Saturday, May 16, 2015

EQC Division 2 Team Reviews

On the 18 and 19 April, the 2015 European Quidditch Cup (EQC) was held in Oxford, UK. With 32 teams from 11 regions, it was the biggest quidditch tournament held outside North America to date. Now that the dust has settled, our writers finish their reviews of how each team performed, concluding with the 16 teams who were placed into Division 2.

Leicester Thestrals
Abby Whiteley

After a disappointing penultimate place at the Nightmarish Tournament in November, Leicester has gone from strength to strength this season and has claimed its first great victory at a tournament it only qualified for due to a dropout. This comes after some fantastic performances at the British Quidditch Cup (BQC), where Leicester deposed rising stars Durham University Quidditch Club, and after strong Leicester representation in the two strongest teams at Valentines Cup II in February. Finishing with a 60*-30 score against the METU Unicorns, this strong run has culminated in Leicester making its mark on Europe, with a hard-earned trophy to show for it.

Much of the credit for this win has to go to the main chasing powerhouses on the team, Warren McFadyen and Callum Humphreys. McFadyen is renowned as a very skillful chaser, capable of taking down players much larger than himself with good technique, and he secures plenty of goals for Leicester with his enviable agility. Humphreys' style is much the same as McFadyen's, but his larger frame makes him a more obvious choice for keeper, and he saved Leicester from conceding many times with his fast reactions. Perhaps the most notable change in Leicester's play, however, is the increasing egalitarianism in its quaffle play: McFadyen and Humphreys have trained themselves out of the habit of hero running, and the team has improved with superior utilisation of Zoe Harrison. Many teams in both the UK and continental Europe could learn from Leicester's example.

Aside from the quaffle play, Leicester has fantastic beaters in Dan Trick and Becky Thompson, who are dauntless in the face of opposing beaters. George Fiddes is a seeker who has so far escaped the attention of the community, largely due to the difficulty of garnering attention as a seeker at all; he played very well, however, with his infamous eight-second snitch grab in the final, securing his status as one of Leicester's most valuable players.

Almost since its inception, Leicester has been the archetypal middle-tier team, neither suffering terrible defeats nor winning glorious victories. However, Leicester has shown it has the gumption to take it all the way against excellent teams—even if Leicester flies a little close to the sun in doing so. Leicester can go into the 2015-16 season with its head held high, and Captain Elliot Gray can sign off with the satisfaction of a job well done.

METU Unicorns
Abby Whiteley

The METU Unicorns came into this tournament as one of the most recognisable teams there, despite the fact that this is their first European Quidditch Cup (EQC) and Turkey is a very young quidditch nation. This was largely thanks to fabulous kits and a strong social media presence, backed up by a fantastic performance at the Tournoi International de la Violette in January.

The Unicorns had to hit the ground running on the first day, with their first two games being against the Paris Titans and Southampton Quidditch Club 1. Despite the absence of around seven players, the Unicorns were undaunted and gave both of these formidable teams an excellent match. The Turkish side held the Paris Titans in snitch range at the end of their game, the only team all weekend to do so, and the Unicorns’ performance against Southampton Quidditch Club was also admirable. It was as a result of sheer bad luck from the group draw that the Unicorns did not qualify for Division 1 on Day Two, and their final ranking does not do justice to the incredible play that the Turkish representatives brought to this tournament.

Much of the force on the attack for the Unicorns came from their keepers, Can Kaytaz, Kamil Urgun, and Yaşa Melih, all of whom are very powerful players with excellent instincts for choosing the time to drive and the time to distribute. The Unicorns’ endgame in the quaffle play was balanced by Sıla Yüksel, Cansu Bozkurt, and rogue Danish chaser Mette Hein Klith, all of whom have an enviable catch-and-release that efficiently converted the keepers’ passes into points. Defensively, Ahmet Can Karakadılar and Kaan Bolat provided fantastic point-chasing options and were a significant element in the Unicorns being able to resist the Titans’ offence. Fatih Aykurt is an incredible beater with or without a bludger, and his devastating beating in the midfield put huge pressure both on the quaffle attack and the opposing beaters. Ruşen Sari was a core part of the Unicorns’ beater defence, knowing exactly when to strike and not make wasteful shots.

