By Ryan Smythe and Elizabeth Barcelos
Back to NorCal. Back to round robin. But otherwise, this community championship couldn’t be more different than last year’s. The “final” doesn’t seem set in stone and qualification is relatively less stressful, since seven of the nine teams competing will receive bids to US Quidditch Cup 12. We could even have an entirely different set of silver and gold medalists.
Their Title to Lose
While the middle and bottom of the west are a tight pack, one team stands alone at the top. Their new threads just need a gold medal to match.
Los Angeles Gambits
Any team hoping to get their hands on the West trophy will have to go through the Gambits. There’s no other way to put it — this is the team to beat. The addition of Arizona players Jarrod Bailey and Tori Kaiser, Great Lakes transplant Erin Moreno, and Long Beach pickup Anthony Hawkins make this already dangerous team that much harder to pick apart. Throw in a new crop of UCLA graduates including sideline commander Badal Chandra and there are very few holes this team will need to worry about. Every team facing off against the Gambits and taking their shot at the crown best not miss.
Why they’ll win the regional title: Just look at this roster. There isn’t a single position that isn’t filled by multiple borderline or actual Team USA-caliber talent. With Tony Rodriguez at the helm, this team is already thinking about the damage they can do on the national stage.
Why they won’t: The Gambits had a scare last year when the California Dobbys almost took them down after a called off overtime grab, and the Bay Area Breakers were a single dropped snitch catch away from an upset at Anthill Funkdown. If this team continues to struggle with bad cards, then there could be an opening for an upset.
Striving for more than silver
One of these teams will take second… or steal the throne from the Gambits.
Bay Area Breakers
The Bay Area Breakers are about to face their toughest competition all year, but early season performance indicates that this team has the tools necessary to take on everything Regionals will throw at them. The already fierce beater core got even better with the addition of SJSU Spartan alum Elsa Lem after her winter graduation, and former Lost Boys keeper-turned-beater Duran Allison has almost an entire season’s worth of experience under his belt at this point. Throw in their iron man keeper Sam Harris, the two-headed beast of a seeking team in Forrest Stone and Hugo Quiroz, and some high-caliber chasing support like Madeline Timm and John Vong and it’s easy to see why there’s so much hype surrounding one of the most talented NorCal teams we’ve ever seen.
How they could snatch the crown: This talented amalgamation of former Silicon Valley players (with a few more additions thrown in for the fun of it) has the talent to make a splash at a national level, and already showed that they could run with the big boys at Anthill Funkdown.
Why they won’t be on the podium: As impressive as the Anthill Funkdown finals showing was, it was still against a Gambits team that didn’t have Steve DiCarlo or Tony Rodriguez. It’s going to be a very different matchup this time around, and the Breakers will need to reach a new level to give themselves a shot at a W.
Long Beach Funky Quaffles
Bearsharks. QCB. Gambits. Lost Boys. The heads on this team’s wall from the past couple of years are as high-profile as any team in the nation. They’re no longer looking to punch up and take down the teams ahead of them — now they’re looking to cement their place as one of the top-tier teams from the West. Captains Joe Robles and Shea Hillinger have done amazing work this season getting the team in shape and mixing in the new blood to get the most out of their talents. Kelly Concepcion, Emily Provenzano, and Carl Ferrer all took considerable leaps from last season, and new additions Doug Tran and Austin Sharp are consistently looking to cause chaos and close out games with a bang. While the Funky Quaffles may not have the insane depth that the Gambits have, their top lines have the chance to match anyone at Regionals step for step and dare their competition to keep up.
How they could snatch the crown: It’s hard to find another team in the country who has a more storied history of pulling off dramatic upsets in the past few years. The roster may be a little different than last year’s team that took down the Gambits, but the heart of it remains the same.
Why they won’t be on the podium: Will the team that took down the Bosnyan Bearsharks at Heroes vs Villains show up, or will the team that could barely find any traction against the THC Heat or Texas Cavalry rear its ugly head again? This team may have one of the highest ceilings in the region, but their floor could be deeper than the nonexistent basements in California.
In the thick of it
The middle of the pack is full of squads that no one should take for granted. These teams should all be booking flights to Texas; the question is how many upsets they’ll rack up along the way.
