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GPQB Pre-Season Poll, 2019-2020

It’s that time of year again—back to school, pumpkin spice, the inexplicable Christmas sales the day after Labor Day. That means another quizbowl season is upon us. Whether you are a long time reader and gearing up to follow the season along as a veteran or a first time player, we hope you are excited for some studying, fun facts, and high-gear Pennsylvania quizbowl matches. As always, it’s time for the AP style pre-season poll as well. Fourteen ballots were cast. Without further ado:

  1. Henderson (137 points, 11 first place votes)
  2. Friends Select (112 points, 2 first place)
  3. Penn Manor (107 points, 1 first place)
  4. State College (106 points)
  5. Great Valley A (82 points)
  6. Manheim Township (75 points)
  7. Winchester Thurston (48 points)
  8. Trinity (35 points)
  9. Great Valley B (31 points)
  10. Allderdice (27 points)

Also receiving votes were Hempfield (9) and Unionville (1)

Best wishes for all teams during the upcoming season!

-The Staff

The Voters in this Poll were Ryan Bilger, Jakobi Deslouches, Ben Herman, Antonio Jimenez, Ashish Kumbhardare, Sebastien La Duca, Nick Luca, Andrew Nadig, Colton Sanden, Alex Sankaran, Steven Silverman, Jack Sugrue, Adam Swift, and Will Yaeger

 

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A Defense of Regionalism in High School Quizbowl

Recently, on the hsqb forums, in a post titled “Does Every Quizbowl Organization Need its Own Blog?,” the topic of integrating all of the various places where quizbowl is written about online, from press and blog posts from major national organizations at the college and high school level, to regional sites such as our own, into one place or one feed, was proposed. I weighed in as a skeptic of this in regard to regional organizations/websites such as GPQB. This got me thinking about trying to articulate exactly why high school quizbowl needs regionalism. I can think of four major reasons, and I think each speaks to some aspect of the challenges high school quizbowl faces with outreach and expansion, both here in Pennsylvania and in other places like it.

The Need for Localized Coverage 

To expand quizbowl, teams need to know what is out there in terms of the vast resources, which centralization of writing and activity might, theoretically, make easier. However, on that large a scale, inevitably there would be an emphasis on things with maximum appeal to a uniform, nationalized quizbowl audience. That means lots of studying tips and lots of “how do I adjust to X situation,” written on terms for insiders already familiar with the game. In such a market, there is little to no room for coverage of local stories and local concerns. You may or may not have noticed, but our company line at GPQB is to mention every team appearing at every tournament in Pennsylvania, even if just as a shout out, throughout the year as we do our wrap ups. Teams like to be noticed, and like to feel welcome. This takes time and energy, and trying to add these local touches would be washed out in a situation like a unified site. Only top teams nationally would get any sort of individual coverage. Having correspondents and articles attached to local circuits will allow teams to know where to go to see how they’re doing, and to view the compliments that come with that. It serves no purpose for teams that are more casual to wade through muddles of coverage irrelevant to them to check on their own accomplishments.

Making Meaningful Rankings

There’s been an epidemic of rankings and statistical ranking formulas in the world of quizbowl recently- best player at X, best players in Y, etc. This originates, in part, from 20 years of the internet and increased social media activity by people in and around quizbowl, leading to elite high school programs all knowing each other and interacting with another regularly. That has lots of positives; but one area it doesn’t is catching local circuits accurately when teams, particularly new or rising teams, are not integrated into those channels. Teams players are unfamiliar with will inevitably reduced to statistics, and to put it simply, quizbowl statistics are highly meaningless at a macro scale and undeveloped. Trying to compare teams from drastically different circuits with different field strengths, opportunities to play, and in a few cases even rules have led to considerably inaccurate placements of teams’ abilities, like this pre-national statistical ranking placing Henderson, the #2 team in Pennsylvania by year’s end, at 147th nationally (before they finished t12th).

This is where local sites come in. Our Pennsylvania panelists look closely at our teams and are able to do more than simply compare points per bonus and arbitrary power adjustments. Most of us actively staff PA events and can eye test the teams: how do they handle pressure? Do they communicate on bonuses? Even those of us that have moved away follow the tournaments regularly and can consider things like head to head record. This allows for much better polls, and gives a lot of teams recognition they otherwise would not. We should acknowledge that there is still a large east-west divide in Pennsylvania, as both teams and staffers don’t always get the chance to cross the Susquehanna regularly. The advent of Penn State’s Keystone State Invitational this season went a long way towards fixing that, and hopefully as more teams in central PA join the circuit, there will be ever-more common links.

