By Elizabeth Barcelos and Ryan Smythe
12 teams collide in Roseville this weekend for the five West college bids to US Quidditch Cup 12. Elizabeth Barcelos and Ryan Smythe broke the teams down into tiers to determine who has a chance for the podium, looking to qualify in person, increase their at large chances, and who just wants to go home with a win.
The Battle for the Crown
The parity at the top of the West college teams is incredible. There’s a very good chance that every single one of these games is decided by a snitch pull, which will make for some fantastic games to watch and stressful games to play.
This isn’t the same team that made its Cinderella run to claim the final bid for regionals two seasons ago – they’re a hell of a lot better. Everyone in the West who’s been paying any sort of attention to this crew knows about how good Kobe Kendall is, but the rest of this young team continues to improve with every single game they play. Rachel Ramirez and Timothy Connor deserve all the credit in the world for their work leading this team to new heights, and after taking down Utah State at Tempe Brawl last month, a spot on the podium isn’t out of the question this weekend.
Why they’ll win regionals: Stellar beater play and an increasingly dynamic chasing game will help keep AQ in range against the rest of the top teams this weekend.
Why they won’t: Relying on snitch pulls to win matches is a dangerous game to play, and all of these top games will likely come down to that.
While Maddi Erdall (you might know her better as #8 on Cal) has long been keeper Ryan Pfenning’s favorite target when he decides not to crash hoops, he has a new target: rookie AJ Morgan. The defending champions’ best game is arguably a loss, their near comeback victory against Texas Quidditch.
Why they’ll win regionals: Cal doesn’t quit when they’re in the hole, which is key for a deep run on Sunday. They have what it takes to grind down opponents long enough to get back in range and let seeker David Cadena make a quick grab.
Why they won’t: While Cal can do well without Pfenning at keeper, any team that can stop him after crossing the midline or that lets him get carded out will have a far better chance of defeating the defending champs. Of the top four teams, Cal is arguably the most one dimensional.
University of California Los Angeles
UCLA put on a strong showing at Heroes vs Villains Invitational II, playing Texas Quidditch in range and beating NorCal rivals Cal Quidditch just two months after being crushed out of range by that squad. If this team continues along this trajectory, odds are they’ll be in a great spot against the rest of the competition at regionals. A lot of that will revolve around the play and coaching of Elizabeth Ng, the last MLQ West MVP we’ll likely see for a long time and one of the most dominant multi-position players in the region.
Why they’ll win regionals: A deep roster filled with experienced and talented players, along with a pair of top-tier seekers in Ng and Tye Rush will keep this team in position to win every game.
Why they won’t: UCLA is 1-2 this season against Cal and Utah State with two out of range loses back in November. If that early-season team shows up, they’ll find themselves looking up at the podium rather than on top of it.
Utah State Quidditch Club
The team has only continued to improve after grabbing last year’s fifth bid, catapulting themselves into the conversation as a podium contender. Keeper Cameron VomBaur gets a lot of credit for Utah State’s success, but the Aggies have one of the best beating squads in the top four in Dru Smith, Anthony Snapp, and Alli Bouwman.
Why they’ll win regionals: Just look at their schedule. They’ve already beaten Cal and UCLA and played a close game with Anteater Quidditch last month at Tempe Brawl.
Why they won’t: Their wins against their top tier competition were back when neither Cal nor UCLA had much practice time under their belts, and even then, Cal was able to deal them an out of range loss at Chandra Classic. After a season of training and experience against a mix of top community teams in the region and some of the best college teams in the country, the three Golden State contenders are well prepared to take revenge against their Beehive State rival.
Wildcards from the desert
Just behind the top teams, this tier is hard to pin down due to their limited list of opponents. They could upset their way into the finals, they could just qualify, or they may miss out on qualifying in Roseville and put themselves in a better position to snag the first at large bid awarded to a west team.
Arizona State University
How they’ll qualify: ASU graduated one hell of a crew at the end of last season, including (but not limited to) Dylan Bryant, Vicky Sanford, Ryan McGonagle, Jarrod Bailey, and Celia Evans. While this team isn’t as likely to make a run for the trophy like they have every year for the past half decade, a robust program and top-tier recruiting have kept the roster full and ready to compete with any team they face off against.
How they could make it into the finals: Captains Amani Burton, Aaron Gutierrez, and Colton Lish have a steep hill to climb this weekend but don’t be surprised if they rip off a series of upsets to make a deep run in bracket play, especially if opposing teams enter their matchup flat-footed.
Why they won’t be in the final: ASU has struggled against higher-caliber teams all season, and if they get caught in a couple of bad games in a row they could find themselves a lot of free time on Sunday.
