The following article was a guest contribution by Shahar Schwartz and Jack Izzo
I should preface this by saying that very few SoCal teams have actually played with a full A team as of the release of the previous rankings. The exceptions to this generalization (Del Norte, Olympian, and La Jolla) all made it onto the rankings, but I’m going to have to do a bit of speculation for the other teams.
Westview (A-53, B-68)
Westview has put up with some tough losses over the last couple of years. They lost Rahul Keyal, their main literature player last year, and Kevin Yu, their main science player, this year. Shahar Schwartz (11) has developed into a great replacement for Rahul in the last two years and his breadth of knowledge can allow him to put up some ridiculous solo stats. Along with Shahar, Westview features Junu Song (11), a generalist with deep knowledge in history and the like. Supporting the two is Rohan Venkateswaran (11) who I haven’t seen play in a while and don’t remember his specialty but he appears to be a good player, (Shahar’s Note: He mainly does RMP/Geo/Trash stuff) and Daniel Shaw (10), the science main. The team has both awesome power stats and pretty good neg stats, although the negs could use some improvement as 3 or 4 negs per game could turn into about 100 extra points. This team has done a remarkably good job of maintaining top finishes at tournaments despite not having a strong science player, and given that there aren’t seniors playing for them currently, they still have time to develop, and I’m excited to see how they perform later this year.
Olympian A (62)
Olympian is probably the most consistent team in the region. They hardly ever neg, have an extremely broad coverage of every category in the NAQT, and only go to NAQT competitions. The team also manages to miraculously rebound with an effective A team no matter how many seniors they graduate, as evidenced by the recruitment of new history specialist Jake Blankenbecler (11). His addition to the team rounds out a team of seniors, including A team returnee Kaia Yager (12), as well as literature specialist Athina Rosure (12). This group is strong, and seem to balance each other out nicely, but I worry that their hesitance to neg is costing them powers, which Olympian will need if they want to improve on last year’s HSNCT performance.
Del Norte A (73)
Del Norte is stronger than it has ever been this year, with an extremely young team led by a core of generalist Kyle Ke (11), literature player Sofia Luengo (11), and science specialist Joshua You (10). Del Norte’s core, while strong and consistent, is facing many of the same problems that Olympian is: while they rarely ever neg, they’ve also powered less than 35% of the questions they buzz in on. In order for the group to make playoffs this nats season, they’re going to have to work on their depth. However, if they keep improving at the rate that they are, Del Norte should have no problem doing that by the end of the year.
La Jolla A (98)
La Jolla is still living in the shadows of losing James Malouf (Berkley) two years ago. However, they’ve always been present in the circuit and depending on their development and commitment this year, could pull off surprise upsets or challenge top teams. Led by Sam Kaseff (12), La Jolla put up solid numbers with lower negs at PPT II, but dropped a bit at OASIS, with 3.4 negs per game. If they want to improve, however, support for Sam, less negging, and a consistently high PPB will only better their chances of performing well.
North Hollywood A (100)
I expect NoHo’s ranking to go way up once the other half of their dynamic duo plays. Brandon Hong (12), who was the top scorer on NoHo at HSNCT, was not available to help Ronen Leigh (12) and company qualify for nationals at PPT. I have little doubt that NoHo can pull this off, as Brandon is a strong generalist, but they have inconsistencies on NAQT that I worry may sink their chances of making playoffs. However, the team has proven to be very strong and consistent at mACF questions, so I can see them doing very well at PACE if they choose to go that route.
Andrew Hoagland (12) is in his last year of leading Arcadia, this time backed up by a cast of seniors including Sean Ye (12), Michael Huang (12), and William Shue (12), and they will undoubtedly want to go out with a bang. The good news is, they have the tools to pull some insane stuff off. The bad news is, they need to get everyone on board to do so. Andrew has been easily the best history player in the region for years now, and it seems that his supporting cast is getting really strong in science. If the crew can pick up depth in a few other categories, they may end their high school careers with a performance that equals or betters their already impressive 12th place finish at least year’s HSNCT.
CCA (A-74, B-5)
CCA is, well, in a weird state this year. After graduating Jeffery Qiu, Daniel Wang, and Boopala Arul, they retained only Alan Zhu (12) as a member of their A team. Raymond Song (11), Wesley Zhang (11), and Shreyank Kadadi (11) are definitely capable replacements at Literature/Fine Arts, History/Geo, and a little science centered generalism for good measure, but given that they hosted one of the three tournaments this year, there is limited data to go on. What’s remarkable about CCA is how they performed at Triton Fall. Despite splitting their four top players among their A and B teams, (Shreyank and Alan played on A, Raymond and Wesley played on B, thus explaining why exactly there’s a B team in the top 5), they still put 1 team into finals, taking both games from Arcadia A. Jonathan Hsieh (11) is also proving himself to be a formidable science player, and if he keeps improving at this rate, CCA may add another scary player to their roster.
Scripps Ranch (Unranked [Jack’s Note: not for long, hopefully!])
Scripps Ranch has the dubious task of rebuilding around the graduation of captain Joon Lee, who was their highest scorer at HSNCT last year. Luckily, the team held onto history/geo main and co-analyst Jack Izzo (12). While Michelle He (12) has yet to play at a tournament this year, and Albert Gu (11) has only played at one tournament (without Jack), Scripps still has a lot of ground to make up. Most Scripps games are generally lower scoring affairs (they had a T-51 finish at HSNCT with 233.56 PPG), leading to big blowouts and close wins. If Scripps can make up for the losses in lit, science, and fine arts that the graduation of Joon left behind (Jack’s note: I’m working on it), and pull together a consistent roster, they can once again succeed in making it to playoffs at nationals.