It was a delight to have the Unicorns with their beautiful play and attitudes, as well as their galaxy print unicorn jerseys, at this event. It would be great to see them at more tournaments in the future. Next year, when the organisers have more data available to them and the groups are therefore designed more fairly, expect to see the Unicorns rock European quidditch.

Nantes Quidditch
Abby Whiteley

Nantes, one of the oldest teams in France, has had a mixed season. After an encouraging fourth-place finish at the Coupe de France before Christmas, the team found itself frustrated by some tricky teams at the Tournoi International de la Violette and was eliminated in the group stages. It struggled on Day One against the Keele Squirrels and Brussels Qwaffles, taking third in its group and being relegated to Division 2; however, it regrouped impressively and capitalised on this opportunity to take third place in the lower division. This ranking was hard-won but well-deserved; the third-place playoff against the Oxford Quidlings ended 70*-20 in Nantes’ favour, showing solid play right to the end.

Some of Nantes’ strongest beaters, Ronan Nicolas and Julie Ledru, enabled Nantes to execute the more fluid, aggressive beating style that seemed to be the hallmark of many strong teams at EQC. Nicolas and Ledru’s beating was one of the main elements driving Nantes’ victory over the Quidlings, as the Quidlings’ attack was disrupted in the midfield, which gave Fabien Bouchet and Yann Fouillat the opportunities to drive the quaffle up the field with reduced opposition. On defence, Maëva Lucas and Camille Vallois demonstrated excellent marking and point defence, slowing up their opponents to give the beaters more time to pick apart the attack. Aymeric Mallet made a fantastic catch in the third-play playoff and is certainly a seeker to look out for.

If Nantes retains the talent that gave it such a good showing at EQC and continues to develop its passing game, it has a very bright future in the next season and beyond.

Oxford Quidlings
Abby Whiteley

The Oxford Quidlings have come an incredibly long way since their inception as a seven-player team at Whiteknights I in 2013. At the close of this season, they can proudly count themselves amongst the top 10 teams in the UK and the top 20 in Europe overall. They are well-established as a competitive threat. The Quidlings were inches away from making it into the final of Division 2 after a shot in the final 10 seconds of overtime against the METU Unicorns went slightly wide, and they lost the third-place playoff against Nantes Quidditch 20-70*. However, their performances throughout the weekend has truly proven their worth as a competitive team in their own right.

The most exciting thing about the Quidlings this tournament is how much the new talent has developed and how heavily the squad depended on players who have only been in the game since October. Alongside well-known players such as James Burnett and Travis Manuel, the Quidlings demonstrated some fantastic talent worthy of comparison with these experienced hands. These include Robert Brignull, a keeper whose excellent tackling and fast saves significantly fortify the Quidlings’ defence, and Jamie Cash, a dependable beater who has the athleticism and intuition to never take risky long shots and instead always closes the gap between him and his quarry. Cash has also flourished as a seeker, making some great catches for the Quidlings throughout the tournament; the Quidlings’ other primary seeker is Mark Richardson, who has also taken to seeking with impressive flair to match his intelligent chasing. Sigurður Sigurgeirsson has been an occasional member of the Quidlings throughout this season, but his great passing game and confident driving was a great help in this tournament. Suzanne Robin demonstrated some great point-chasing against the METU Unicorns, and Shati Patel has shown that her tutelage under the Quidlings’ experienced beater lineup is paying off—her astute prioritisation and careful beating saved the Quidlings many times in the keeper zone.

As for Jack Lennard, for whom this tournament was his last as captain of the Quidlings, he signed off with aplomb by scoring the Quidlings’ last hoop in the tournament.

