By Elizabeth Barcelos
***Updated to say that BoomTrain is in the Midwest, not the Great Lakes***
This September, two of the West’s most iconic community teams, the Skrewts and the Crimson Elite, went from teams that perennially represented Northern California and Utah at the national level to sailing off into the sunset.
Excuse me while I blast “Into the West” by Annie Lennox from the Return of the King soundtrack.
As of the morning of November 7, the top West community teams according to the USQ rankings are: the Bay Area Breakers (#9), the Long Beach Funky Quaffles (#37), the Arizona Scorpions (#38), the California Dobbys (#43), the Silicon Valley Vipers (#51) and the Lost Boys (#57).
The latest rankings don’t show it, but the Funky Quaffles own the top spot in the West Right now. Photo credit: Chris Rothery Photography
Even though the Gambits and Farmers still need to make their season debuts, and several teams have their rating handicapped due to playing fewer than five games – including at least three opponents and two events, fyi – it’s hard not to feel like our relatively easy to rank region has become a Wild West.
New teams, old players
The story of the Breakers’ success is an easy one to tell – take the remains of a dying Skrewts team that spent the summer focused on their summer team, inject some new leadership and a culture change, and suddenly you have some other San Francisco Argonauts ready to jump ship from their USQ teams so join another nautically-minded organization. We’re already seeing how a similar story is playing out in the Midwest with BoomTrain: people who enjoy playing on elite summer team are going to want to do it the rest of the year.
Let’s play spot the Breakers, shall we? Photo credit: Michael Vong + Shirley Lu
The Breakers didn’t have their winning streak broken until they faced a team with a strong MLQ core of their own: the Long Beach Funky Quaffles. We’ll see if this NorCal squad deserves their ranking of if they’re all washed up at Anthill Funkdown, where teams like the Los Angeles Gambits and UCLA await them.
The Scorpions are another new squad cobbled together from some familiar faces. Several of the Arizona-based Farmers decided to hang up their overalls and join up with some AZ college grads and the remains of the Arizona Jackalopes, another West team who died out this year, though without the same level of fanfare that the Skrewts or Crimson had.
Will the Arizona Scorpions be able to continue their early-season success as they face off against more top-tier teams in the region? Photo credit: Blaire Jordan
Taking out Utah State with a roster of only 12 players makes for strong evidence proving the college/community split was a good idea. However, the Scorpions’ other wins against D2 college teams Raptor Quidditch and Sun Devil Quidditch aren’t exactly resume-builders. If they can carry this momentum into Sanford Classic, they’ll likely prove that replacing the Jackalopes was worth it.
The takeaway is that as much as some of us on the sidelines care about history and legacies, sometimes what the players themselves need is to leave behind a burdensome past to start something new.
Old teams, new players
On the other hand, teams like Gambits and Funky Quaffles have remained unscathed by the upheaval in the West thanks to their ability to constantly replace whatever turnover they might have. Anteater Quidditch might be a feeder school for most of the region, but the Funky Quaffles have been the primary beneficiaries. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Gambits have a UCLA pipeline that pumps in fresh Bruin and Wizard talent every year.
Skrewts Memorial? More like Anteater Takeover. Photo credit: Barcelos Knows Quidditch, Marissa Hondros, Chris Rothery Photography
So where does that leave the remaining community teams? The Silicon Valley Vipers are perennial recruiters, to the point where they can now field a B-team. Their main squad also features key additions like Max Howard and GMU’s Kevin Lam. The California Dobbys made some additions after NorCal by Northwest, including SJSU’s Matt Ignao. The Farmers remain a big question mark: they lost their Arizona contingent, but they have made pickups like Michael Vong and Dan Marovich is returning to the quidditch pitch after some time off.
That leaves us with the Lost Boys. One away tournament is not enough to forecast an entire season on, but their \ opener was not a promising beginning for the defending West Community Division champs, dropping snitch range games to the Breakers and the Vipers. Losing players like Chris Seto, Justin Bogart, Stephanie Breen, Doug Tran, and Duran Allison only scratches the surface of how many hits the team’s roster took over the summer.
While the Lost Boys have always had the luxury of an Emerson West pipeline to fill the usual cracks you see between seasons, this LA squad needs to find some more players or their chances at defending their championship are truly lost.
I said it earlier this season, and so far, it’s held true. If you’re a West club squad, it’s time to evolve or die.