Northern Arizona University Narwhals
How they’ll qualify: Taking down Cal would set them up to win their pool and make an easy run into a bid on Sunday. Their 80* – 60 win over the Funky Quaffles shows that they’re capable of an upset of that caliber, and good bracket placement could help them avoid the top tier squads long enough to seal a bid and go home. If that doesn’t work out, they’ll likely take sixth and be positioned to get the first at large bid awarded to the West.
Why they won’t be in the final: Their only games against the top tier of college teams are two out of range defeats to Utah State and one to Anteater Quidditch. While this team might have one upset in them, you need more than that to make a deep bracket run.
Looking to get at large lucky
Could we be seeing the University of Utah at nationals? They’ll need to channel some of that #RaptorRage to get there. Photo credit: Elizabeth Barcelos Photography
With the top tier so deep, qualifying in person is a long shot for these college squads. However, making it to nationals isn’t out of the question if they play their cards right.
San Jose State University Spartan Quidditch
The Spartans’ roster woes continue with the departure of star beater Elsa Lem after her winter graduation. Freshmen beaters Jenna Trausch and Piero Trujillo need to step up this weekend to fill in the void left behind. On the quaffle side of the ball, senior keeper Aron Cortez has two excellent options in assistant coach Kim Cheng and freshman Elijah Franklin.
Chance for an at large bid: Iffy but doable. As of publication, they’re the No. 64 college team in the nation and No. 7 in the west. With a good spring recruiting class and winning the right games before the at large deadline, the Spartans (and not the Amazons) might make a return to the national stage.
Raptor Quidditch at the University of Utah
The brunt of the Raptors’ season has been facing down Arizona teams over and over again, and they’ll be doing that again in California. That experience in the desert could be to their benefit, as they’ve already shown by beating Sun Devil Quidditch. They’ve also been dealt crushing losses by top college teams like Cal and Utah State. Veteran beaters Danika and Nathan Liou will have their work cut out for them.
Chance for an at large bid: It’ll be an uphill battle. This weekend is the Raptors’ chance to rise in the rankings and earn one. While they have a rough pool draw, if the University of Utah squad gets a chance at any of the teams ranked below them in the bracket they’ll grab some much-needed wins for their at large chase. They may end up needing to play more teams at their level in future tournaments before the at large deadline though.
B-teams and rebuilding dreams
These teams are looking to add some much-needed wins to their season. Whether they’re B-teams or long-standing squads in desperate need of a rebuilding morale boost, this regional championship offers some of these teams a chance to go home with a W.
Stanford hasn’t made it beyond the West region since Consolation Cup II and this year looks to be no different. However, their Barcelos Bowl game against the Farmers offers a ray of hope for the Palo Alto squad. They kept the game in range for a good stretch before the equally small but veteran Farmers squad pulled away. Against a team closer to their level like Pot 4 Wizards of Westwood, Stanford may get their first win of the season. Practicing with neighbors the Bay Area Breakers and SJSU can only help their chances.
Can they win a bracket game? Even if they do win their game against the Wizards, playing on day two with an 11-person roster short on non-male players doesn’t bode well for their chances.
Sun Devil Quidditch
This team has yet to win a single game this season, which isn’t entirely surprising when you look at their opponents in include the Gambits, ASU, Utah State, and Rain City Raptors. After losing a crew of experienced players to the main school squad, the Sun Devils will have to hope that the experience gained from playing some of the best teams in the region throughout the season will help give them an edge over the rest of the lower-tier teams.
Will they win a bracket game? It’s going to be difficult for this team to make any sort of run during bracket play with only an 11-person roster, especially since they will likely be playing a higher-tier team. If they can pull off an upset or two and earn a higher seed then it may be possible, but that’s a big ask.
Wizards of Westwood
The Wizards find themselves in a very similar spot as the Sun Devils. B-teams are signs of a healthy and potentially long-lasting college program, but the lack of experience often results in lackluster results throughout the season. Unlike the Sun Devils, the Wizards roster is almost full with 17 players which will hopefully keep them better rested and ready to pounce if the opportunity presents itself.
Will they win a bracket game? Unless this team can win at least one game during pool play to earn a higher seed and avoid playing one of the tougher teams in the first round, there’s not much chance for the Wizards to play many games on day two.
Western Washington Wyverns
The Wyverns have a large crop of underclassmen experiencing regionals for the first time, which bodes well for the program’s future. However, their lack of competitive games this season — their only USQ opponents have been the far more experienced Northwest and NorCal community teams — means they may not know how to handle the pressure of a snitch range game. Winning will come down to Abe Nurkiewicz’s ball handing on the pitch, coach Benjamin Richardson keeping his underclassmen focused on the task at hand, and maybe even a snitch grab by seeker Lynne Nowak.
Can they win a bracket game? Their game against SJSU will be the biggest game of the weekend for both squads involved. It’ll be WWU’s best chance to prove that they’re better than their winless record suggests. It’s the Wyverns’ best chance to get a favorable seeding for Sunday.