Lunatica Quidditch Club
Jack Lennard

Lunatica performed well at the last EQC and had been hoping to come to Oxford to make a strong impression on behalf of Italian quidditch. This, however, did not happen, as Lunatica ended up in a challenging group, whilst Green-Tauros Quidditch Torino became the banner holder for the Italian teams. Although the group was difficult (eventual joint-third placed Nottingham Nightmares and Norwegian champions UiO Quidditch), it was certainly not impossible for Lunatica to make it through to Division 1. Though Lunatica made good use of offensive quaffle players to score seven hoops against a strong Nottingham beater lineup and nine against a physical UiO team, the discipline of Nottingham’s offensive beating and the creativity of UiO’s passing meant that Lunatica failed to make much of an impression on either one, losing 150*-70 and 180*-90, respectively. Its final game of the day was one that Lunatica would certainly have wished to win more comfortably—with QPD beginning to make the difference between Division 1 and Division 2, Lunatica failed to rack up the points against the Wageningen Werewolves, only beating the team that eventually came last at the event by 80 points before Wageningen caught the snitch to end the match 90-40*. Although it had only one victory, Lunatica was destined for Division 2; had the results in other groups been different, then a slightly higher QPD would have really pushed Lunatica to challenge for a top 16 spot. It is this tactical foresight within competitions that captain Andrea Miglietta will want to build in a top-down way within the squad going forward.

Going into Day Two, Lunatica made its talent shine in a comfortable victory over the Black Forest Bowtruckles that ended 130*-30, a match reflective of Lunatica’s high standing within the 16 teams going into Division 2. However, it was a quarterfinal draw against the eventual Division 2 runners up, the METU Unicorns, that ended Lunatica’s weekend. Unable to deal with the technicality that the Unicorns employed in the beating game, with highly aggressive beaters and an organised defence, Lunatica crumbled. The Unicorns found it far too easy to make runs on the hoops count, and it wasn’t long before the scoreline reflected the mismatch. The Oxford Quidlings would later use an organised defence and a slow, beater-screened move up the pitch to limit the scoring, a tactic that very nearly proved successful against the Unicorns. Yet Lunatica failed to employ such a tactic here, or adjust its usual style to match the Unicorns, and it was this inability to do so that ended the weekend so early for a squad that shows a great deal of promise and talent, leaving Lunatica a disappointing 24th overall.

Unisport-Zentrum Darmstadt
Abby Whiteley

Darmstadt entered the ring at the European Quidditch Cup as the German champions. Although this was a very encouraging start for the team, Germany remains a rather new quidditch nation, and so this title alone was not a very helpful metric for determining what to expect from the team. Expectations for the German teams were generally rather low, as they had never appeared in international competitions, but they certainly proved that there is great capacity for growth on the German scene. Darmstadt did well as an individual team, coming in at No. 22 after a tough group on Day One and an 80*-40 loss in the Division 2 quarterfinals to eventual winners Leicester Thestrals.

Darmstadt’s chaser lineup was impressively consistent, with a deep squad demonstrating huge potential. The greatest asset to this team was its offence, with Tim Simmert and Marius Möller particularly standing out; the quaffle lineup demonstrated speed and opportunism on the attack and counterattack, which gave it some real power.

The beater game was more developed than might have been expected, as this traditionally evolves at a slower pace than the quaffle game; Jessica Daum in particular was a great asset to the squad, with great reflexes and focus. The general standard of basic skills amongst the players was good, with solid catching and accurate passes. Uncharacteristically for such a new team, Darmstadt was very brave in taking bludgers up on the attack; this often paid off, although this tactic could be risky and sometimes weaken a defence that already struggled with marking. If Darmstadt learns to be as clever with its positioning on the defence as it is with its opportunism on the attack, it will see huge improvements next season.

It is likely that Darmstadt will have been satisfied with its performance; beating the London Unspeakables and putting hoops past the Keele Squirrels and Brussels Qwaffles are very satisfying results to take away, especially for such a fresh team. Darmstadt maintained its position as the best team in Germany and performed impressively for its international debut.

Barcelona Eagles
James Burnett

The Barcelona Eagles are likely quite frustrated with what was ultimately a strong performance in Oxford that nevertheless failed to produce results. Last year’s quarterfinalists came in 21st place, ranking below teams such as Lille Black Snitches, Oxford Quidlings, and NTNUI Rumpeldunk, whom they comfortably outpaced in 2014. This decline in relative skill belies a tactical game that has very much evolved apace with European quidditch this year.

