The Highlighter - Kevin Oelze (Silicon Valley Skrewts)
Trying to branch out from LA area players a little today, so why not talk about one of the most widely recognized figures in all of quidditch. Most of that recognition comes from things off the pitch (Western Cup organization, Westbook, tumblr posts, tumblr derping, etc), but he is very notable on pitch too.
I have not seen as much of the Skrewts as I have some other teams, but what I have seen is very interesting. They are one of the most community-involved teams in the country (lots of Kidditch), they are very open to getting anyone and everyone who wants to play involved, and they are very whimsical. And really, before I watched them play that was all I knew about them. And then I watched Kevin play. If you are going to the pitch ready to watch a whimsical team, stick to watching Sam Fischgrund. Because Kevin is our sport’s Ray Lewis.
Intense. Dedicated. Heart. Leaves it on the field. Cliche cliche cliche cliche but all true. This guy pretty much cares more than is healthy. Every game I have seen him play has ended with him immediately passing out after it is over. And this is for a variety of reasons…
First, like I said, he is intense. If there is a ref to run across the field to politely (?) discuss a ruling with, he will do it. If there is a player who twisted their ankle slightly for him to sprint across the field to give CPR to, he will do it. If there is a game to be officiated right after he played and passed out, he will do it.
Second, the way he plays is very physically demanding. The Skrewts are a pretty good team. Good showing last World Cup and Western Cup, etc etc. But they are not a great team. They play a very conservative beater game (when I’ve watched them play, at least), and they really only have a few scoring options. Those scoring options are Kevin, Chris, and Sunil. So spreading the field and moving the ball around is not exactly something they excel at. That puts a lot of pressure on their on-ball players (Chris and Kevin) to do work.
While Sunil is very good at finding gaps behind the goal (playing behind the goal is a very underrated skill – i know lots of players get psyched out playing back there) and catching everything that comes his way, their other option (aside from Kevin) is Chris, who is pretty much a slightly shorter version of Kevin (but i rarely see them on the pitch together and i don’t even know how effective a pairing they would make, as they are both on-ball players). So as a result of all of this, Kevin does a lot of one-on-one (or -two, or -three) barreling. And it has mixed results.
At this stage in quidditch, barreling through a defense is either the best way to score (if you are playing a team with unphysical chasers and poor bludger control/awareness, because passes = turnovers), or the worst (if you are playing a team that can slow down – if not tackle – bigger players and get a beater on the quaffle asap). Then the Skrewts’ bludger strategy amplifies the stress put on Kevin.
I mentioned earlier that they are very conservative with their bludgers. And I think on one hand that is smart, because they tend to keep bludger control for a long time by not risking them on offense, and that lets them cover for their chaser defense (which is not particularly good). But then by not playing with an offensive beater they leave teams in a spot where they can easily dictate what is happening and force Kevin to give the ball up or get beat. By introducing an offensive beater they could take some of the chaser pressure off Kevin with quick beats (and I have seen Kevin get triple-teamed in a game) and possibly give him a few beater-free runs at the hoops. The question is, would going more aggressive cost their team more points on defense than it gains them on offense. And judging by the Skrewts’ past success they have picked the right strategy.
Kevin’s effectiveness is largely determined by his competition, which is true for almost everyone, but truer for Kevin (what?). But I’ll be damned if facing the daunting task of carrying the Skrewts on his back against smart/physical teams would ever stop Kevin from busting his ass. He will try. And then pass out. And then ref a game.