Appropriate Attention to Audience

Simply put, the average quizbowl team in America doesn’t care about theory or your latest quizbowl cause célèbre. Should there be more world literature? Should there be less pop culture? Is asking about something too easy or to hard? Most teams don’t care. I’m as guilty of worrying about this minutia as anyone. To quote PA quizbowl veteran Andrew Nadig, “most people here [at quizbowl nationals] would play quizbowl in a box, with a fox, in a boat, with a goat.” The majority of quizbowlers don’t necessarily commit that much. Most teams don’t need a big feed to see pontifications coming from collegiate quizbowlers, or what’s happening halfway across America. What they need and want is simple tips to help them improve, perhaps a basic primer or two on the rules, and coverage of their stories and matters of local relevance. Simply put, for your average quizbowl player, one doesn’t *need* the reams of writing going on about quizbowl, and simpler is better. As they become more integrated, they inevitably seek out the more advanced stuff on their own, without prompting. They’re sharp kids. I’ve seen it time and again.

Local vs. National Community Building

Lastly, branding individual circuits as communities is crucial to building camaraderie and common goals. GPQB’s biggest accomplishment, in my opinion, has not been providing resources (though that’s also a proud point for us), but in forging a sense of “Pennsylvania Quizbowl” as a distinct group of people where no sense of it existed before. We support one another, fight together to reform unfair local formats, and have built strong local support to help new teams join the community as well. Part of the reason our tournaments now run on time and our teams are playing more and better quizbowl is because they enjoy being part of “Pennsylvania Quizbowl” and upholding the standards and practices that go along with it. This would inevitably be lost if people’s go-to place was a nationwide catch-all. It should be noted there certainly is a community of top high school players nationally as well, and the barriers to breaking into it are much more opaque to newcomers. Getting noticed at that level also usually means elite play- and elite play should never be a prerequisite for having a major voice at the table.

In sum, Pennsylvania quizbowl as a thriving community is in large part because of its autonomy from wider quizbowl, and the ability to serve local needs, mention and reach out to local teams, make better local rankings, and build a localized sense of solidarity. When I look at other circuits that have a great deal of engagement from a wide variety of schools instead of an elite upper crust, such as Missouri, Ohio, and Alabama, one can see similar websites or organizations at play; in regions where this is not the case, a few elite teams dominate. In this opinion, regionalism and de-centralization are healthy for the high school game.

-Ben 

2019 NASAT Wrap-Up (6/23-24)

Two Pennsylvania teams, each composed of a mix of graduating seniors and returning underclassman talent, represented the state at the 2019 National All-Star Academic Tournament. Coached on-site by Jamie Faeder (Allderdice ’18), these players had a fun experience to close out the 2018-19 quizbowl season!

Pennsylvania Blue, composed of Jakobi Deslouches (Allderdice), Noah Harrigan (Great Valley), Will Yaeger (Hempfield), and Ryan Zhang (Hempfield), made the top playoff bracket by way of a thrilling tiebreaker victory over Missouri A that came down to the final tossup. They also notched wins over Maryland Gold, Oklahoma, and Kentucky. While the team did not score any additional victories in that top playoff bracket, I give them all the credit nonetheless for making it there, as NASAT is a tournament unlike any other at the high school level. Congrats to PA Blue!

Pennsylvania Gold, composed of Austin Davis (Allderdice), Connor Mayers (Penn Manor), Anshu Nunemunthala (Great Valley), and Malaika Paralkar (Downingtown East) defeated Iowa in the preliminary rounds for their sole win on Saturday. However, they ended the tournament strong, with consecutive victories over Oklahoma, Connecticut, and Missouri B. Connor also finished as the 10th top individual scorer in the prelim rounds and 9th after all games. Congrats to him and to PA Gold as well!

With the end of this tournament, our exciting 2018-19 season of quizbowl in Pennsylvania has reached its conclusion. We’ve seen plenty of great players, great matches, and great stories this year, and it looks as though we are poised for another exciting season to come! Have a safe, fun, and knowledge-filled summer, and we hope to see you back for our coverage of the 2019-2020 year!

