Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Low Countries Aim High: A Recap of the First Benelux Cup

By Nathan Wilputte, Joke Daems, and Rein Anspach

The very first edition of the Benelux Cup took place on 28 Feb. in Deurne, Belgium. Three teams from Belgium and two teams from the Netherlands competed in this inaugural edition of what is set to become the annual tournament to determine who gets the title of Benelux champion. During the first stage of the tournament, all teams competed against all other teams in a round-robin format, with the second part of the tournament consisting of the bronze medal game and the final. Though taking place on Belgian soil, the tournament was organized by both countries, with Laurens Grinwis Plaat Stultjes from the Belgian Quidditch Federation as Tournament Director, and Bram Vries from Muggle Quidditch Nederland as Assistant Tournament Director. The Quidditch Post talked to the head referees, captains and coaches involved to give you a game-by-game recap. Though we tried to include views from all teams, some captains or coaches could not be interviewed due to time constraints.

Deurne Dodos (BE) vs. North Sea Nargles (NL): 210*-0
Rebecca Alley (head referee): I was impressed with the Dodos  level of play, their passing, and their positioning on the pitch. The Nargles put up a bit of a fight, but they haven’t yet figured out how to use their smaller size to their advantage.
Hanna Bouma (North Sea Nargles captain):  We knew we wouldn’t win, so we aimed to play a good game of quidditch. We started out very focused, our defense was quite solid, and, although a few goals slipped through, I feel like the Dodos were surprised to find that we weren’t as easy an opponent as they initially thought. After a while, our focus broke, because we started to get hopeful. We lost the match 210*-0, but we fought well.
Brussels Qwaffles (BE)  vs. Wageningen Werewolves (NL): 130-40*
Ellen Vander Heyden (HR): Not a very eventful game from a referee perspective. Everything went well and everyone played fair. The Qwaffles were the more dominant team.
Tanghi Burlion (Brussels Qwaffles coach): The first match against the Werewolves went well, although we made some mistakes that would have cost us more points facing a more experienced team. I think Wageningen can grow into a team to be feared, given a few months’ more training.
Juliane Schillinger (Werewolves coach): As expected, the Qwaffles could use their greater experience, both in terms of single players and of playing together as a team, to outmaneuver us and get quite a few points ahead quickly. Yet our team learned the most from this game by trying to adjust to the Qwaffles’ different tactics, especially with regards to physical contact. The big surprise of the game was certainly the snitch catch. Although a cold catch, the team perceived it as a great success at the end of an intense, yet very fair game regardless of the final score.
Ghent Gargoyles (BE) vs. Brussels Qwaffles (BE): 20-120*
Alley (HR): The Qwaffles are one of the most sporting teams I know—every card I had to give was accepted and they didn’t fight it or argue. If there was some sort of a fair play award, I’d have given it to the Qwaffles.
Burlion: We didn’t know what to expect from the Gargoyles, a team founded by three former Qwaffles; we only knew that their training sessions focus on strategy. The only thing we could do was to give them one hell of a match. It was a nice game to play, and the fact that both teams showed no mercy was a sign of respect. We won the game, and I gave them waffles. With EQC approaching, I have one thing to add: beware of the Gargoyles.
Joke Daems (Ghent Gargoyles captain): I love playing the Qwaffles. We know quite a few of their players, and some of the Gargoyles started out as Qwaffles as well. I think we may have underestimated the Qwaffles just a little. We weren’t exactly expecting to beat them, but I think we did hope to put up a bit more of a fight than we managed to do. Playing them was a great learning opportunity it showed us where we needed to improve. I also really appreciate how friendly and kind they are, which to me is still an important aspect of quidditch.
Wageningen Werewolves (NL) vs. Ghent Gargoyles (BE): 70 *- 50
Schillinger: Motivation for the game against the Gargoyles was high. It seemed like the Gargoyles underestimated the team at first, not using their strongest starting line-up, and leaving quite some room in the defense during the first minutes. While their defense against trolls was very strong, attacks from the front were successful thanks to open spaces. Our defense stood better than in the previous game, mainly because of less physical contact by the Gargoyles. They also underestimated our seeker and expected to be able to guard the snitch a bit longer to get farther ahead in terms of quaffle points.
Daems: If we underestimated the Qwaffles a little, we really underestimated the Werewolves. We don’t really know the Dutch teams that well, but we had heard that they were not too strong since they’re still pretty young—even younger than us. But we learned the hard way, and we had to fight harder than we thought to level the game. We did lose to a SWIM catch, so I think we held our own on pitch fairly well, though we’d expected to do even better. Also, a lot of respect to the Werewolves for playing with so few players and still performing so well.
North Sea Nargles (NL) vs. Wageningen Werewolves (NL): 60-100*

