Thursday, March 5, 2015

British Quidditch Cup Preview

With the British Quidditch Cup (BQC) happening this weekend, we found a number of writers from across the country to talk about the various teams. The authors are as follows.
Sally Higginson: Bangor Broken Broomsticks, Derby Union Quidditch Club
Anthony Tatman: Bristol Brizzlepuffs, Durhamstrang, Leeds Griffins, Leicester Thestrals, Nottingham Nightmares, Warwick Quidditch Club

Ashara Peiris: Falmouth Falcons, London Unspeakables
Abby Whiteley: Loughborough Longshots, Oxford Quidlings, Radcliffe Chimeras, Keele Squirrels (co-written with David)
Priya Wolton: Norwich Nifflers
David Goswell: Chester Chasers, Keele Squirrels (co-written with Abby), Southampton Quidditch Club 1, Southampton Quidditch Club 2
Alex Harrison: Holyrood Hippogriffs, St Andrews Snidgets
Kaylyn Chan: Cambridge University Quidditch Club
Matt Hibbit: The Flying Chaucers

Pool A
Keele Squirrels
One of the oldest teams in the UK, with one of the proudest histories, the Keele Squirrels are a very familiar face to the UK quidditch scene. Having provided two presidents of Quidditch UK since their inception, and boasting a significant number of well-known players on their roster, the Keele Squirrels have been in the game long enough to know both the politics and on-pitch dynamics of the game inside out. At the last BQC, Keele placed second (losing to the Radcliffe Chimeras), which the team repeated at the East Midlands Cup (losing to the Loughborough Longshots). Keele also placed third at its own tournament, the Northern Squirrel Cup, at the end of last season. Although it has always been a strong side, Keele has never managed to break into the first place spot.

Keele is not quite where it was last season when it took home the silver medal at the BQC; few commentators are expecting Keele to repeat this feat, but it is by no means a team to discount. Two of the most talked-about new players of this season, Chris Scholes-Lawrence and Tom Tugulu, form the backbone of Keele’s quaffle play, and the rest of the chaser lineup is still incredibly fierce. Alex Greenhalgh remains a good playmaker despite dedicating himself more to chasing, and Ollie Hymers, Hannah Watts, and Tom Norton are fantastic chasers who are both fast and intelligent on the attack. Keele also boasts several big names in the beating lineup, most notably Rebecca McLaughlin, Connor Simpson, and Alice Faux-Nightingale, all of whom have a wealth of experience against difficult teams and can manipulate their opponents with aplomb. Keele used to be practically infallible in the seeker game when Wajdi Hairul was with the team, but it has been forced to branch out this season; Ben Morton and Pierce Brosnan tend to take up the mantle, and they are both good seekers who could get Keele out of some tricky situations.

The most memorable incident involving Keele this season was a shock loss to Derby Union Quidditch Club on a snitch catch at the East Midlands Cup. With Derby and Keele in the same pool, many people are excited at the prospect of a rematch. Although Derby has come a long way, I suspect it is likely that Keele will manage to come out on top. Other threats to Keeleaside from the usual suspectsinclude the Oxford Quidlings, as Keele faced a seriously weakened Quidlings squad on home turf on Feb. 21, and the Quidlings managed to keep the first match within snitch range. When the Quidlings are strengthened with the likes of Dale King-Evans and Travis Manuel, they can potentially cause an upset if they meet Keele again. However, it is generally expected that Keele will make it to the semifinals, and looking at its roster, I think this is well within the team’s grasp.

Derby Union Quidditch Club
Last season, Derby had one major problem holding it back from placing highly at any tournament: numbers. Put simply, it struggled to bring more than eight players to tournaments, and so any injury it suffered impacted it massively, and exhaustion was a big factor in its performance. This year, however, it has fixed that problem and will come back to wreak bloody havoc on those who ever doubted it. Derby defeated the London Unspeakablesa daunting teamat the start of the season and has comfortably shown strong performances at other tournaments, including a defeat of the Keele Squirrels at the East Midlands Cup. All this aside, Derby is still very much an underdog in this tournament, and with Keele bringing its full strength to bear against Derby in the group stages to make up for its previous loss, Derby will have to bring its all to earn first place in its group. However, Derby should triumph over the rest of the group, so a second place finish should not be out of the question if Keele regains its former glory.