The Eagles exhibited the mobile, aggressive bludger game that has been the hallmark of top-level European teams in the past few months and was ubiquitous at EQC. Chema Hidalgo López used his physicality to the team’s advantage and was very well-supported by Captain Alba Sayalero, who presented a relentless threat with a bludger going forward and on defence. A fast-paced driving quaffle game orientated around chaser Marc Casado and keeper Marc Oliva supplemented this well, exploiting the weaknesses that the beater game created.

Impressive as López and Sayalero were, however, they seemed to play most of the tournament, and tiredness perhaps showed as López in particular picked up a few cards for sloppy physical play. The Eagles’ aggressive bludger game had a tendency to leave them quite exposed defensively when met with a more traditional and conservative beater defence, as showed in their defeat to the Oxford Quidlings.

Perhaps most telling about the Eagles’ EQC journey, however, is that although the Eagles ended with a 2-3 record, they did not finish a single game behind on quaffle points; defeats to the Loughborough Longshots, Black Snitches, and Quidlings all came with the scores tied on pitch. This is perhaps the telltale sign of a team well ahead of its local field, but in the increasingly tightly packed European race the Eagles will need to bring a much stronger seeking game to stake their place amongst the elite in future seasons.

Three River Dragons Passau
Joel Davis

Three River Dragons Passau was arguably the unluckiest team of the tournament. Drawn into the so-called “Group of Death,” they struggled to make their presence known in their first two games on Day One, scoring only a single goal against the Titans, and none at all against Southampton Quidditch Club. In their final match against the METU Unicorns, the Dragons began to show some teeth, scoring five goals against the Turkish team and finishing the match with a cold catch at 80*-100. Despite this great show of potential, the Dragons still ended the day at the bottom of their group with a QPD of -290. However, they brought this potential back with them to the knockout stages, giving a spectacular performance against Milano Meneghins. With Christian Häuser as keeper, making devastating runs and efficient passes, the Dragons managed to keep Milano within snitch range just long enough to end the game 110*-90.

Whilst ending the tournament with a 120*-50 loss against Nantes, the Dragons’ match against Milano definitely shows a team on the rise. Whilst their passing game enabled them to create some spectacular opportunities, their downfall lies in their decision-making. There were clear moments on-pitch in which the Dragons’ chasers appeared to be unable to decide who or where to mark, making them susceptible to switches and handovers, whilst their beaters often seemed hesitant to go for a longer range beat, which left them defenceless against the Titan-patented “hero run” style.  However, this may purely be due to the physical, fast-paced nature of the other teams in their group. Either way, Three River Dragons Passau finished at a respectable No. 23 in Europe and put in a performance to be proud of.

Bracket stages
Milano Meneghins
David Dlaka

A lot can be said about Milano Meneghins and their performance at EQC, but those who watched them play can agree on one thing: the final ranking does not do their playing skill justice. Mostly due to low numbers, which massively contributed to exhaustion and damages on pitch performance, Milan placed much lower than they would have if teams were ranked simply based on prowess.

One of the more notable pillars of the team, captain and keeper Michele Clabassi, can easily drive a quaffle up, using sheer size to run past lighter point chasers, and managing to avoid the bludger defence at times. That said, he is not one to hero run and claim glory as good positioning by players such as Dennis Rossini and Gianluca Tenzone provides for a much more fluid quaffle game. In their game against the Ghent Gargoyles in the pool stage the chaser offensive utilised their freshness and physicality to score much needed hoops and get out of SWIM range early on.

In what can only be described as brave, admirable, and jaw-dropping, the beating was mostly done by Velia Cavallini and Valeria Baroni who were the only female players on the team. They could not sub off due to all other players identifying as male, so they had to either chase or beat for the entirety of every game at the tournament. And while their resolve in the face of Chaucer-like odds is admirable, exhaustion took over and hindered their ability.

Perhaps next year, after a fruitful recruitment drive, we will see what the Milano Meneghins can truly do.

