Saturday, March 28, 2015

Onward to Oxford: Keele Squirrels

As part of our efforts to preview all 32 teams competing in the European Quidditch Championship (EQC), the Quidditch Post is chatting with representatives from each team. Today we spoke with Melanie Piper, president of the Keele Squirrels.

Photo by Jen McCallum

Quidditch Post: The Keele Squirrels qualified for the European Quidditch Championship by virtue of their second place finish at East Midlands Cup. What does it mean to the squad to have the chance to compete for the title of best of Europe?
Melanie: It means the utter world to us. We will fully admit that we scraped into the EQC spaces. East Midlands was a tournament where half of our roster were first years who had been playing for a couple of weeks, and we had a ton of injuries. But we got through that tournament and the team grew closer from it. Our team is comprised of both veterans of the sport (Ben Morton and I having played in the first ever IQA game in the United Kingdom) to our first years that have only been playing a few months and already made their mark with a number of MVPs. Basically, to compete with the best in Europe is a dream come true, and we cannot wait!

QP: You mentioned Morton (and yourself) and if you hadn’t I would have. Morton obviously coached Team UK last year and is one of the top minds in British quidditch. What impact does it have to have a brilliant tactician who is familiar with much of the country's top players?
Melanie: Morton is brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. This year he has had a lot of bad luck with injuries, but even then he has been one hell of an awesome coach who knows what we need to do in any situation. He drives us to tournaments, is a great tactician who understands the game so well, and is also one of the most genuinely lovely people I have ever had the pleasure to meet.

QP: Would you say there are any particular players that are key to your team’s success?
Melanie: I'd say that not one player makes our team a success but a combination of them. We have a whole host of incredibly strong keepers this year who are all first years (Christopher Scholes-Lawrence, Thomas Tugulu, John Benest), great chasers like  Hannah Watts and Tom Challinor, and beating prowess in Alice Faux-Nightingale, Rebecca McLaughlin and Connor Simpson as well as Tom Norton and Ben Morton, who are just insane. Sorry, that's mentioning about half the team. And there are so many other players I want to mention, but I’ll stop there. Basically, our mixture of experienced and skilled first years is our team. It’s a team effort!

QP: What are the team’s goals for EQC?
Melanie: The team’s goal is to reach the quarterfinals at least. Fingers crossed!

QP: What will that take?
Melanie: It’ll take a lot of hard work. BQC was great for us, and particularly on Day Two everything came together; we showed what we were really capable of as a team. We just need to take this experience and push on, developing our skills and tactics so we are ready for EQC.

QP: Would you say the team has a particular style of play?
Melanie: I think our team doesn’t have a set style of play. In previous years, we have definitely been a defensive team before relying on seekers. While we still have a solid defence, we have really developed our offensive line and are continuing to do so throughout this season. Our coach, Morton, came up with the “Three Cs which we now always play by too. Communication, commitment, and courage. So that’s important too!

QP: Is there a particular opponent you hope to face?
Melanie: Teams that will challenge us tactically and mean we play to the best of our ability. We’ve found we always play better when against more highly-ranked teams. The Belgian Qwaffles is a team we look forward to playing as they have beaters who may rival ours.

QP: What do you hope your team takes away from the tournament?
Melanie: I want the team to take away an even greater sense of what they can achieve on a European stage. We’re an incredibly close team, and to further our synergy both on and off the pitch would be amazing. But, more than anything, I want the team to just have fun. We’ve had a year of ups and downs, and EQC will really act as a climax to this. We proved critics wrong at the British Quidditch Cup—let’s do similar at EQC!

QP: Thanks for your time Melanie, we appreciate it.

Melanie: That's okay, no worries!

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