Reading Rocs
The Reading Rocs are often a hard team to predict at quidditch matches, as they definitely have their good days and bad days. On a high note, Reading is a force to be reckoned with: capable of punching above its weight and making any middle-ranked team sweat. That being said, whilst Reading has no shortage of talent, what it lacks is the synchronicity to take full advantage of it, unlike many of its peers. Reading's core playmakers, such as Lee Baughan and Chris Thomas, are recognised throughout Quidditch UK as a genuine threat to any defence. Reading has several other chasers, such as Tom Jones and Cat Maciver, capable of capitalising on a moment's disorganisation in their opponents to break through. Their positioning is solid, too, but Reading players lack the innate awareness of each other's location needed to get off crucial passes and maintain the rallies that make elite-level teams like the Radcliffe Chimeras such a threat. Reading also lacks confidence in the offensive beating department, but defensive bludger and quaffle play is a strong suit for the team, with Phil Sam in particular capable of making a complete menace of himself with a bludger in hand. That being said, a team with an elite-level organised attack will be able to fight its way through it: the Keele Squirrels should have little trouble with Reading, though I suspect that Reading won’t let them get away with a clean sheet. How Derby Union Quidditch Club and Warwick Quidditch Club handle Reading, however, may well be a different story; when Reading clicks and flies into formation, it can be tough to handle, and woe betide any team that lets it in snitch range. If the birds of prey are all flying solo, however, then the Duqs and Willows will turn into the predators. I predict that Reading should be able to fight its way into the last 16, but as much as I love my team, I am skeptical that it will advance further. Should a London Unspeakables-Reading matchup happen, this will be a titanic game to watch because Reading always manages to double down and fight its old rivals to a close finish.

Warwick Quidditch Club
Warwick Quidditch Club is a team on the rise. After starting in 2013, this is its first year as a competitive team and, whilst results have gone against it, it has potential and exciting prospects. Drawn into a group including last year’s finalists, Keele Squirrels, Warwick will be hoping for results to go its way and to finish in that top two position.

Games against the Derby Union Quidditch Club and the Reading Rocs will be the decider, and Warwick will be looking toward its two key experienced players in captain Gareth Rogers and Priya Shah to keep it on point and moving forward. Whilst its lack of experience will show through, a lot of its freshers have been baptised with performances at both Christmas and Valentines Cups. Players such as Jacopo Sartori, Christopher Noble, and Sebastian Waters have all been talked about, and Rogers will be hoping that they have an impressive performance.

Expect heated games from Warwick as it combines a very strong chaser lineup with a beater lineup led by Shah. Whilst it has a good defensive outlook, its lack of proven scorers could be a downfall. Its games are generally very low scoring, and we will see whether that has been remedied or not.

Pool B
Oxford Quidlings
The Quidlings are one of the most exciting teams to be participating in this tournament, simply because it can be so difficult to predict what they will bring to the table. By their very nature, the Quidlings are a squad in flux, so it is difficult to predict exactly what they are going to look like preceding any given tournament. Several players have recently been exchanged between the Quidlings and the Radcliffe Chimeras in advance of this tournament, with the Chimeras receiving two beaters (Alice Walker and Rix Dishington) and two chasers (Tom Heynes and Mark Richards who played their first and last season last year were the team’s only losses), and the Quidlings receiving Dale King-Evans and Emily Hayes. It is difficult to know how these players are going to integrate into the Quidlings’ lineup, and it is therefore impossible to predict what exactly the Quidlings are going to bring to the table on the day.

That said, there are some elements that we can certainly predict. Perhaps the Quidlings’ greatest failing is their physicality, but they have an ample and diverse beater lineup, so expect to see quaffle attacks being shut down perilously close to their hoops by fast and clever bludger play. In their recent Challenge Shield matches against the Keele Squirrels, the Quidlings depended on disrupting the latter stages of the offence rather than shutting down drives in the midfield, but this may change if King-Evans is chosen to chase. The Quidlings have had plenty of fixtures this season, so we can hope to see them drawing on this experience to maintain an edge over other teams whose lineup is made up predominantly of new players. The Quidlings’ passing game is erratic, but when it comes together they can punch well above their weight, so if they manage to incorporate this they should have some great highlights.

It is difficult to predict where the Quidlings will end up placing simply due to their group stage matches. It has been discussed a good deal already, but Pool B is such a close contest that it is impossible to call. The Quidlings are the seeded team, having placed first at the Nightmarish Tournament, which both the Leicester Thestrals and the Leeds Griffins attended, so they should be a favourite in this group. However, they lost to Leicester 150*-80 in the group stages of Nightmarish and only beat Leeds by 30 quaffle points. The Quidlings also lost to the Falmouth Falcons at the Southern Cup, but this was only by a snitch grab when the Quidlings were ahead on-pitch. It’s clear, then, that although the Quidlings’ European Quidditch Cup spot is safe, we have some really exciting games to look forward to and this group is almost anyone’s to win. If the Quidlings manage to top this group, they will probably do so with a near-neutral QPD and will therefore face another tight match before they can reach last year’s achievement of the quarterfinals. This aspiration is not out of reach for the Quidlings, but it seems that they are going to spend an uncomfortable amount of time within snitch range, and no step of the tournament is going to be easy for them.