Ghent Gargoyles Quidditch Club
Joke Daems

Ghent Gargoyles Quidditch Club is certainly a team with lots of potential that just has not yet figured out how to reach it to the fullest. Though the team secured third place during the Benelux Cup in February, the players needed a few games to really get into it, and the same seemed to be the case at EQC. The Gargoyles’ first game against Milano Meneghins should have been the easiest—especially considering the Meneghins' small squad size—but it turned into a tough loss for the Gargoyles. The rest of the day only held more losses for the Ghent team, yet their playing style seemed to evolve throughout. The players communicated better and there were fewer fruitless hero runs—though, admittedly, many of the Gargoyles' goals were made through successful hero runs as well. While both Durhamstrang and NTNUI Rumpeldunk were obviously stronger teams, the Gargoyles managed to stand their ground for a while, especially at the beginning of the game. They performed quite well when focusing on defence, but as soon as they tried to play more offensively, it became easier for opponents to break through with fast counterattacks.

Having lost all their games on Day One, the Gargoyles had to face Nantes Quidditch in Division 2. Though Nantes is one of the strongest French teams and would later make it to the semifinals of Division 2, the Gargoyles arguably played their best game of quidditch against Nantes. The Gargoyles were down two players due to minor injuries, and all players were pretty exhausted from the previous day, but they managed to score quite a few times and didn't just let Nantes waltz over them.

For a team that has not even been playing together for a year, the Ghent Gargoyles Quidditch Club performed quite well against far more experienced teams. They need to work more on playing as a team, perhaps by figuring out which players work well together, as their results were greatly dependent on the players on pitch at any given time. In addition, they need to become better at switching between defensive and offensive strategies, and they need a strategy against enemy trolls. Yet this is clearly an optimistic team, eager to learn from other teams and with a positive attitude toward each other. Overall, the Gargoyles' performance at EQC was a little disappointing, but with a bit more competitive experience, this team could become a force to be reckoned with by the next EQC.

North Sea Nargles
Abby Whiteley

The North Sea Nargles came to EQC with their primary concern being growth; having finished last at the Benelux Cup, and being a rather new team, the Nargles came with the intention of getting some more experience under their belts and having a good time. An unusually short team, given that the Netherlands is renowned for its very tall population, the Nargles nevertheless proved that size is not everything. The Nargles can boast some great talent in Bram Vries and Nikki Voss; the former is a fast and determined chaser who is adept at capitalising on holes in the opposition’s defence, and the latter is a good driver whose size belies his strength and speed. Robin Mier was also a useful asset on the offence, fit enough to run fast attacks despite a very small squad. Joël Huitema saved some long shots very well as keeper, although the Nargles tended to depend more heavily on their beaters in defence; Jerona van der Gevel was a particularly useful beater, backed up well by the determined Joel Vissenberg, and prioritised well to make sure the defence was not swamped when faced with a quaffle attack. One of the highlights of the Nargles’ weekend was the fantastic snitch catch by Captain Hanna Bouma in their very first game, which came about as a result of her cleverness in choosing her moment carefully and taking advantage of a moment of weakness from the snitch.

It is wonderful to see new teams taking advantage of the opportunities available to them, as they represent the growth of the sport and its future. It was great to play and to meet the Nargles at the beginning of their quidditch journey, and we hope to see them again at the next EQC.

London Unspeakables
Abby Whiteley

It is always difficult to know exactly what to expect of the London Unspeakables, as their squad tends to fluctuate due to their status as a community team. The team performed excellently at the British Quidditch Cup, taking sixth place, and came into this tournament hoping to make its mark on Europe. The Unspeakables were upset in their first game by a powerful Italian squad, Green-Tauros Quidditch Torino, a team that surprised with its ferocity and would finish ninth overall despite low expectations for Italian representation.

The Unspeakables performed impressively against the North Sea Nargles and the Radcliffe Chimeras, however, demonstrating some exciting talent in Luke Trevett and Matt Howard. Trevett is one of the Unspeakables’ best finds this season, with incredible agility and speed, especially off brooms-up; it is a shame that Nat Thomas was unable to play, as he and Trevett would have made a formidable pair on-pitch. Trevett demonstrated fantastic distribution into the hands of Ella Blom and Ellie Aaen, whose positioning gave the Unspeakables the ability to threaten in the keeper zone and score some great hoops. Ben Pooley and Fiona Howat were good keepers around whom the Unspeakables’ offence could rally, but they both truly shone when playing their preferred positions; Pooley is a hugely talented beater who would be an advantage to any beater lineup in Europe at the moment, and Howat is at her best in the yellow headband, as irritating to face on the defence as she is fearsome on the attack.