Ryan

GPQB Membership Status Changes

This is an announcement of two changes to our writing staff for the upcoming offseason and season:

  • Emily Dickson has resigned from GPQB. We thank her for her work with the site and wish her the best in future endeavors.
  • Chris Chiego has returned from sabbatical and will be active on site posts for the 2019-2020 season.

-The Staff

GPQB End of Season Poll, 2018-2019

Dear Readers,

Another wonderful season of quizbowl has come to a close. This one was filled with so many stories and close games, it is hard to recount them all. We had some of the toughest competition out there yet, and almost every program came home with a win or three they’ll treasure forever. As is always the case, we close the season with our end of season poll, and crown the official GPQB State Champion. All of these teams deserve praise for their hard work and excellent knowledge over the season. Unless specified (and you’ll need to pay attention to some footnotes here), these teams are the “A” team for their school. Without further ado, here is the last poll of the 18-19 season:

  1. Hempfield (190 points, +6, unanimous #1)
  2. Henderson (166 points, +2)
  3. Allderdice A (148 points, -2)
  4. Friends Select (138 points, +4)
  5. State College (107 points, -3)
  6. Penn Manor (100 points, -1)
  7. Manheim Township (78 points, -1)
  8. Great Valley A* (46 points, +3)
  9. Winchester Thurston (38 points, +7)
  10. Great Valley B* (17 points, -7)

Also receiving votes were Allderdice B (16) and Trinity (1)

Congratulations to state champions, Hempfield High School! We hope all Pennsylvania quizbowl teams had tons of fun this year at whatever events they played, and that they learned a lot and built great friendships along the way. We wish all seniors the best in their next step, and look forward to seeing underclassmen again buzzing away this fall. Happy summer!

-The Staff

* The team we have ranked 8th played as Great Valley’s B team the whole year. Based on their performance at nationals, the collective panelists ranked them higher than their school’s A team. It is our polling philosophy that a “B” team cannot be better than an “A” team, for if so they have then surpassed and become their school’s A team. Therefore, we have labeled them as we did for this poll.

The Voters for this poll were: Sameer Apte, Ruel Beresford, Ryan Bilger, Ben Cushing, Chris Chiego, Jack Edmondson, Jamie Faeder, Ben Herman, Antonio Jimenez, Ashish Kumbhardare, Sebastien La Duca, Nick Luca, Andrew Nadig, Colton Sanden, Alex Sankaran, Steven Silverman, Adam Swift, and Jackie Wu

2019 HSNCT Wrap-Up: Pennsylvania Shines Again

This past weekend, over 2,000 quizbowl players, staff, coaches, and family members descended on the Atlanta Marriott Marquis for the 21st iteration of the High School National Championship Tournament. This iteration of the HSNCT was among the most exciting ever. In a series of high intensity games, filled with power buzzes and wonderful personalities, Beavercreek High School from Ohio triumphed over University of Illinois Laboratory School in the final. For Pennsylvania, it was a banner performance as well. In what was widely thought to be a “rebuild” year following many senior phenoms graduating, the state instead went on to produce four top 50 teams, which is the most it has ever had. From first time entrants to HSNCT stalwarts, our teams answered many questions, learned new things, built stronger friendships, and had an absolute ton of fun. Below is a summary of how teams did, and some pictures from this thrilling ride.

Hempfield, in their first HSNCT appearance, finished tied for tops among Pennsylvania teams.

Seven PA teams made the playoffs:

Hempfield
Record: 11-5
Overall Finish: T-12th place
Best Win(s): 385-265 over Stanford Online A (CA), 390-175 against Georgetown Day (DC)
In their HSNCT debut, Hempfield finished their stand-out season with an 11-5 record. A true four man team, they successfully scaled up and proved competitive at a national-level tournament. GPQB Player of the Year Will Yaeger led the team in scoring with 51.00 PP20TUH. Hempfield’s strong performance in playoffs included a win against Georgetown Day, who they’d lost to previously in the season. This Hempfield team certainly worked hard this season and their T-12 finish at HSNCT is representative of their dedication.

Henderson
Record: 11-5
Overall Finish: T-12th place
Best Win(s): 395-280 over Carnegie Vanguard (TX), 410-265 over Leland (CA)
This year’s team from Henderson proved the strongest in school, history, besting a previous high of T34 in 2016. Their 11-5 record included a close win against Belvidere on Saturday. Vijay Anne led the team in scoring with 50.72 PP20TUH. Though statistically overmatched by many of their playoff opponents, Henderson won three consecutive games by comfortable margins, and clearly were unfazed by playing top teams. That, in itself, is an element of excellence. This was a fitting performance for the year in which Coach Steve Sobieck received the Coach of the Year Award at the annual PAQB meetup (delivered to him by Henderson alumni and GPQB co-founder Ben Herman).