Leeds Griffins
The Leeds Griffins enter the tournament as underdogs in the infamous "Pool of Death," matched against the Leicester Thestrals, Oxford Quidlings, and Falmouth Falcons. Three of these teams played in the Nightmarish Tournament where Leeds placed third, just above Leicester after an impressive 80* - 60 victory against the Leicester side.

The Leeds team has a very underrated chaser lineup, including Sash Steele, Abbi Harris, and Alice Drinkwater. People point to the loss of Travis Manuel as a major sticking point, but with players like Cory Faniel, Chris Culling, and Josh Armitage to fall back on, I doubt that loss will be felt as much as it is made out to be. Rounding out their very strong and quick chasers, they have some fantastic beaters in Steven Daly, Vice Captain Holly Collins, and Sian Hopper to break down opposition offences quickly and efficiently. If they can stay within snitch range, they can rely on an incredible seeker in Matty Percival to win them the games in those key moments. The downside to this team is the lack of experience in some positions and lack of big personalities to make those key plays. Leeds will be hoping their tenacity and heart will bring them through in some very close-fought games during Day One.

Leicester Thestrals
Leicester goes into the BQC on the back of a fourth place finish at Nightmarish in Nottingham. Whilst this may sound bad in theory, the games it played against Leeds and Oxford by winning 140*-10 and 150*-80, respectively, during the tournament shows the power of this squad. Recently, Leicester defeated one of the big favorites for BQC—the Bangor Broken Broomsticks—with three SWIM victories, which has turned heads.

Leicester’s major strength is the experience on show from being one of the oldest teams around, with players like Warren McFadyen, Dan Trick, and Zoe Harrison epitomizing this. If Leicester can see the course through and keep up its play throughout the tournament, Leicester could do wonders. But whether Nightmarish will come back to haunt Leicester is the big question, as well as whether it can beat the bigger teams consistently.

Falmouth Falcons
The Falmouth Falcons, founded in late 2013, will be one of the most exciting teams to watch at the BQC. The Falcons are one of the few teams attending their first BQC with a full squad of 21, and they have an incredibly deep and physical chaser lineup. This is formed of great players such as Oscar Lozada, Jack Adie, Tyler Mills and, one of their most talented players, Captain Nathan Jones. Together, their chasers can drive and pass their way up pitch and through any defence whilst also providing an extremely difficult defensive wall. Their excellent defence best exemplifies their "aggresafe" approach of hit hard but safe, and this has proven to be able to stop all but the best offences. Furthermore, their keeper, Katt Jeffery, is one of the most underrated keepers, with excellent reach and shot stopping ability.

Their starting seeker, Alex Brown, has also proved himself as a very capable seeker, catching snitches in a number of games at Highlander Cup II, Southern Cup, and Valentines Cup 2.

In addition, they bring an ever-improving beater corps, headed up by the quick, agile, and aggressive Ollie Somers, Alex Brown, and the more defensive Ragnhild Jaatun. This is also an excellent opportunity for some of the newer and less well-known Falcons to show their skills on a larger stage.

The Falcons have had very solid success this season, coming in third at Highlander Cup II, where they lost to eventual champions Durhamstrang in the semifinals after defeating it on Day One of the tournament. They then came fourth at Southern Cup, losing in a tight SWIM encounter with the London Unspeakables whilst being 20 points up. Coming into this tournament, the Falcons will be itching for the chance to avenge their losses to these teams. To do that, however, they will have to get through the Pool of Death.

More than anything, what this team brings is some of the best on-pitch synergy between players, and it is this coupled with their never-give-up attitude and incredibly physical chasers that could push them to the very top of their group and a deep run in bracket play.