Vander Heyden (HR): A few more fouls were made in this game, though I think they were caused by a mix of inexperienced players, exhaustion and the fact that this game was pretty important to both Dutch teams. A lot of contact from behind fouls. Gameplay-wise, I think the teams were well-matched. The chaser game was of a higher level than the beater game.
Bouma: Dutch rivalry! We were up against an eight-player squad, and both teams fought tooth and nail to win the title of “best Dutch team”. It was a close game, with goals on both sides. The first snitch catch (after about 10 seconds, mind you) was no good, and the seekers fought hard. It was a well-deserved win for the Werewolves.
Schillinger: Having played (and lost to) the Nargles before, the team was highly motivated for a rematch and we knew what to look out for. Being able to cover Bram (Vries) most of the time significantly weakened the Nargles’ offense. Bludger supremacy really dictated the game. It got easier when our bludgerless beater started to stick close to one of the opposing beaters, and some good phases of bludger supremacy on our side allowed for fast goals. This also affected the snitch play, with the Nargles always keeping one bludger close to the snitch.
Deurne Dodos (BE) vs. Brussels Qwaffles (BE): 110*-80
Alley (HR): I gave a lot more cards than I expected. This was the first real test of both of the teams, and while the Qwaffles continued playing the way they had, the Dodos became aggressive. They played like a team who was convinced they were losing, although the game was about even. It was not clean contact in general, and as a team it seemed that they were frustrated that they were unable to get well out of snitch range as they did in all their other games. The Qwaffles were able to capitalize a bit on the Dodos’ getting red cards, but the Dodos still had a better passing game. On both teams, the beaters displayed an excellent grasp of the game.
Marc Bourgeois (Brussels Qwaffles captain): The first Dodos match was painful, we wanted to show them that they couldn't take us for granted and somewhere along the way, we refused to be dominated so stubbornly that both teams lost it a bit. We lost to a SWIM catch but we managed to show them what to expect from now on.
Ghent Gargoyles (BE)  vs. North Sea Nargles (NL): 150*-60
Bouma: While there are several very good players on the Gargoyles squad, it felt like a group of separate people, rather than a tight-knit group of friends and players. My aim for the Nargles is to be as close as possible, which I think really enhances communication. This is something that our team showed quite well during this match. We lost, but we also improved a lot during this game. I must make a mention of Charlie Hölscher, who took initiative and control at some point, while I was making sure a concussed team member had water and was being taken care of.
Daems: Finally a game we expected to win, and actually did. One of the main things I noticed is that the Nargles are not really used to being tackled, nor do they engage in tackles themselves. Quidditch in Belgium and the Netherlands is—the way I’ve seen it so far—not as physical as it is in the international scene, but even by those standards contact was limited. Other than that, I especially like the Nargles’ spirit, they seem like very nice and kind people and I’m glad that I got to talk to some of them after the game.
Deurne Dodos (BE) vs. Ghent Gargoyles: 90*-10
Burlion (HR): It wasn't an easy game to ref. The quaffle game was okay, there was some bad contact, but mostly the fouls were unintentional. With only two assistant referees, a few things went by unnoticed, and I've heard complaints from the two teams about different things. The Dodos complained about the Gargoyles guarding the free bludger, and the Gargoyles complained about the Dodo’s unsporting conduct. In the end, the Dodos were stronger and better organised than the Gargoyles, and the game ended on a clean snitch catch, but the atmosphere wasn't really full of joy after the match.
Daems: We didn’t really expect to be able to hold off the Dodos for too long, so we were pretty surprised when we could keep the score around 20-10 during the first 10 minutes of gameplay. There even was a point where we actually believed we could win. I’m not sure what turned things around, but at some point the Dodos just turned out to be stronger after all. It was an intense game, with some good defense on our side during those first 10 minutes. One thing I didn’t like about the game though, was the unsporting conduct some of the Dodos showed. There were some insults and verbal personal attacks on some of our players that happened behind the referee’s back, but that did influence morale a bit.
Wageningen Werewolves (NL) vs. Deurne Dodos (BE):  20-190*
Alley (HR): Poor Werewolves. This game made it clear that the Dodos only know how to play when they’re winning—the game was much cleaner, and there was a lot less unnecessary aggression from their part. And their passing was beautiful. In this game, the Dodos were just playing some sexy quidditch. The Werewolves had pretty solid fundamentals—their chasers were often able to be in the right place, but they only had two subs, and were less athletic than the majority of the Dodos. As most teams with small rosters do, they slowed the game right down after every goal and so were unable to take advantage of any fast break opportunities, and they were all just smaller and a bit less agile than the Dodos, so it was easy for the Dodos to shut them down every time. However, some of this may be due to their small roster and this being the fourth game of the day for them.
Schillinger: This game went mostly as expected—getting overrun by the strong, physical Dodos offense, while at the same time playing with a small squad showed its consequences. Especially when we had to play one man down toward the end due to injury, everybody was actually happy when the game was over after the Dodos caught the snitch. Due to substitute constraints we were not able to use our seeker Linda Hooijschuur—it would have been interesting to see if she could have caught this snitch as well.
North Sea Nargles (NL) vs. Brussels Qwaffles (BE): 30*-140
Daems (HR): This was my very first game as head referee, and I couldn’t be happier with the teams. They really started out friendly, warming up together, and dancing the macarena while I struggled to find enough brooms and balls to start the game. The Qwaffles really dominated the game, which was a little sad for the Nargles, because they were really enthusiastic and eager to play. All in all, both teams played fair. I only had to give two yellow cards—if I remember correctly—and both were for accidental illegal contact, one having to do with a tall keeper wanting to stop a small quaffle-carrier.
Bourgeois: We were veterans by the time we faced the Nargles and as we prepared to play, we took some time to remember what quidditch is all about. I think we owe them a great deal in this championship because we got back to that family/community spirit that we all quove and we were cooled down for the final because we took the time just to have fun playing and not only think about winning.
Bouma: We were three players down due to injuries, and we were considering forfeiting this match, but I knew we had to at least start the match. In the end, we didn’t forfeit, and even caught the snitch! We lost, but we had lots of fun, played well, tried out new things because we had nothing to lose and the Qwaffles are a pleasure to play against. They were incredibly supportive, gave us some pointers after the game, and there were hugs all around.
Bronze medal game: Wageningen Werewolves vs. Ghent Gargoyles: 40*-100
Alley (HR): Props to the Werewolves for playing. On the whole, they held it together fairly well, but several of their chasers were getting visibly frustrated. They were exhausted and their small squad made it next to impossible for them to keep up with the Gargoyles and their line of subs. However, they maintained their good positioning and were able to make smart choices under pressure.
The Gargoyles played like a team that hasn’t practiced together very much—many of the offenses were individual attempts, and often when pressured a chaser would panic and just chuck the ball. They were dominating the game in terms of how much time they had the quaffle, but they would often fail several metres from the hoop. Looking at their level of play, they were not significantly better than the Werewolves (although they had a couple of standout players—Gorik Verbeken as beater; Eli Van den Bulcke to some extent as keeper), but just had more subs.
Schillinger: The last game was preceded by a quick team conference about whether or not to play, seeing that the tournament took its toll both by the general soreness and by some minor injuries. However, the prospect of having to forfeit for the whole tournament brought up the spirit to keep fighting throughout the fifth game.