This team shows no signs of repeating their perfect 0-9 record this year. They’ve added some much-needed depth, which is crucial for a two-day round robin. Playing Kavan Sikand at keeper allows Sean Booker the flexibility to join Jacob Ellis as a dangerous passing option. Their beating continues to be anchored by Argonauts (RIP) stalwarts McKayla Major and Mari Fromstein.
Why they’ll qualify: This is the best the Dobbys have ever looked. While the chances of them breaking out of the pack and snatching a spot on the podium are minimal, they’re an upset ready to happen for any team foolish enough to take them for granted. They’ll easily qualify for their first ever US Quidditch Cup.
It’s hard to find a team in the entire country that faced as much roster turnover as the Lost Boys did this season, losing high-caliber players to injury, moving, and retirement. This squad looks very different from the crew that blitzed their way to the top of the podium last year, but will finally have a more or less complete roster for the first time all season. They still need to prove that they can effectively gel together, which they’ll need to do to prove they belong back in the top.
Why they’ll qualify: The beaters, even without Chris Seto and Doug Tran in the mix, are still a corps to be feared. With quaffle players like Justin Fernandez, Cornelia Tzana, and George Williams running alongside them, it’s hard to picture a world where they don’t secure a bid and at the very least give the top squads a good scare.
Rain City Raptors
Rain City got their season started with a bang at NorCal by Northwest with a win over the Dobbys and defeating their green and black NorCal rivals, the Vipers. They also gave the Breakers their first close game of the season. Not wanting to rest on their early season laurels, they headed down to the desert for Tempe Brawl while the rest of us were at Heroes vs Villains, beating the Vipers again twice along with wins against the Arizona teams before losing by 10 points in the final on an accidental concession catch.
Why they’ll qualify: While their win record is impressive, the biggest game on their resume was against a much smaller Breakers squad than the one we’ll be seeing in Roseville. While this team is the most likely to rise up from the middle of the pack and snag the Northwest a spot on the podium, they still have a bit more to prove before we can call them medal contenders.
Silicon Valley Vipers
The Vipers took advantage of an early-season matchup against the Lost Boys to shock the team with their first win over the team in program history. At that very same tournament, they were handed a 100-point loss by the Lost Boys so this team will need to keep up that momentum to win enough games to secure a bid. At the very least, this team proved early on that sleeping on them can end with disastrous results. Cullen Casey and Sam Fischgrund are too smart of coaches to be completely written off, and they have a full 21-person roster to move around and keep their legs fresh.
Why they’ll qualify: The loss of the Scorpions from this tournament means that hopeful teams only need to win two of their games to safely assume that they will have a spot at Nationals in April. The Vipers have a solid crew of good drivers who, when given a lane by this beating crew, can rack up the points to stay in range or even get ahead of some of their opponents.
Leading the charge for an at large
Even with seven of the nine teams competing walking away with a bid, these two teams of seasoned players are facing an uphill battle to qualify this weekend. They may have to focus on their at large chances.
On the one hand, Cascadia started the season with a bang. Dyllon Carlson’s ball handling led Cascadia to their first USQ official win, an overtime squeaker over the Silicon Valley Vipers at NorCal by Northwest. On the other hand, Carlson has left the northwest, leaving this beater-deep squad (including veterans like Cy and Ruthie Torrey-Stahl, Jake Malloy, and Marina Martinez) without a dominant quaffle carrier to open lanes for.
At large chances: Slim, unless they travel this spring. You need eight individual opponents (outside of regionals) to secure an at-large, and their only opponents are the two other Northwest teams and the three NorCal community squads.
Fighting Farmers of America
It’s impossible to know which collection of Farmers will show up for any given tournament given the teams mercenary-style composition, but coach and captain Tommy Brown rung the dinner bell hard enough to bring out the biggest roster this team has fielded all year – and possibly even longer than that. 18 (mostly) healthy players are hungry for another shot at the national stage, and some of the newer bodies could give them a very good shot at securing a bid. Former SJSU Spartan Anna Huang will add yet another talented arm to an already impressive beater crew alongside Brown, Shayla Zink, Madi Douglass, and 4th String Beater Michael Vong. Add in a crop of corn-fed drivers like Dan Marovich and Nate Stender and you have a recipe for success.
At large chances: Since this team doesn’t hold practice throughout the season, it’s going to be an uphill battle for this team to gel in time to rack up enough wins to secure a bid. If that happens and the roster can shake off its semi-retired cobwebs, then this will become a team primed to upset more than one higher-tier team this weekend.