Pool C
Southampton Quidditch Club 1 (SQC1)
You would have had to have been living under a rock this season to not have noticed the huge impact Southampton Quidditch Club has made this season. Barring its loss to the Radcliffe Chimeras in the final of the Southern Cup, SQC1 has beaten every team it has played, from experienced teams such as the Reading Rocs and EQC qualifiers the London Unspeakables, to rising stars the Falmouth Falcons and the Bristol Brizzlepuffs. And it’s not hard to see why; SQC1 is a formidable mix of both renowned veterans and remarkable freshers. Its seasoned players are some of the best in the UK, to name but a few: Ollie Craig is a fantastic athletic keeper, Jemma Thripp is a phenomenal defensive chaser, Natalie A’Bear is a stalwart defensive beater, and Robbie “Dugald” Young is a chaser and seeker of legendary repute. Standing out even amongst such stellar players, SQC1’s new talent is some of the most exciting fresher’s across the UK: Aaron Veale and Fraser Posford bring speed and strength to the chasing game, Imogen Gregg and David Holland are great additions to SQC1’s beating lineup, as well as Ben Lawrence, who has not only proved himself as a beater but as a seeker too.

This strong roster is gunning for first place, aiming to top its impressive placing of fourth at last season’s BQC. SQC1 will be confident on the first day when it plays the Holyrood Hippogriffs and friendly rivals the London Unspeakables, and it will probably top its group. SQC1’s true test will come on the second day, where it will face other title contenders in the Loughborough Longshots, the Bangor Broken Broomsticks, and defending champions the Radcliffe Chimeras in games certain to be some of the most exciting and closely fought of this season.

London Unspeakables
The UK's only true community team, the London Unspeakables have had a mixed season. Whilst at times they have shown that they can beat anyone other than the very top teams, they have not always been able to bring their strongest and complete squad to each tournament.

In their best performance of the season thus far, the Unspeakables took third place at the Southern Cup after a series of hard-fought SWIM victories against the Oxford Quidlings and the Falmouth Falcons. The Unspeakables are bringing a mix of 17 experienced players and some athletically gifted new players to the BCQ.

The Unspeakables will have rematches against Southampton Quidditch Club 1 and the Holyrood Hippogriffs (who they played in the semifinals of Southern Cup and the group stages of Highlander Cup 2, respectively). The match against SQC1 in particular will be a very difficult game for the Unspeakables, as they will need to bring their strong defence to limit the amount that SQC1 scores so that they can let seekers Fiona Howat and Ellie Aaen (formerly of Southampton) have a chance to win the match.

They will be hoping that their training program devised by coach Sophie Chretien over the last few months will have resulted in benefits for their offensive quaffle players, with Alex Lee, Jacob Vogts, and Nat Thomas deserving special mention.

Lastly, the Unspeakables’ beater game will have to be more on form than it ever has been, with experienced beaters Caspian Cunningham and Ashara Peiris holding the defence line, whilst more recent converts to beating, Matt Howard, Katya Veleva, and Ben Pooley, bringing a strong aggressive touch.

Overall, the London Unspeakables have immense potential and could, given the correct matchups, reach as far as the quarter or semifinals of the tournament. Only time will tell whether their excellent synergy will come through.

Holyrood Hippogriffs
The Holyrood Hippogriffs placed second at the Scottish Quidditch Cup in February, but that finish may not be enough to save them at the BQC, where they are in a brutal group with Southampton Quidditch Club 1 and the London Unspeakables. A 100-30* defeat to the Unspeakables at Highlander Cup II and Southampton's elite status means that third place is the Hippogriffs' probable destination, and they will struggle to muster the QPD required to advance as one of the four best third-place finishers.

The Hippogriffs have been steadily improving over the course of the year; however, in their last two matches, both of which were against the St Andrews Snidgets, they were 90 quaffle points behind. Their most encouraging result this season was holding a strong Durhamstrang Quidditch team to 90*-0 at Highlander Cup II, and when their strongest team is on pitch, the Hippogriffs are very capable of shutting down good attacks. Their best hope in the group stage will be playing a highly defensive damage-limitation game against Southampton and the Unspeakables. It's conceivable that a season-best Hippogriffs performance could keep the Unspeakables in snitch range, but it would be a faint hope. Key players are experienced seeker and inspiring Captain Johnney Rhodes and the offence-leading chaser trio of Gus Longo, Nye Baker, and Ollie Riley, though they have their work cut out for them against two very strong quaffle lineups.

Pool D
Radcliffe Chimeras
The Oxford-based Radcliffe Chimeras need very little introduction. They have won every tournament they have ever attended and have only ever been beaten on-pitch once (against the Bangor Broken Broomsticks at a single-game fixture last May which ended 110*-100 for the Chimeras’ only ever SWIM win). Since their competitive debut against the Reading Rocs in Nov. 2012, the Chimeras have lost only two games: the first to the Bangor Broken Broomsticks at Whiteknights 2013 and the second to Paris Frog at the 2014 European Quidditch Cup (the Chimeras technically forfeited a game due to injuries against the Loughborough Longshots at a Challenge Shield fixture on Feb. 21, 2015, but this is not a true loss). It is difficult to argue with such a history, and it is undisputed that the Chimeras will be deeply disappointed with anything less than a gold medal finish.