The Gargoyles on the other side were highly motivated to make up for the earlier match and take the third place home. After some more stoppages because of small injuries, but players continuing to keep going against their body’s will, it was a relief when the snitch was caught without anyone getting seriously getting injured. And even though we did not win the game (or defend the third place from the group stage), catching the last snitch as well was a conciliatory end to the tournament.
Daems: If the Werewolves squad had been small at the beginning of the tournament, it was really tiny now. A lot of respect to the Werewolves for still playing. Even with their small size, we had learned from our previous mistake and we no longer underestimated them. We tried to give it all we had one more time (aiming for that bronze medal) and managed to score a lot more quaffle points. The Werewolves ended the game with a well-earned snitch catch. It was a pleasure playing them a second time, and I’m sure the battle will be real when we compete with teams of equal size in the future.
Final: Brussels Qwaffles vs. Deurne Dodos: 90*-60
Alley (HR): If we ignore the absurd number of cards the Dodos got themselves, they were the better team in this game. It came down to a snitch snatch because the Qwaffles were able to capitalize on their powerplays when the Dodos got cards. The Dodos’ passing game was so tight and they were using their teammates well in all situations; they set up early on defense, and their beaters did a good job disrupting the Qwaffles’ offense. For the Qwaffles’ part, they did much the same thing the Gargoyles did in the previous game—quite a lot of individual attempts, or long passes that gave the Dodos’ beaters ample opportunity to disrupt the receiver. However, their beaters were again excellent—they were not afraid to use contact, and when they did it was clean. In this game, it’s probably a good thing for the Dodos that they lost. They need to learn how to keep themselves together in a tight or losing game, and how to not let that demoralize them, if they want to perform at EQC.
Burlion: It was our second game against the Dodos, so we couldn’t surprise them anymore. A great referee team was set up to make sure everything would go according to the rules. The game went way better than the last time, probably because we felt safer. It’s not a secret: the Dodos are actually stronger than us, but sadly for them some of their players seems to have trouble dealing with their emotions. We won that game not only thanks to our solid defense, but first and foremost because we took advantage of the penalties they received.
Final standings
  1. Brussels Qwaffles
  2. Deurne Dodo A
  3. Ghent Gargoyles
  4. Wageningen Werewolves
  5. North Sea Nargles
Looking ahead
Tournament Director Grinwis Plaat Stultjes is happy with the first edition of the Benelux Cup, but already sees a few things that can be improved by next year.