Henderson A is all smiles after shattering school records and going on a exhilarating run to T12.

Friends Select A
Record: 9-5
Overall Finish: 31st place
Best Win(s): 290-170 over Hempfield, 270-215 over Penn Manor
Comments: The young men from Friends Select impressed us with their better than anticipated 9-5 record, which included strong performances from Matt and Rudyard throughout the weekend. Friends Select got here in part by beating their Pennsylvania competition, notching playoff wins over both Hempfield and Penn Manor en route to their trophies. We’re not sure, but this might be the first time a Pennsylvania team had two playoff wins over in-state competition. Three of Friends Select’s players will hopefully return next year, and we look forward to seeing how they continue to improve.

Penn Manor
Record: 8-5
Overall Finish: 49th place
Best Win(s): 240-230 over St. Louis Park A, 255-235 over DeWitt
Comments: Penn Manor perhaps exceeded expectations with their strong performance including an unexpected playoff run. Connor Mayers led the team in scoring with an impressive 79.70 PP20TUH that landed him 14th in overall individual scoring. Penn Manor truly rose to the difficulty of this national tournament. Like Friends Select, almost all this team returns next season, so the sky’s the limit for this highly passionate squad.

State College A
Record: 7-5
Overall Finish: 73rd Place
Best Win(s): 305-165 over LASA B (TX)
Comments: State College’s unorthodox strategy of keeping teams together for their entire high school career regardless of performance gained them two playoff games during this year’s HSNCT. This team, led in scoring by JV Player of the Year Albert Zhang, put up a fight in their last playoff game against 2018 HSNCT champion Plano West A. State College High School has now made the playoffs in 19 of 21 HSNCTs, missing only in the first one in 1999 (which they didn’t play) and in 2013. They remain a marquee club in the Keystone State, and they will all be back next year to challenge for more.

Allderdice A made the playoffs for the second straight year.

Allderdice A
Record: 6-5
Overall Finish: 73rd place
Best Win(s): 325-285 over Atkins Academic & Technology
Comments: Allderdice struggled in their attempt to replicate last year’s excellent HSNCT run, with several close losses putting them into the losers playoff bracket, where they exited in the first do-or-die round. Despite this, they still have a lot to be proud of. Jakobi Deslouches’ impressive knowledge of history at the HSNCT difficulty really helped the team to make the playoffs. Austin, Leo, and Truman all also scored in bunches. The Dice team was very well rounded, and had a low neg rate.

Manheim Township A
Record: 6-5
Overall Finish: 97th place
Best Win(s): 250-245 over Midtown Classical
Comments: While not as high a finish as the past few seasons for this Lancaster area school, the team nonetheless performed in their usual well rounded manner. Will Steger’s 36.05 PP20TUH led the team, and further cemented him as their top player and a favorite for 1st team all-state next year. They also got a fine 15 PP20TUH from their freshman rising star, AZ. Manheim Township beat Plano West, HSNCT champions of last year, during their games.

Manheim Township A and B enjoyed exploring Atlanta’s Olympic Park during their session off from play. Quizbowl trips are about more than matches!

In addition to the above, Six Pennsylvania teams went 5-5 in the prelims, just missing playoffs. Great Valley A finished in 136th place with an even distribution of points and a relatively low neg rate. However, despite improved play, the school missed the playoffs for the second year in a row. They will look to get the playoff win monkey off their back again next season, as they search for a run befitting their clear talent. Great Valley B also finished 5-5, ending up in 145th place. GV B struggled with neg control, but also had an even distribution of points. Allderdice B’s 159th place finish included a close win over Troy (CA), during which Alana carried a clutch comeback at the end. State College B also went 5-5 in prelims. This is another team that has played together all season long. Taran and Chris led the team in scoring, and they ended up in 166th place. Friends Select B finished 5-5, indicating that FSS has the depth to match other elite programs in the state. Lastly, Trinity High from Camp Hill joined the above squads with a 5-5 record. The most amazing thing about Trinity’s performance is that this occurred with as little experience as any team at the event. Their school had only been to a single pyramidal invitational before jumping headfirst into HSNCT. They clearly did not sink, and I think they have an extremely bright future.

