2019 SSNCT Preview

Twelve teams from eleven different Pennsylvania schools will be competing at the 2019 NAQT Small School National Championship Tournament in Chicago this weekend. The event is designed for schools with small enrollments, and thus a smaller pool for team members. These teams qualified for SSNCT by finishing in the top 30% of teams from eligible schools at tournaments and leagues throughout the state, and they will be competing in separate Traditional Public School and Open (Private + Charter) divisions. The complete field can be found here.

In both divisions, teams will be playing ten power-matched prelim games on Saturday using a card system, and those with a winning record (6-4 or better) will make the next day’s playoffs. In the playoffs, double elimination will decide the champion. Further details can be found in our guide to national championships. Last year’s set was approximately the same difficulty as a NAQT IS set, so it will be easier than the larger HSNCT tournament later this month. PA teams have had success at SSNCT in the recent past, with Camp Hill obtaining 3rd in the Public School division (and 1st among the Very Small Schools) two seasons ago, and Friends Select and Winchester Thurston finishing in the top four of the Open Division within the last two years.

Here are quick summaries and my just-for-fun (and often comically wrong!) prediction for each team:

Traditional Public

Camp Hill

Few things are as sure in Pennsylvania Quizbowl as Camp Hill ranking among its top small schools. They will be looking to extend an impressive streak of eight consecutive top-eleven finishes for Small Schools nationally this weekend. Sydney, a longtime veteran and a great lit and myth player, will lead them. Unfortunately, their stats have been weaker than in years past and outside of Sydney, they lack a deep threat. Their good bonus conversion and high-pressure experience should get them to the playoffs easily; we will watch excitedly to see if the top-eleven streak continues.

Prediction: 7-3 in Prelims, top 15 Finish

Huntingdon

Another team from Central PA, Huntingdon has developed over the years into a steady presence in Pennsylvania Small School rankings. They finished in a tie for fifteenth at last year’s SSNCT. I want to predict similar success this year, but their statistical record has a ton of red flags (low PPB on sets above the A-Set level, a healthy neg rate). SSNCT Public has a lot close games, and hopefully the senior-heavy lineup from Huntingdon’s experience serves them well. I think they’ll make playoffs again, but won’t make it quite as far as last time.

Prediction: 6-4 in Prelims, top 25 Finish

Lakeland

Lakeland will be the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre area’s lone representative at SSNCT. After losing last year’s all-state honorable mention player Michael Goerlitz to graduation, Lakeland went into a rebuild. They improved significantly as the year went on, going from about 10 to 14 PPB on IS sets. I don’t think they’re quite a playoff team, but Lakeland shows potential for a strong 2020.

Prediction: 5-5 in Prelims

Sharpsville

Coming from the New Castle-Hermitage Area, Sharpsville will be making their nationals debut this SSNCT. They’ve been playing regularly and enthusiastically, and it’s great to see them challenge themselves with the top small schools. They should enjoy their trip to Chicago and keep building buzzer experience.

Prediction: 3-7 in Prelims

South Side

A longtime regular on the circuit out of Beaver County, South Side is coming off a SSNCT playoff appearance last season. They’re not quite as strong statistically this year, but did manage a solid 7th place finish at Battle of the Burgh. SSNCT will be a good test for them, as a lot of their opponents will be similar to schools in their weight class in the Pittsburgh area.

Prediction: 5-5 in Prelims

Southern Fulton

This is something of a mystery team for us. Despite being from Pennsylvania, Southern Fulton hasn’t played at a PA event in years, instead showing up as an occasional competitor at Maryland events. They have excellent neg control this year it seems, though never finished above 27th at a tournament. It’s hard to get a grasp on them, and we’d love to see them around Pennsylvania more often.

Prediction: 3-7 in Prelims

Westmont Hilltop 

Famous for “the recorder dance” that blew up on NAQT’s instagram a couple SSNCTs ago, Westmont Hilltop is back for more. They have a fantastic player in Moses Zeidan, who piloted them to a strong 2nd place at the Allderdice Invitational this year. Without him in tow, however, Westmont Hilltop has struggled mightily to even clear 100 points per game this season. I will make my prediction assuming they are at full strength.

Prediction: 6-4 in Prelims, Top 30 Finish

Open Division

Friends Select

Friends Select is coming of a 2nd place SSNCT finish last year, and while much of that team has graduated, there’s still quite a bit left in the tank for another run. Matt D’Annunzio has been one of this season’s breakout players, and Rudyard Lynch has turned into a grizzled veteran who feasts on NAQT categories like current events. The rest of the team can pitch in, and FSS always finds a way to leverage good real knowledge into a successful performance. They’re dropped back a bit on their abilities on science and fine art since last season, but they’ll make a deep run again.

Prediction: 8-2 in Prelims, Top 10 finish.

Germantown Friends

As for the other Quaker School, GFS is what we at GPQB might call an “Archetypal Emmaus”: a school which had never played quizbowl before, shows up in the fall, hits the ground running, and becomes an immediate impact team. Germantown Friends didn’t finish below 2nd at any event they played in season, with impressive stats (PPBs in the 20s, good power rate). The biggest concern for them is that they’ve never seen questions harder than the A-Set or introductory level, so the difficulty jump to nationals might be jarring. Because of this, I don’t expect too deep a run, but playoffs seem a reasonable goal and they will undoubtedly catch an unprepared team off guard.

Prediction: 6-4 in Prelims, Top 25 Finish

Moravian Academy A

Moravian has slowly risen through the ranks to become a solid performer out of the Lehigh Valley, and made playoffs at SSNCT last year. The entire roster from that run returns. They seem all-around solid, and their stats might not wow you, but they have a few top five tournament finishes to their name. I expect a similar result to last year.

Prediction: 6-4 in Prelims, Top 25 Finish

Moravian Academy B

Like their A team, these are hardworking players looking to cap off a great season. Stats don’t indicate a ton of depth with this program. I doubt they make the playoffs, but they should get good experience to keep Moravian a contender for years to come.

Prediction: 3-7 in Prelims

Winchester Thurston

Winchester Thurston has spent nearly a decade as one of the Pittsburgh Area’s best schools, and this year is no exception. They have been significantly hampered by not being able to play with their full lineup this season, but flashed some excellent potential (a 59/96/19 line with 22 PPB during a winning performance at Allderdice Invitational, notably). They finished 4th in 2017 and T5 last year. This team seems similar in some ways, and should do almost as well.

Prediction: 7-3 in Prelims, Top 10 Finish

-Ben

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