the Argonauts’ beating lineup, there’s a very real chance he needs to switch back to his old position for this series, and possibly even for the rest of the season if they want to put themselves in the best position to steal a game from the Guardians or at Championships. Losing Sean Booker in the opening minutes of game two against the Hive to a broken wrist was a major blow to San Francisco, and while Sam Harris is an excellent option to take over the majority of the team’s keeping minutes – he regularly plays every single keeper minute for the Silicon Valley Skrewts during the USQ season – the team needs more than one option to have a chance at winning a game this year. A lot of this decision likely depends on how successful fellow Argonauts keeper Ryan Parsons is when he steps onto the pitch, but it’s hard to overlook just how dominant Allison was last season when he was tied for the seventh most goals scored in the entire league with 20, and the third most shots blocked with nine. Only Indianapolis Intensity keeper Blake Fitzgerald and Austin Outlaws keeper Augustine Monroe had more blocks with 10 and 11 respectively.
Allison is ready to follow in Monroe’s footsteps as a keeper-turned-beater, something the most decorated man in quidditch did quite well for both the Texas Cavalry and Team USA this past year. Photo credit: Miguel Esparza.
The biggest changes for both of these teams this season are their revamped beating lineups. San Francisco needed to do more to replace their losses, and no matter how good the current players are, it’s hard to see how they can completely fill the shoes of Miles, Wang, Saltzman, Metevia, and Huang. Those are five of the best beaters in the entire West region, and Wang was arguably the best beater in the entire college division this past year after helpling to power the University of Rochester Thestrals to their first title against the University of Texas.
Los Angeles needed to make some pretty significant changes as well, with Seto, Amanda Nagy, Peter Lee, and Jamie Luby all stepping away this season for one reason or another, but the SoCal replacements are pretty damn impressive in their own right. Team Vietnam Captain Duc Tran helped bring the Lost Boys to the Final Four after Seto went down with an ACL, MCL, and PCL tear against Ohio Glory, diving into the #1 beater role without missing a step, and Anteater Quidditch beater Kobe Kendall made one hell of a name for himself with a breakout freshman season.
Tran looks to keep making his mark on West quidditch this season after a dominant 2017-2018 USQ run. Photo Credit: Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography.
San Francisco likely has its greatest edge in their non-male beater squad, despite the fact that they don’t have Huang on the roster this year. The combination of Elsa Lem, Maxine Gutierrez, and Mari Fromstein is good enough to match up against almost any team in the country, and Los Angeles will surely miss Nagy and Luby this summer. Even if the Argonauts squad can make enough of an impact to keep the games in range to give their seekers a shot at the snitch, they still need to worry about the Guardians’ seeking corps of Justin Fernandez, Tye Rush, Elizabeth Ng, and Kendall.
The Argonauts have a massive obstacle in the way of finishing with an 0-6 record, and a lot is going to need to break right for them to get even one win this weekend.
2018 Season Prediction Record: