Thursday, April 16, 2015

Onward to Oxford: UiO Quidditch

As part of our efforts to preview all 32 teams competing in the European Quidditch Cup (EQC), the Quidditch Post is chatting with representatives from each team. Today we spoke with Kai Shaw captain of UiO Quidditch.

Quidditch Post: UiO will have the chance to represent Norway at EQC 2015; what does that mean to the team?
Kai: It means a lot. We’re all really excited about being able to compete against teams from all over Europe at what will be the largest quidditch tournament this continent has ever seen. This will also be the first international tournament for most of the players, which makes it extra exciting. Representing Norway isn't a big concern for everyone; there wasn't much competition for the spots in the country because we don't have that many established quidditch programs. Additionally, quite a few players on our team are exchange students who probably will be more concerned about representing their team rather than the country they’re playing in.However, some of us have been quite invested in the development of Norwegian Quidditch, and a few are even on the board of the Norwegian Quidditch Association (NRF). So for us, representing Norway will be a big part of the experience, and we hope both us and NTNUI Rumpeldunk. will be able to go far and show Europe that Norwegian Quidditch is a force to be reckoned with.

QP: What do you hope your team takes away from the experience?
Kai: I hope we go relatively far and that we get some good games. I also hope a lot of the players get a lot of useful experience that we can bring with us to the next season and to help raise the level of competition in Norway. Besides that, I just hope we all have a good time and make some friends from teams across the continent.

QP: What were the scores of your last five matches?
Kai: We have only played two games before, both during Oslo Open in October 2014. The scores were a 100*-50 loss against NTNUI and a 80*-50 loss to Katta. At the tournament, we only had seven players; two of them were mercenaries, and one of the mercenaries had only been to one practice before. Only two of the players on that team will attend EQC, so the results are not that representative.

QP: What do you think your teams strongest area is on-pitch: beating, keeping, etc.?
Kai: Seeing as most of the players on the team haven't played a match before, it's hard to say how the different areas and individual players will manage to transition and adapt when they meet players and styles they’re not used to. But if I have to pick one, I would say all of them except seeking, but we're working on the last one.

QP: How would you describe your beating style? Defensive, aggressive? Do you favour long beats over short throws, and how has this worked for you in the past?
Kai: I won’t describe our beating style as I don't like to give away details of how we play prior to the tournament, but I would use some of those words if I were to describe it.

QP: How many seekers do you have? Would you say your seeker game is particularly strong? What has been your catch rate in previous games, and on average how fast is the snitch caught?
Kai: The seeker game has traditionally been my personal Achilles heel as a coach. During my two years as coach for NTNUI, we were within snitch range seven times and lost all of them. The first and only time NTNUI caught a snitch within range was against UiO at Oslo Open, which was the first game I had with my new team. UiO has only played two games and has lost both within snitch range, so I try to keep away from water as I can't SWIM.

QP: What has your biggest success of the past six months been?
Kai: Getting Amund Storruste on the team. When the team was founded last fall, he was expected to join in January as he would finish his military service then. Amund has two silver medals from the last two Norwegian Championships, so he brings experience to the team. But more importantly, he has a car and we had been struggling for a while with carrying all the equipment halfway across town using public transportation. While that might sound like a joke, it really felt like a huge success to those of us who used to log around the equipment.

QP: How has your team changed since it was formed?
Kai: When it was formed last autumn, we were struggling with attendance at practices, having sometimes five people or eight to nine at most. This semester, there has been enough attendance for two teams at most occasions, and 10 people at the least always show up. We have also been able to increase to two practices a week without trouble and have hosted a couple of socials. So basically, our quidditch program is taking form, and were playing way better as a result.

QP: How would you describe your chaser lineup: small and fast, big and strong? Hows your tackling and passing?
Kai: I wouldn't describe their playing style prior to a tournament, but I can inform you that the chasers are all very pleasant people who I think the entire European Quidditch community will get along with. 

QP: What areas do you think really need to be improved on, and which areas could you school others on?
Kai: We could probably improve on modesty, and I think we could school others on everything else.

QP: Who are you most excited about playing in your group?
Kai: I personally would say Lunatica Quidditch Club as it is the only team I have played before, or know anything about. I met Lunatica in the third-place playoff of the Barcelona Moustaches tournament in September, when I was playing for the Conquidstadors. We struggled in the beginning of the game, but I felt like we managed to overpower Lunatica at the end when we figured out its game. I personally scored a lot of goals against it after the snitch got on pitch, which brought us out of range. But there were some (I think three) snitch catches by Lunatica that were disallowed, and it was really unclear why one or two of those were ruled illegal. So basically, I want to beat Lunatica without there being any snitch catch controversy. That team also plays fun quidditch, and I think it will be a good game.

QP: What’s been your biggest challenge as a team: playing matches (geographic isolation), attendance, recruitment, tackling nerves, etc.?
Kai: One of the biggest challenges naturally would be that we haven't played any games with our current squad, so we are not that used to playing against other teams. Attendance hasn’t been the best by everyone on the team either, which has been a hindrance to really unlocking the true potential of some players. The Norwegian Quidditch Championship will be held the weekend before EQC, so hopefully we'll get used to playing with each other and against other teams and get the cohesion and synergy needed to go far at EQC.

QP: What’s your goal for this tournament?
Kai: Our main target is to proceed from group play into the winners bracket and be among the top half of teams. Proceeding to the quarterfinals is also a dream, so we should therefore probably also win our group to make sure we don't get the worst competition at the Round of 16. I don't think we are good enough to make it to the semifinal as I can count at least four teams I believe are quite a bit better. However, never say never. If we’re lucky and get an easy bracket, and we play our best, it is possible we could go far. However, then we need to learn how to SWIM, or we’re going to drown at the first sign of opposition.

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