Seven Pennsylvania teams went 4-6 over the weekend. Manheim Township B had nice performance led by both juniors and seniors scoring. They continue to have a deep farm system. Lancaster Mennonite had some tough games at the beginning of prelims, but cinched a key 275-110 win against Novi (MI) in round 3. During that game,  Mennonite got every single toss-up in the second half, except one that went dead. Northeast PA’s Dallas went an impressive 4-6 in their HSNCT debut, which, like Trinity, was only their second pyramidal tournament ever. Their 300-190 win over Blacksburg (VA) featured 3 powers and helped them land 237th place. We hope to see them again for more pyramidal tournaments in the fall! Great Valley C finished in 246th place with their 4-6 record. As the only C team from the state at the tournament, they acquitted themselves very nicely, despite some youth. The Lehigh Valley’s Emmaus had an impressive 140-120 win over Stanford Online B (CA), landing them in 264th place. Seasoned SSNCT participant and fellow Lehigh Valley troop Moravian Academy competed this past weekend in their first HSNCT in almost a decade. They will all be back next year, and their strong performances and lots of experience gained from two nationals this year will serve them well. Pittsburgh Central Catholic also went 4-6. PCC was handicapped because all of their seniors were missing for graduation, but despite youth, they managed to exceed expectations and show other teams they’re no pushover.

Emmaus High School, enjoying their nationals experience.

Four other Pennsylvania teams competed. Wallenpaupack had a strong win against Cupertino Scholars B (CA) on Sunday morning, and ended up finishing in 285th place with a 3-7 record. Ambler’s Wissahickon was another HSNCT first time team and had a valiant effort in their games. Their win over fellow Pennsylvanians Delaware Valley helped them achieve a 3-7 record as well. Speaking of Delaware Valley, they finished in 317th place with a 2-8 record. Lastly, Armstrong qualified for HSNCT out of their local format, and the transition to HSNCTs of this and last year has been an adjustment, but their 140-120 win over Eureka (CA) shows promise in their abilities.

This was a blast to staff, and we’re proud of all these schools for achieving great success both on the buzzer and off. Our community continues to grow stronger, for not only do our teams achieve highly at the game of quizbowl, but we continue to build up friendships, camaraderie, and resources for all our students to explore the wide world of knowledge that quizbowl can open. Thanks go out to the 21 Pennsylvanians and Pennsylvania expats who staffed this tournament, in particular the Carnegie Mellon team and alumni network, which seems to always come out in force for HSNCT. We hope to see all of our Pennsylvania teams again at pyramidal tournaments throughout the 2019-2020 school year. All but a few have ended their season here, and we wish them a wonderful summer.

-Ben and Emily

Pittsburgh Central Catholic overcame youth to put together a 4-6 record and prove their program’s strength in the Pittsburgh area.

2019 SSNCT Wrap-Up

This year’s Small School National Championship Tournament saw over 152 teams from across the country gather outside of Chicago for a weekend of quizbowl competition between small schools. Despite upsets along the way, the favorites in both the Traditional Public and Open division took home the gold. Congratulations to Glasgow (KY) and Miami Valley (OH) on their SSNCT titles for public and open, respectively.

Stats for the tournament are here. If you need a refresher on the format, see my preview post from earlier this week. For this post, I’m going to summarize some of the major headlines regarding the Pennsylvania teams.

Friends Select and Winchester Thurston Shine, Build Friendly Rivalry

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Friends Select, on the way back to the airport, did quite well at SSNCT with several strong wins.

In terms of finish, the Pennsylvanians that scaled the highest were Philadelphia’s Friends Select and Pittsburgh’s Winchester Thurston, both finishing T-11th in the Open Division. They did well against a stacked field, but also worked to build what’s becoming one of the state’s most enjoyable quizbowl rivalries. The card system pitted them together twice in the prelim rounds. In Round 3, Thurston pulled out the last tossup to win a hard-fought squeaker, 360-355, in what all involved said was a great match. Friends Select avenged themselves 345-240 in the afternoon. After they didn’t get a chance to play for a third time in the playoffs, the two teams wanted to settle the question with a best-of-3 match, and scrimmaged each other informally (WT won) before playing some celebratory pop culture matches. It’s fantastic to see that the schools have not only started a charismatic, Philly-Pitt rivalry for top small private schools, but also are friendly and great sports as well.