Looking at the Chimeras’ lineup is always an interesting exercise, as the Chimeras willingly keep their squad small. They will be taking 15 players to the BQC against the 21-strong squads who are becoming far more common in the UK and certainly will dominate the teams who make it to the quarterfinals and further. The Chimeras have never been a very big team, forming their second team (the Quidlings) when the club had only around 20 players, but they have always made it work. Every Chimera, therefore, has to prove their worth, and this is abundantly clear when you look more closely at the lineup. Captain Luke Twist is indispensable to their quaffle play, being their primary (and often sole) keeper, and he is backed up by incredibly athletic chasers such as Mark Richards and Evan Edmond. The midfield point defence tends to be the domain of Charis Horn, Olivia Payne, and Ashley Cooper, all very experienced and adept defenders who know just how to frustrate an attempted break. There is nothing spare in the Chimeras’ lineup; every person has to earn their place and fight to keep it, and that much is evident when playing squads who have to make up their numbers with weaker players.

The Chimeras will have a fairly easy run in the early stages of the tournament; they have ended up with a comfortable group consisting entirely of teams they have defeated this season, and of whom only St Andrews succeeded in scoring a single hoop against them. The QPD earned from this group will give the Chimeras some beneficial matchups for most of the games prior to the semifinals. As for the final rankings, the teams who are considered capable of challenging the Chimeras are few and far between; the names mentioned most frequently are the Loughborough Longshots, Southampton Quidditch Club 1, and the Bangor Broken Broomsticks. A squad of 11 Chimeras defeated Loughborough at their recent Challenge Shield fixture by a total of 200 points (60 snitch) over two games to Loughborough’s 80, and the last time the Chimeras met Southampton, the match ended with a Chimeras’ victory of 140*-30, so those two teams will have to have stepped up their game significantly to pose a real threat. Bangor is a mystery thanks to a lack of fixtures this season and remains the only team to have defeated the Chimeras on UK soil, so it should not be discounted. One thing is certain, though: all of these teams will be bringing their best game to meet the Chimeras, and the Chimeras losing their first major game is not necessarily off the cards, so there should be some thrilling games in the later stages of the tournament.

Norwich Nifflers
The Norwich Nifflers have had quite an erratic tournament experience so far, with a surprisingly successful 2013-14 season yet a disappointing Southern Cup in November. After being denied the advance stages at last year’s BQC on quaffle difference alone, they proved themselves at Whiteknights II with only nine players, beating the Falmouth Falcons and holding the Reading Rocs and the London Unspeakables within snitch range for most of the games. However, the Nifflers were thoroughly unprepared for the pouring rain of Southampton, and they were heavily thrashed while slipping around in the mud of the Southern Cup. Recently, the Nifflers have prepared themselves with a 2-1 friendly win over the Cambridge University Quidditch Club, gaining pairs of 'cleats' and refining tactics that may have previously been lacking.

Their strengths for the upcoming BQC will lie in their enthusiasm and determination to compete. A tight-knit team with a reluctance to rank players by their ability, they will chant and sing their way through whatever comes at them, smiling all the time. Their group stage will see the reuniting of the 'Nifflepuffs' with plenty of good-natured and friendly play between two teams that are tragically separated by the width of the country. With no expectations placed upon them, the Norwich Nifflers certainly have nothing to lose, and therefore everything to gain.

St Andrews Snidgets
The St Andrews Snidgets are going into the BQC on the back of their victory in the first Scottish Quidditch Cup, but the calibre of their opponents will be far higher this time. Their group sees them matched against the Radcliffe Chimeras, the Bristol Brizzlepuffs, and the Norwich Nifflers. While most observers would expect the Snidgets to lose to the Chimeras and beat the Nifflers, their game against the Brizzlepuffs will likely decide who survives the group stage.

The isolation and lack of teams in Scottish quidditch has led to the Snidgets being out of sight and out of mind for most English teams. The only Snidgets games outside Scotland this season have been a weekend in Oxford that saw a trio of heavy defeats to the Chimeras, an agonisingly tight SWIM loss to the Oxford Quidlings, and a narrow SWIM victory against the Warwick Whomping Willows. The Snidgets will take heart from their game against the Quidlings and their two SWIM defeats to the London Unspeakables at Highlander II in October—both European Quidditch Cup-qualified teams—and will come to Nottingham with something to prove to their detractors south of the wall. The loss of one of four core beaters, Sasha Burgoyne, to a broken arm will be keenly felt, though the Snidgets have strength in depth in quick offensive chasers, particularly Sergii Drobysh and Alex Harrison.

