Friday, November 14, 2014

Northeast Regional Championship Preview: Snow Belt

By Pat Shea

Editor’s Note: We looked for writers to cover the Northeast Region, but ultimately we were only able to find a writer with knowledge of the Snow Belt Conference. As such, our Northeast Regional Championship preview will only consider these teams. If you would like to write about the Northeast, or any other area of the world, please email us at

The Snow Belt Conference (SBC) has never been a powerhouse conference. This year, though, they seem to be in a position to challenge that. Some of the Snow Belt’s older teams gained momentum earlier in the season, and if they continue this trend, they will be serious contenders in bracket play. With an overall strong beating corps and a quick, hard-to-stop chasing line-up, the SBC is posed to certainly make a splash this Northeast Regional Championships (NERC).

The Northeast will receive 12 USQ World Cup 8 bids, with the top 20 teams from pool play advancing to the bracket.

RIT Dark Marks

Last season, the Dark Marks formed a new name for themselves. They made it to the semifinal games at the Northeast Regional Championship, and fought their way to the Round of 32 at World Cup VII. Going into the regional championship this year, they appear to be a serious contender for the championship title. The biggest of the Snow Belt teams, RIT has its greatest strength in its quaffle play, both on defense and offense. Capitalizing on the impressive distributing and driving abilities of Shane Hurlbert and Aaron Pinzer, RIT has no problem racking up fast, hard-to-answer points. On a defensive note, between aggressive point chasers and wing chasers defending close to their marks, ball movement is hard, and patterns are caught on quickly. However, since starting the year with a strong male beating core, RIT has lost some depth in the last few weeks. With the loss of Ryan Dennehy from its roster, there will be a void that might prove hard to fill. If RIT can solve this, however, it has a reasonable shot at a repeat appearance in the semifinals, and maybe a shot at the finals.

Syracuse University

Last season, Syracuse established itself as a team to not be taken lightly. After playing some impressive games at NERC last year, the team ultimately secured a deferred bid to World Cup VII, and seems set to take the new season by storm. It picked up several veteran players from the Geneseo graduating class to add to its roster, as well as a host of newcomers. Taking what would have appeared to be a staggering blow in the loss of chaser/seeker Duane Ford, Syracuse has found a strong end-game solution in Josh Hintz, who has shown himself to be not only a phenomenal seeker, but a capable beater and chaser as well. Adam Zaczek and Suniel Soto Pol have both brought much-needed scoring opportunities to the team and provided a tough-hitting defense. However, Syracuse’s beating corps seems to have a hard time pressuring an aggressive offense, and occasionally prioritizes the wrong parts of a play. If Syracuse is within snitch range in a game, though, it is more than a force to be reckoned with. The team will be facing three teams that have in the past two years denied Syracuse a bid to World Cup – the University of Massachusetts Amherst Sillynannies in 2012, and both Macaulay Honors College Marauders and RPI Remembralls in 2013. Syracuse will have to play a much more organized game if they hope to have a favorable seed in bracket play.

RPI Remembralls

After taking the Snow Belt Conference Championship last year and attending its first World Cup a month later, RPI is the conference’s up-and-coming team. With an incredibly aggressive primary beater on both defense and offense, RPI sets out to break opposing defenses and score on most pushes. With Mario Nasta making the switch to full-time beating, his risky (yet extremely effective) style of play makes forward progress of the quaffle difficult. Past Nasta, RPI has strong, physical chasers who play a tight defense. Starting keeper Sam Nielsen shuts down long shots at the hoops, and coordinates and distributes on offense. Based on its record this far into the season, RPI is a serious contender to go deep into bracket play and should find little resistance in its pool on Day One of the regional championship.

University of Rochester Thestrals

At the start of the new season, Rochester picked up a lot of new players and filled in some of the holes left by graduating players. With reliable scorers like Devin Sandon to finish on the passing-heavy offense, Rochester rarely finds itself in situations where it struggles to put points on the board. The biggest struggle Rochester faces is its ability to finish games. After the departure of Kyle Sanson, the University of Rochester has found itself lacking the strong finishing capabilities it had during the previous season. That being said, Rochester’s beating corps has not only maintained its incredible depth but also added to it. With Perry Wang transferring to beater, and the return of the Jack and Alex Venuti along with Harry Clarke, the University of Rochester has solid beating lines and often capitalizes on this strength. With defensive hard-hitting point chasers such as Mike Pascutoi and strong hoop play by its keepers, Rochester easily shuts down long shots and lofty passes. Though it faces a tough pool, Rochester has the depth necessary to do well in its pool play games and ultimately its bracket games.

Ithaca Community Quidditch Team

Ithaca is a curious situation. It is a team that has been around for a few years, and has some very athletic players who could very well be skilled, well known players. However, when playing, Ithaca seems to lack any cohesive action and shows a poor fundamental understanding of the game. Aside from the lack of depth, the only thing stopping Ithaca from being a competitive team is unity on the field. If this problem can be fixed, a bit of recruiting can turn it into a formidable team. Going into regionals, Ithaca will find match-ups such as those against Boston University Quidditch and Tufts University Tufflepuffs extremely difficult, given the strength and experience found in their rosters. Ithaca will need to fight hard for every point scored, and must play at its absolute best to make it into bracket play.

Cornell Quidditch

Cornell is a newly official team, who has only played in one official tournament this season so far. A green squad of players, it is a new team struggling against the clock to break into its stride before the regional championship. Facing a tough pool, it will have to play its best game to make it out of pool play. Experienced teams such as RIT, Emerson College Quidditch, and Rochester will be hard to match-up against for such an unseasoned team. But, with such little known about them, it could very well make its mark.

University at Buffalo Dragons (UB)

As another fairly new team, UB has shown a lot of promise. With some experience coming in, Buffalo still needs more time in order to become a competitive team. That being said, it has been making considerable progress throughout the current season. Finding defensive strength in the beating of Damien Hoffman, the Dragons need to train more disciplined and aware chasers if they hope to be able to score. Facing an experienced pool Day One, it will need to fight for a spot in bracket play.

Skidmore Quidditch

Entering the regional championship without really making any note of themselves, Skidmore faces perhaps one of the toughest pools. Facing the finalists from the Northeast Classic, Skidmore is going to need to bring a stronger beating game than its current inexperienced disorganized setup. However, if it can get its beaters more disciplined and communicating through chasers, forced turnovers on defense will result in much-needed points. If Stony Brook Quidditch plays at the same level that it did at the regional championship last year, than Skidmore is going to need to fight hard for a spot going into bracket play.

SUNY Geneseo by Devin Sandon

Last year, Geneseo failed to qualify for World Cup, and spent the spring showing that its outcome at the regional championship was something of a fluke. It brought an aggressive beater game to the Midwest, where it lost on a suicide pull to Michigan State University Spartan Quidditch, and a surprisingly close game to Central Michigan Quidditch, who was barely able to pull out of range. This season Geneseo has shown itself to be a mid tier team in the Snow Belt Conference. It entered the season having lost its games against three Pot One teams, having won its games against three Pot Four teams and having split its games with two Pot Three teams. Geneseo strategically looks similar to last year-it has aggressive beaters who will come up and wreak havoc with or without a bludger, as well as a fairly vertical offense originating from its keeper. Perhaps the biggest aspect of its game that has changed is that it has added a stronger driving element to its offense, at least when Chris Saudino is on the pitch. Geneseo has also improved in its ability to make secondary passes offensively, rather than being solely a one-pass offense.

With the addition of serious endgame potential this year in its new freshmen seeking corps, Geneseo has gained some much needed confidence in need-to-win games.

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