[Note: GPQB is trying something new with this wrap-up by conducting post-tournament interviews with some players and coaches to add to the story. All interviewees were selected by whomever was in the Quizbowl Discord from various teams at the time of writing, with an emphasis on Pennsylvania teams.]
Thirty-six teams from around the region gathered at the University of Pennsylvania for the 3rd Annual Quaker Fall Open. In the end, Downingtown STEM A came out on top over Great Valley A in the nationals division while Lakeland defeated Great Valley C to win the open division.
Full stats for both divisions are available here.
Six of the top teams in the region competed in a double round-robin followed by a thrilling 2-game final series. In an incredibly close final four matches that all came down to the final tossup, Downingtown STEM beat Great Valley A, then lost to district rivals Downingtown East, then won two final games against Great Valley A in a disadvantaged final. STEM was missing their history/geography specialist Anish, but Vishwa’s deep science knowledge (he had some very impressive 30s on college-level topics) and solid all-around knowledge helped keep them competitive in every game. Rohan also helped out on the arts, employing a studying strategy of presenting to younger students on the team on various art topics (as inspired by Lily Zhang’s discussion of State College’s strategy).
Despite a tournament-leading 45 negs, the aggressive buzzing strategy paid off for STEM, who also led the tournament with 27 powers. According to Vishwa, this wasn’t a deliberate buzzing strategy; they just buzzed when they thought they knew it and Vishwa felt liberated to be aggressive on history to make up for Anish’ absence. In the final two matches, Vishwa shifted his strategy to avoid negs: “I was a lot less cavalier on science buzzes…I waited a bit more after I thought I knew it.”
Great Valley A (missing their normal #3 Mark) seemingly had the tournament in hand multiple times, but lost to a firing-on-all-cylinders Friends Select team in the final regular round to finish at 8-2 that forced a final with 7-3 D-STEM. GV A knew they’d had neg problems in the past and worked to correct that this time, particularly on a tough question set. Great Valley Coach McCauley said that his A team, “played much more patient–knowing lead-ins would be tougher–and bought in to cutting negs and not beating ourselves.”
Unfortunately, a few poorly-timed negs did cost them in the final few matches and they weren’t able to make up for that. It does seem like GV is working to improve on every question with a data-driven study strategy; Coach McCauley noted that, “We can take the data from this event and say ‘what caused this neg?’ or ‘we zeroed this bonus’ and then discuss who is going to own this topic for next time.” We’ll see if GV’s moneybuzz strategy can pay off at tournaments next semester.
Friends Select A finished in 3rd with a 6-4 record highlighted by a final-round win over Great Valley A. Like the other teams, FSS had practiced on tougher questions in the weeks leading up to this tournament to account for the tougher questions and different distribution. As Jake from FSS A explained, “the biggest difference for us was having to be a lot more conservative on our buzzes on EFT. We spent all of last week practicing waiting longer before buzzing than we would on [NAQT].” Friends Select rotated a fourth into their lineup, with Saras providing handshakes after good buzzes and some help on the bonuses, though the whole team missed some of the geography and current events questions that would be in a NAQT packet.
Making the drive up from Wilmington, Wilmington Charter A (DE) was competitive in all their matches and notched a win over STEM. The core trio of Waley, Sohum, and Sohan continued their solid performances from previous tournaments, though they were somewhat up-and-down depending on the match throughout the day. They’re certainly capable of knocking off any team in the area, but can play somewhat sloppily as well as brilliantly from match to match.
Downingtown East had a memorable match against STEM, beating their district rivals for the first time this academic year after an impressive 30 on the bonus after TU 19 by Malaika. According to D-East’s Jackie, “we were just more cautious and tried to keep it close the entire time, and we also got lucky that some of the topics that came up were ones that we knew decently well.” The rest of their matches put points on the board, but didn’t quite come as close. Their core trio also seems to be in the market for a solid 4th player and will likely make use of their rising B and C teams to provide one for future tournaments.
Middlesex County Academy (NJ), a very young team this year, ventured into the nationals division and adopted an aggressive strategy of buzzing which earned them the runner-up neg title award but probably made sense against the squads they were facing. We of course welcome NJ schools and would love to have more cross the river into PA.
EFT seemed like a solid set in terms of difficulty for most of these teams, who could consistently get TUs and 10 bonuses but also rewarded deep knowledge. Apart from a few instances of bonus inconsistency (which happen in every set) and a couple questionable answerlines, it was a fun set to see played and multiple players and coaches thought it a good learning experience for all.
Though they lost several of their starters after last year’s top-20 finish at SSNCT, Lakeland appears to have reloaded largely in the form of Michael’s dominant all-around performance, putting up 127 PPG for the day and going undefeated, with their closest match a 55-point win. Lakeland will likely continue to contest for the best in the Northeast this year and could have a nice run at SSNCT if the rest of the team can develop around Michael’s strengths and weaknesses. Great Valley C made a nice run to the finals, grabbing a win over Manheim Township A and only losing to Wissahickon A and Lakeland. Manheim Township, missing much of their regular A and B teams, got some of their younger players more experience and finished just out of the Open championship match. Impressively, Manheim’s middle school team ended up with a higher PPB than Manheim B here and acquitted themselves well on a tough set of questions (more on this below). D-STEM B and Wilmington Charter B teams ended up in the hunt as well, with Noriyuki and Vedant (respectively) leading them. Science Leadership Academy A, after playing the morning as a duo, added Gavin in the afternoon to boost their PPB but had a rougher time on the TUs. Wissahickon A, after a strong morning, had a tougher afternoon with a couple of close losses and FSS B rode Matt and Silas’s scoring into the champ playoffs, but had a harder time once there.
In the consolation matches, Central Bucks East, sporting T-shirts with the image of an actual “SEABEAST,” warmed up nicely after the prelims and won the top consolation bracket. They seemed to get better as the day went on, moderating their negs and boosting their PPB from 9.1 in the morning to 16 in the afternoon. Great Valley D, after ending up in a tough prelim bracket, had a nice run in that bracket as well, followed by D-East B, FSS C, and Charter C. Keep an eye on Prasanna from Charter C and Jeremy from FSS C in the future. Carver A, rebuilding after losing 3/4 of their team last year, did relatively well on the TUs but struggled on the bonuses. Carver’s B team, featuring several new-to-quizbowl players, definitely caught on more in the playoffs and finished just behind D-East C in their consolation bracket. D-East C was cruising until a final round loss to Bodine, while Manheim’s C team, Wissahickon B, and Franklin Towne Charter A rounded out that bracket.
Although QFO has historically attracted a number of new-to-quizbowl schools, this year the only new team was Archbishop Wood, who quickly caught on after the prelims and doubled their PPB in the playoffs, ending with a hard-fought close game against Rush Fine Arts from Philly. Quizbowl in PA is for some reason lacking in diocesan schools, so it was good to see Wood in attendance and improving throughout the day. Wissahickon C emerged atop that final consolation bracket with some good TU prowess. SLA B and Carver C, both loaded with new-to-quizbowl-this-semester players, rounded out the field as all teams finished with a win.
Unfortunately, the Open division was played on the WHAQ II set which, after being easier-than-average last year (it had a negative Morlan stat correction, suggesting it was easier than the regular HS set) ended up being much harder this year, especially for less-experienced schools. Hopefully this and some other issues will be fixed before future mirrors. I commend all the teams for powering through the set and sticking it out.
Up next in two weeks: 64+ teams gather at Manheim Township. We’ll cover all the action from Lancaster then!