Bristol Brizzlepuffs
The Bristol Brizzlepuffs are heading to the BQC after some impressive results at Kuffdon against the more experienced London Unspeakables and Keele Squirrels sides, including a 110^*-100 loss to London and a 70-40* loss to Keele. The results against the Oxford Quidlings in January, including a 80*-70 win at Kuffdon, have shown that the new kids on the block can definitely hold their own. The Brizzlepuffs have been very loud on social media lately about their intentions for the BQC with some very strong promotional material, but will they be able to back up their voice with the results needed in their group to move on to Day Two? Being placed into a group with the current champions, the "Puffs" will be hoping for a 2-1 group victory, hopefully pulling off wins against the Norwich Nifflers and St Andrews Snidgets.

The Brizzlepuffs’ major strengths come in their beating ability, with the old guard of Will Buss and Eamonn Harrison backed up by some great new talent in Aaron Kerr and Luke Stevens, who both showed up at the recent Valentines Cup with performances that were noticed by many. The downsides of the Brizzlepuffs comes with their lack of cohesion in the chaser game, hindered by their lack of the final product when it comes to scoring hoops, especially with the loss of Sam Senior to injury who will probably not be at 100 percent for the BQC. Regardless of results, you can be sure that the Brizzlepuffs  will walk into this tournament singing and walk out singing as their team spirit will see them through anything that is thrown their way.

Pool E
Durhamstrang enters the BQC with a lot on its shoulders. After being underdogs for Highlander Cup II, it came out with a victory and entry into the EQC and will want to carry on its form and prove at the BQC why it deserves that spot. It has had some impressive victories against the London Unspeakables 80*-10 in the Highlander final, as well as a win at "the Winter Classic" with victories over Loughborough and Southampton Quidditch Club 1.5 and will hope its obscurity as a team can surprise the more "southern" teams that have never seen it play. Durhamstrang has been placed into one of the strongest groups, along with last year’s third place team the Bangor Broken Broomsticks and the strong Nottingham Nightmares side. Even so, Durhamstrang will be hoping for a 3-0 whitewash and will hope to push on into Day Two.

The major strength Durhamstrang has is also its greatest weakness: its out-of-place position means that not many people will have seen its key players or its style of play. Expect a very high tempo attacking game with a very physical defense, originating around Robbie Gawne. Durhamstrang’s problem is that it hasn’t played many games in the run up and may find it hard to get off to a fast start and shake the rust off. Nonetheless, expect some big things from Durhamstrang.

The Flying Chaucers
Having never attended an official tournament, The Flying Chaucers are very much the wild card in the BQC deck. The Chaucers were founded in December by captain Matthew Hibbit and are very much the underdogs in their group. This group contains the likes of the BQC favourites, the Bangor Broken Broomsticks and hosts Nottingham Nightmares, so it will be a fierce introduction into competitive quidditch.  
The Chaucers have very few players, none of whom most audiences will be able to name, but all of who should be remembered by the end of their games. Key players are a closely-held secret, but the lineup comprises keeper and vice-captain James Gaunt; chasers Jack Roberts, Luke Mansfield, Will Garcia and Matthew Hibbit; beaters Jessica Lechmere and Charlotte Bradford; and seeker Kirsty Lukas. The element of surprise is the team’s greatest strength; no other team has seen it play, and therefore no key knowledge of tactics or player skills is known. A lack of experience and consistency is the team’s greatest weakness.

Nottingham Nightmares
Nottingham’s last outing was at the Nightmarish Tournament. The Nightmares finished second with a 130*-10 victory over the Leeds Griffins and a 110*-50 victory over the Leicester Thestrals.

It enters the BQC with a very different roster that competed at Nightmarish with the hopes of coming out as a surprise against powerhouses Durhamstrang and Bangor in their group. Nottingham will relish being the underdog though. With experience in the form of recent Valentines Cup winner, Captain Lucy B, Nottingham has a captain who knows how to put together a winning team. With her beating prowess, along with Matthew Klimuszka, Livi Dunford, and Hannah Street, expect a very well-run beater defense that many teams will find hard to crack. Along with the beaters, Nottingham has a decent chaser lineup with Evelyn Goodall, Kat Jack, and Adam Jasko leading the lines. Whilst a lot of the players are unknown at the highest level, Lucy B hopes Nottingham’s surprise factor will help it get out of its group relatively unscathed, but with so much up in the air, Nottingham’s lack of experience playing as a team could come back to bite it.