“We could definitely use pitch managers to make sure that everybody gets to the pitch in time,” Grinwis Plaat Stultjes said. “More non-playing referees would also be good.”

“We really owe the Gargoyles,” said Assistant Tournament Director Vries. “Without their abundance of referees, the tournament would not have been possible.”

Vries also expressed his wish for more teams and better accommodation in the future.

This first edition of the Benelux Cup also counted as the qualifier for the European Quidditch Cup 2015 in Oxford. All Low Countries teams are looking forward to compete at EQC. While the Dutch teams consider EQC to mostly be a learning opportunity, some of the Belgian teams aim for higher spots in the rankings. We asked Rebecca Alley to give her unbiased prediction.
Brussels Qwaffles: If they can use their teammates more, they will be a threat. They play a much more UK-style game, so may see more success in the UK than they did against the Dodos, who were their only real competition here. I think they’ll go decently far, and will definitely be in the upper bracket on Day Two.
Deurne Dodos: When they fix their aggression and contact issues, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with. They play a more US-style game, so it’ll be interesting to see their matchups against the top UK teams. If the Dodos don’t make it to the semis I’m going to be surprised.
Ghent Gargoyles: The Gargoyles are a solid team, but you can tell that they’re fairly new. Once they start working together more, their game will improve dramatically. They’re also an overwhelmingly positive and passionate team, which will serve them well as they grow. At EQC I would expect them to be near the bottom of the upper bracket.
Wageningen Werewolves: They have a lot of heart and good fundamentals; they just need a few more players. I think they’ll be able to beat other squads of a similar size. They’ll be in the bottom bracket, but may be nearer the top.
North Sea Nargles: They are clearly a new team, and seem to have less experience even in their leadership. I think EQC will be more of a learning experience for them, and they’ll be able to watch other teams and try new things with their team to help them grow in the next season. At EQC, I’d expect them to be in the lower bracket on Day Two, but they will be able to play against teams of similar skill levels there. I think if they work on their passing and are a little less conservative with their beater game, they’ll be able to do decently well.

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