Thursday, April 16, 2015

EQC 2015 Group Predictions - Part 3 (G and H)

Group G
By Bex McLaughlin

1. Southampton Quidditch Club 1 (SQC 1)
2. Paris Titans
3. METU Unicorns
4. Three River Dragons Passau

This is the group of death for two reasons. Firstly, Southampton Quidditch Club 1 , METU Unicorns, or Paris Titans could progress to Day Two and all three would be worthy of a place in the bracket. Secondly, because Three River Dragons Passau are making their international debut against the current British Champions, the extremely physical Turkish No. 1 team, and the French Cup’s silver medalists.

SQC 1’s home nation advantage allows the club to bring all its best players. This includes TeamUK veterans Robbie “Dugald” Young and Jemma Thripp, as well as a plethora of new TeamUK recruits. While some could argue SQC 1’s road to the British Championship was easier than that of its main rivals, the Radcliffe Chimeras, Southampton nevertheless proved itself with quick passing, smart play, and the superb seeking skills of Young. However, SQC 1’s physicality pales to that of the METU Unicorns. This matchup is strength vs. finesse: expect to see METU powering through the SQC 1 defence, but SQC 1 passing around the Unicorns to score. Ultimately the Unicorns’ inexperience will be capitalised on by SQC 1, with the British champion topping its group.

SQC 1 vs. Paris Titans is the biggest match to watch in pool play. The Parisian side has powerful quaffle players in Team France’s Mourad “Tarzan” Ghazi and Albert Bregeault, and a squad deep in talent. However, underutilisation of the Titans’ women could be the French side’s comeuppance when facing the likes of SQC 1’s Thripp, Natalie A’Bear, Lydia Calder, and Imy Gregg. In the final of Le Tournoi International de la Violette, the Titans won against the Mighty and Amazing Quercs, but definitely struggled when the Quercs utilised a more experienced beater. While the Titans’ offense is fairly cohesive, much of their goal scoring rests on a few key players; if SQC 1 neutralises these threats, Southampton victory is assured. A last point against a Titan victory here is their penchant for collecting cards. EQC will have the best refs on the continent and no foul will go unnoticed should the French side fail to toe the line.

The METU Unicorns are the most popular team attending EQC. The European community has been captured by their beautiful shirts and friendly persona in Toulouse. METU has been incredibly unfortunate by drawing these rivals; in any other pool its qualification for Day Two would be certain. However, despite only a year’s experience behind it, METU remains a physically strong team, with a plethora of large aggressive players for every position. Notably, Fatih Aykurt is an accomplished keeper and beater, and Sıla Yüksel is an impressive chaser. A significant number of Unicorns excelled in Le Tournoi de la Violette, where they mixed with METU Hippogriffs to claim third place. Sadly, due to costs, the Unicorns will not have a full roster at EQC. Their brute force might lose out to experience against SQC 1 and the Titans, but they should win over the German side.

Three River Dragons Passau will probably secure bottom place in their group. Judging from their qualification game, the Dragons are quite well-developed for a team from such a young quidditch-playing country. Most importantly, they are coming to EQC with an attitude of wanting to learn and develop. Getting through such a tumultuous day will be a war of attrition on their part but with their athletic squad no game will be a completely lost cause, by any means. Certainly Germany is a nation to look out for in the coming years. 

Group H
By Bex McLaughlin

1. Loughborough Longshots
2. Barcelona Eagles
3. Leicester Thestrals
4. Lille Black Snitches

The Loughborough Longshots have beaten fellow European Quidditch Cup (EQC) qualifiers the Leicester Thestrals, the London Unspeakables, and the Keele Squirrels this season, but narrowly missed a British Quidditch Cup (BQC) medal by losing in a SWIM situation to the latter. While the team is athletically skilled, much of its offence lies with attempted long shots on goal. Chaser Anna Rees is particularly adept at trolling undetected and scoring. Loughborough cannot be considered without discussing its coach Bill Orridge. He is a major threat in any colour headband. Loughborough should handily top this group, but should prepare for a tough game against the Eagles, especially given that they are lacking their primary quaffle drivers Ben Hallam and Jonathon “Farmer” Cookes. Loughborough may encounter closer games than it would prefer against the Eagles and Leicester with such key players missing from its lineup.

The Barcelona Eagles are the premier team of Cataluña. Though their region boasts just two other teams, the Eagles have set a high standard on the Iberian Peninsula, and regularly challenge the nearby Toulouse team. The loss of their most athletic keeper Chema Hidalgo López to injury will see Marc Garganté Oliva and Marc Vilamú Casado fill the void. Oliva brings substantial bulk and height to the roster, and Casado made some impressive saves at Valentine’s Cup II. The team’s glue is beater and captain Alba Arrieta Sayalero. She regularly plays entire matches with no sub, and is incredibly adept at anchoring the defence. At Tournoi de la Violette, the Eagles lost in SWIM to the British mercenary team the Spartans. But in the context of the tournament’s freezing conditions and poor snitching resulting in an unusually short game, while seeking against infamous seeker Fiona Howat, the loss is credit to the UK rather than a slight against the Eagles. The Eagles should progress to Day Two, but may lose to Loughborough and will find a tough opponent in Leicester.

Following a drop-out, the Leicester Thestrals are coming to EQC as the lowest ranked of the British teams. While not flashy, Leicester is a solid squad with a core of strong players and a wealth of experience as one of the UK’s oldest teams. Warren McFadyen and Callum Humphries are an often synchronised chaser/keeper duo on offence, and they may benefit from Loughborough’s weakened quaffle lineup. Dan Trick is the team’s most skilled beater, albeit a little reckless with his bludger at times. The returning powerhouses of Abbi Harris and Becky Thomson at various combinations of beater/keeper/chaser are an invaluable asset. The team seems to lose its nerve with snitch on-pitch to some extent which could leave it at a loss in a SWIM situation. Leicester and Loughborough have faced off multiple times this season, but never in the Thestrals favour. This is unlikely to change at EQC, with Leicester needing to beat the Eagles to progress to Day Two.

Sadly, that leaves the Lille Black Snitches at the bottom of their group. While the team does well against newer teams with its well-assembled offence and conservative beating style, the Snitches are unlikely to meet the challenges of their experienced opponents. Lille’s performance at La Violette was bolstered by mercenary Paris Frog players; their own roster fluctuates. Vincent Bedou is their stand-out player and primary seeker, who could capitalise on Leicester’s weakness on the seeking front and take home a win. However, Lille will almost certainly lose to Loughborough and the Eagles, causing its run to end before bracket play.

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