By Elizabeth Barcelos and Ryan Smythe
The real gauntlet of the weekend is in the community division. Some teams played ambitious schedules and paid the price. Others played it safe. But this round robin means there’s nowhere to hide. This weekend will separate the best from the rest as only three teams will walk away guaranteed to represent the west… leaving the rest to battle it out for at large scraps.
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The Top Two: Booooooring
Too bad these teams don’t have much history with each other. Photo Credit: Isabella Gong
Los Angeles Gambits
Why they’ll win the regional title: While the Gambits aren’t the oldest community team in the west, they’re easily the most successful when it comes to regional hardware. They consistently put teams out of range with their incredible offensive prowess, seriously mitigating the risk of an unfortunate snitch grab derailing their championship dreams.
Why they won’t: The Gambits showed off their improved depth at Heroes vs. Villains, which could prove invaluable over this weekend. However, if they revert back to their old Tony-centric style of play, they could find themselves running out of gas by the time they reach their final opponent, the Lost Boys.
The Lost Boys
Why they’ll win the regional title: These heroes don’t depend on one line or one player to do their scoring or hold down their defense, keeping them fresh throughout a two-day tournament. The Lost Boys managed to find themselves in the final of Heroes vs. Villains with no breaks during bracket play, so this one game on, two games off schedule should be a cakewalk in comparison.
Why they won’t: The Lost Boys have have a tendency to play a lot of in-range games, including against middling opponents like the Funky Quaffles and Skrewts. This inability to put teams away means that one snitch grab gone wrong is enough to suck the Lost Boys out of contention for the top spot before they even face the Gambits.
The Battle for the Bronze Bid
Long Beach needs to figure out how to close out its close games to have a shot at securing a bid. Photo Credit: Chris Rothery Photography
Why they’ll take third: As the third ranked community team, they’re in the driver’s seat. This is their bid to lose. Crimson Cup was arguably their best showing of the year, and they pulled that off without all-star beater Michael Vong.
Why they won’t: After Crimson Cup and Golden Bear Invitational, the Elite haven’t made an appearance in any elite tournaments. Their last recorded games were on Nov. 11. If they take too long to brush off the cobwebs, they may be in danger.
At large chances: They’re currently ranked #19 among all community teams, so even if the Crimson Elite miss out on a bid on Sunday, they won’t delete their chances at an at large spot.
The Long Beach Funky Quaffles
Why they’ll take third: This is going to sound familiar, but ignore this team’s record. The Funky Quaffles have appeared at three of the west’s highest level tournaments: Heroes vs. Villains, Golden Bear, and their own Long Beach Invitational. This may be their easiest tournament all year, and they’re hungry.
Why they won’t: Now it’s time to bring up that record. For all their depth, wins have eluded them. The Quaffles haven’t gotten a W since November, and while their schedule has been daunting to say the least, and they took the Lost Boys to overtime at Heroes vs. Villains, it’s worrying to see them fail to close out games.
At large chances: As #31 among all community teams when only 20 qualify, the Quaffles need to turn their record around so badly that taking third may be their only guarantee of qualifying.
The Fighting Farmers of America
Why they’ll take third: We’ve talked about their lack of cohesion before, but in a two-day tournament, the Farmers have time to get comfortable. The team as a whole is more experienced than a lot of the middle of the pack teams, and that should serve them well.
Why they won’t: If they take too long to mesh together, they’ll lose to teams that practice together more often.
At large chances: They’re right behind the funky bunch in the rankings (#33 among community teams), so their position is just as dire.
Looking for At Large Luck
Every single win is going to matter for these teams, and too many losses could knock them out of contention for an at large bid altogether. Photo credit: KimChe Photography
Silicon Valley Skrewts
Why they’ll qualify: They’re 3-7 without Miles and 6-3 with him back. While taking third is a stretch for this squad of old-timers, the Skrewts can get enough wins to secure a decent record and qualify by the skin of their teeth as they do in every odd numbered Western Cup. (V, VII, and now IX).
Why they won’t: Day One is likely to be a 1-3 day for them. Their small roster may not be able to turn it around and get the wins they need on Day Two, especially if Forrest Stone has to carry all of the burden at seeker.
Silicon Valley Vipers
Why they’ll qualify: With their 12-5 record, this Silicon Valley squad has a better record than their cross-valley rivals. While the third bid may be out of reach, the Vipers have to screw up pretty badly to get out of at large contention.
Why they won’t: With no high profile tournaments on their resume compared to the rest of the community division, the Vipers have the lowest strength of schedule (0.410) of any West community team. They may be unprepared for the intense gauntlet of a two-day round robin.
Why they’ll qualify: This team showed sparks of brilliance this fall, thumping up to the Long Beach Invitational with less than 10 players and making a deep bracket run. They might be better at maximizing their small roster than the old folks home up in Silicon Valley.
Why they won’t: The Jackalopes are bringing the smallest community roster to regionals. In a two-day tournament, that’s a rough handicap to overcome.
Why they’ll qualify: The East Bay is this team’s home turf. This is where they can make their comeback. If the Dobbys can stay in range against their opponents, Sean Booker can pull some socks and free them from their non-qualification streak.
Why they won’t: The Dobbys are 0-5 against West community teams this year, including fellow at large competitors like the Skrewts, Vipers, and Jackalopes. If they can’t turn that around, this home team will be staying home come April.