Bangor Broken Broomsticks
With few games under its belt so far this season, many newer players are loudly wondering why the old guard make such a fuss over Bangor, rating it so highly on the BQC predictions. Simply put, we rate Bangor so highly because it is really good at this jolly old sport of ours.

Retaining all of its experienced players from last season, (except for Sally Higginson, Tom Heynes, and Antony Butcher), you can expect to see Bangor’s famously tough defensive line very much intact, with stalwart keeper Andrew Hull directing his players with practised ease. On the counterattack will be a seasoned and talented chasing lineup comprised of new talent trained and joined by veterans Anna Barton, Ben Honey, Alex Lee, and Thomas Dutton to name but a few. Bangor’s beating game is also very much in great shape, with Sam Davies and Jade Saunders’ famous synergy holding together against any and all opposition. Also be on the lookout for overlooked players like Emily Lakin and Jay Holmes, both of whom stand in the shadows of giants yet are perfectly capable of turning the tide of a match in their team’s favour. Bangor remains the only side UK to have beaten the Chimeras a couple of years ago, and the team came very close to doing so again at the end of last season. Add to that a win at Northern Squirrel Cup against the Keele Squirrels and the Nottingham Nightmares, and you can see why Bangor is a firm favourite to place very highly this year and maybe even come out on top as the champion.

Pool F
Loughborough Longshots
Loughborough is a relatively new team, never having attended the BQC before or even completed a full season. That said, it is a team that has certainly made an impression during its short time on the UK scene. It was evident even at the Northern Cup—its first tournament—that it would be a team to watch out for, after it lost in a hard-fought match to the Keele Squirrels by only a snitch grab in overtime. This season, the team has consolidated that threatening position, winning both the L Tournament and the East Midlands Cup, where it won every game but one out of snitch range. It has not yet quite managed to break the top teams, losing two games out of snitch range to the Radcliffe Chimeras at the Challenge Shield fixture on Feb. 21, but this team will be looking to break into the semifinals at least and is possibly eyeing a spot in the final.

Loughborough has a reputation for being a sports university, and the team lives up to this expectation. The team is filled with athletic members with plenty of sporting experience, and it is probably this factor that allowed the team to hit the ground running when it was set up. From the incredibly speedy Dan Bridges, who has been trying his hand at beating recently but remains one of the best chasers on this team, to the inimitable Jonathan “Farmer” Cookes, Loughborough is filled with strong players who know how to launch powerful attacks. Although the spotlight tends to fall on Loughborough’s multiple large male players, most notably Cookes, Ben Hallam, and Daniel Mitchell, it is a squad with plenty more to offer. Francesca Kempster is a hugely underrated passer who is great at harassing on the defence, and Loughborough would be significantly weaker without the beating pair of Bill Orridge and Holly Kerslake. These two are brave enough to take their bludgers up on the attack and skillful enough to recover them if lost, and the use of bludgers on the attack is one of the founding principles of Loughborough’s current play style.

There should be a fairly easy run for Loughborough up to the quarterfinals, as none of the teams in its group have the experience to match it. Therefore, it will probably harvest a good QPD to get a favourable matchup in the Round of 16. After this, the team may run into some troubles; although I think Loughborough could beat Keele (though not necessarily easily), drawing either Southampton Quidditch Club 1 or the Radcliffe Chimeras in the semifinals would probably end its hopes of reaching the final. It is still difficult to assess the Bangor Broken Broomsticks, but they would also provide an interesting challenge, as they are one of the few top-tier teams who have players of the size and skill, such as Andrew Hull and Richard Newton, who can challenge Loughborough’s keeper lineup.

Southampton Quidditch Club 2
Southampton Quidditch Club 2 will be looking to properly establish its place in UK quidditch at the BQC. The team has had the benefit of training with Southampton Quidditch Club 1 and has had reasonable competitive experience this term from playing  friendlies against the London Unspeakables and the Surrey Stags, as well as being part of the mixed Southern Cup team that went to the Winter Classic. Practising with its first team will mean that its freshers have had the benefit of learning from players of exemplary skill and experience, and these friendlies will have given the team the chance to develop some synergy. The Winter Classic games can’t be completely representative of Southampton Quidditch Club 2 due to the presence of some Southampton Quidditch Club 1 players; however, beating Derby Union Quidditch and a below-strength Loughborough Longshots squad at the Winter Classic was no mean feat. On top of this, the Southampton Quidditch 2 members have had a chance to learn from in-game experience with some of the stars of Southampton Quidditch 1, which can only have been beneficial.