Huntingdon Impresses in Traditional Public Tournament

The other playoff qualifier for PA this year was Huntingdon, who swung T-17th in the Traditional Public division. Taking my prediction to heart, they made sure to rub in their successes every time I encountered the team. It’s great to see them continue to do well and represent Central PA with honor and pride year in, year out. I can remember watching their first tournament appearance in 2015, and since then they’ve continued to study hard and enjoy quizbowl to the fullest. Well done!

Despite Strong Effort, Camp Hill’s Streak Ends

In something of a sad note, Camp Hill’s streak of eight 11th-or-better finishes ended this year, with a series of tough losses after a promising 4-2 start as Raceland-Worthington (KY) beat them in a win-and-in game between 5-4 teams in the last round. By points-per-game, Camp Hill was the best team to miss the playoffs, and exceeded the points-per-bonus of many playoff entrants to boot. While it’s a shame that the streak ended, this only means an opportunity to begin a new one. Sydney capped off a memorable career with just shy of 60 points per 20 tossups, good for 15th nationally individually.

First-Timers Sharpsville and Germantown Friends Have a Blast

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Sharpsville is all smiles as they wait for their next opponents.

PA had a first-time entrant for nationals in both divisions, and both had some highlight moments. In Traditional Public, Sharpsville went 4-6. PA alum Adam Swift and I, who were moderating together, had them come through our room twice on Saturday, and they seemed to be having a blast. Jared and Brenna both had great, multi-buzz performances in a defeat of Gold Beach (OR) we read, which was their first win. Meanwhile, Germantown Friends debuted in open, and went 5-5. This team had no seniors and performed well against a very tough schedule draw. They will be on many PA pollsters’ radars come the preseason for the 2019-2020 season.

Numerous PA Schools Build For the Future

While it may not have been the first rodeo for these schools, Westmont Hilltop, Lakeland, South Side, and Southern Fulton also contested the Public division, and Moravian A and B contested in Open. All went either 5-5 and 4-6, acquitting themselves well on these questions. Once again, many of these players are underclassmen, and surely learned quite a bit at this tournament. Josh from Southern Fulton made the top 20 players for Public with 53 PP20TUHs (Points-Per-20-Tossups-Heard–yeah it’s a mouthful, but it’s used at NAQT nationals because the number of tossups heard each game is variable and so they normalize scoring by every 20 tossups heard).

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South Side, having fun during the preliminary rounds.

This tournament was a thrill to staff. I have done a few SSNCT wrap-ups in the past, but it’s completely different to be on the ground and experience it as the players do, with twists and turns, highs and lows of emotion, and wonderful friends and conversations. At its heart, quizbowl is about people, and this SSNCT showed that. Major props to Nathan Murphy and the NAQT logistics team, who ran this event without a hitch and made the staffer experience a breeze.

-Ben

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

GPQB Awards, 2018-19

As has been the case since our first year as a blog, we give out a Player of the Year, JV Player of the Year (9th and 10th grade), and Coach of the Year award to prominent individuals in the Pennsylvania quizbowl community. These award both on the buzzer achievements, as well as representing the way we play the game with sportsmanship and honor. These individuals join an elite club of some of the best to ever contest the game, and deserve recognition for their hard work and many hours of time invested in quizbowl and achieving excellence.

Congratulations to Will Yaeger of Hempfield High School for winning Player of the Year for 2018-2019. This award recognizes his rapid pace of improvement, leading his Hempfield team to stronger and stronger finishes as the season went on, as well as consistent points per game numbers in the top five of tournaments he played. Will has shown the ability to be a deep powering threat in multiple areas of the distribution, and strong performances have won respect from all corners of the state and beyond.

Congratulations to Albert Zhang of State College High School for winning JV Player of the Year for 2018-19. After bursting onto the scene with a tour de force performance at HSNCT last year, Albert has lived up to expectations and piloted his State College squad to continued success. He is only the 3rd JV-eligible player to make one of our all-state teams, and has emerged as the most potent scoring threat on some very deep State College rosters.

Congratulations to Steve Sobieck of Henderson High School for winning Coach of the Year for the 2018-19 season. This award recognizes both the past and present success of the Henderson program, which has remained a constant contender across several seasons and regularly features among the top finishing Pennsylvania teams. Further, under his tutelage, several significant players have developed into major scoring threats, with new Henderson Warriors emerging into the spotlight seemingly each year.

-The Staff