The squad going into the BQC should not be underestimated. With experienced quaffle players such as the tenacious Natasha Ferenczy, the strong and agile Jordan Niblock, and founder/beater Sarah Dorricott, this is a team that will know what it’s doing. Also look out for rising stars Anjit Aulakh (chaser) and Jordan Moss (beater), whose talents will be showcased this weekend. A true asset to this team will be the leadership of Rob Barringer. A man whose dedication and determination is beyond admirable, he is not only affable and friendly off pitch but also an experienced quaffle driver on pitch. Under his captaincy, Southampton Quidditch Club 2 could do really well.

Southampton Quidditch Club 2 will have the advantage of experience against the Chester Chasers, but Cambridge University Quidditch Club could prove to be tougher opponents. It is quite likely it will qualify for Day Two and although it probably won’t advance into the top tiers of the tournament, it is a strong team that will give any opponents a hard fight to earn those higher places.

Cambridge University Quidditch Club
Cambridge will make its debut in the BQC this year, having only been established since Oct. 2014.  The team will rely heavily upon the experience of the captains, Chimeras alumni Angus Barry and Steffan Danino. Nevertheless, many of Cambridge’s freshers have made advances through the quidditch world in the Christmas and Valentines Cups, including Harry Butcher, Priyasha Vadera, Chris Hardy, Michelle Lim, and Kaylyn Chan. Many other fresh faces have yet to make themselves known and are certainly set to impress at the BQC.

Whilst results from games against the Norwich Nifflers (70*-10, 110*-80, 90*-60) and the Radcliffe Chimeras have not tended toward Cambridge’s favour, it can most certainly be said that the squad has expanded and developed enormously since and has yet to show its true potential on the field. Ultimately, Cambridge aims to reach the Sweet 16 with matches vs. the Chester Chasers and Southampton Quidditch Club 2 being absolutely crucial in achieving this goal.

Chester Chasers
The Chester Chasers are one of the 16 teams from the original BQC and will be looking to improve upon their previous performance. Chester made its competitive debut at the original BQC, where it struggled against more experienced teams. However, since then it has competed in the Northern Squirrel Cup, in which it was knocked out in the quarterfinals by eventual winners Bangor Broken Broomsticks, and it took second place at Whiteknights II after only losing to Southampton Quidditch Cub 1 and the the Mighty and Amazing Quercs. Although it lost a few of the key players that it took to these tournaments, the experience gained by the core members of the team will have been invaluable in training this year’s freshers. This experience, coupled with several players on the team having competed in all of this season’s fantasy tournaments, should hopefully make up for the lack of competitive play this season.

Chester faces a tough challenge in its group against the championship contenders the Loughborough Longshots, but it will be more hopeful against new teams such as Southampton Quidditch Club 2 and the Cambridge Quidditch Club. However, with both of these teams having veteran players and competitive experience this season, the Chester Chasers will have a hard fight to qualify for Day Two.

Coaches Poll
The United Kingdom voters were asked to pick their top 10 teams prior to the BQC. Eight voters participated in the poll. Points were allocated in the following manner: 10 points for a first place vote, nine points for a second place vote, eight points for a third place vote, etc. The votes have been tabulated and listed below in order of total votes. The number in parentheses indicates how many first place votes a team received. An “x” indicates a team’s standing from the last poll is unchanged.

UK Coaches Poll Results
1. Radcliffe Chimeras – (8) 80 (x)
2. Southampton Quidditch Club 1  – 71 (+1)
3. Loughborough Longshots – 62 (-1)
4. Keele Squirrels – 54 (X)
5. Durhamstrang – 47 (+1)
6. Bangor Broken Broomsticks – 39 (-2)
7. Oxford Quidlings – 24 (+4)
8. Leicester Thestrals – 23 (+2)
9. Nottingham Nargles – 21 (-1)
10. Falmouth Falcons – 13 (-1)

Also Receiving Votes: London Unspeakables – 6 (-4)

Voters were very confident in their top three with each team receiving a majority of votes in its ultimate slot. Keele was named in the top six on all eight ballots, while Durhamstrang was similarly on all eight ballots in the top six, with Bangor making seven ballots. Oxford and Leicester each made all the ballots but never appeared higher than seventh, while Nottingham made seven ballots. Falmouth comfortably outpaced London for the final spot.

No comments:

Post a Comment