When advancing the quaffle, the Unspeakables’ offence had a tendency to bring a bludger up, a task at which Caspian Cunningham and Howard excelled. However, the quaffle carriers were too easily intimidated by the presence of bludgers on defence, and indecisiveness when faced with a beater cost the Unspeakables some fast breaks that could have made the difference. The Unspeakables in turn demonstrated capability at shutting down fast breaks, with Marcus Hart and Aaen performing some great screens. If the Unspeakables master man-marking the passing options as well as the quaffle-carrier, they will advance their game on the defence to give them a better chance of staying in SWIM range to let Howat do what she does best.

Overall, the Unspeakables did not have an easy run, facing the British silver medallists, the German champions, and a team that is very likely to take first place at the Italian championship in May. However, the Unspeakables rallied together brilliantly as a team and justified their sixth-place finish at BQC with their performance this weekend.

Vienna Vanguards
Fraser Posford (with Claire Evans)

Vienna will be able to take a lot away from the team’s competitive debut at none other than the biggest Quidditch tournament to ever take place in Europe. The Vanguards came to Oxford with a positive outlook and a happy-go-lucky attitude, ready to learn from their experienced opponents. As expected, the Vanguards were beaten soundly by Crookshanks Lyon 130*-0 in their first game, made a snitch catch in the 170-40* loss to the Falmouth Falcons, and then ended Day One with a 90-70* overtime triumph over the Black Forest Bowtruckles, a historic first win for the team. This inaugural victory was undeniably instigated by Vienna’s Falmouth-esque fast paced quaffle game led by agile keeper Dominik Hiesl and chaser Lukas Linser, whilst beaters such as Max Lovetroy and Lena Mandahus locked down bludger control for much of the game.

Defeat to the established Oxford Quidlings (80*-20) in the first round of Division 2 bracket play ended the Vanguards’ involvement in the competition, yet the Vanguard players can take pride in holding a team containing past and present Team UK members within snitch range, an impressive feat for a team that only formed in October of last year. Perhaps with a bit of competition from the German teams and the establishment of new ones within Austria, the Vanguards could become a force to be reckoned with. The foundations are certainly in place.

Black Forest Bowtruckles
Nina Heise

The Black Forest Bowtruckles went into EQC as one of the most unknown and inexperienced teams. The Bowtruckles had only ever played at the German EQC qualifiers in January and never, as a team, appeared on the international stage before. This showed especially in their first game against the Falmouth Falcons, where even the more experienced players seemed somewhat intimidated by the fierce opposition they faced. Later on, the team showed more cohesion and started playing to its strengths.

Keeper and actual tallest man in the world Adrian Schleeh proved himself capable of impressive drives toward the opposing team’s hoops and was at times desperately unlucky not to score. The beaters started picking up on the more aggressive style they were facing. Anna Weber especially stood out as showing a steep learning curve as the tournament progressed, her innate fierceness in beater battles aided by gaining more confidence with her bludger on the offence.

In the end, it was the Bowtruckles’ squad size that let the team down. Going into the tournament with only 10 players, they were already among the smallest teams, but two injuries on the first day brought the squad down to only eight players for its last game against the Vienna Vanguards. Nevertheless, a last-minute beat on the Vanguards’ seeker and a snitch catch by Jessica Adrian took the game into overtime, where exhaustion to the point of tears and a yellow card for one of their beaters led to a narrow loss. With a few more players and a bit of experience, however, the fighting spirit shown in that game and all others should definitely take the Bowtruckles further in the future.

Wageningen Werewolves
Abby Whiteley with Lucy Quidditch, Juliane Schillinger, and Brandon Fitz-Gerald

One of two teams representing the Netherlands at EQC, the Wageningen Werewolves drew a fairly tough group. On their first day, the Werewolves had to face Norwegian champions UiO and eventual semifinalists the Nottingham Nightmares, alongside a strong Italian side in Lunatica Quidditch Club. The negative QPD resulting from these encounters left the Werewolves facing the METU Unicorns on the start of Day Two, and the resultant defeat to the strong Turkish side knocked the Werewolves out of the competition.

Generally, what impressed the most about the Werewolves was their beater play. Although not yet able to stand up to the rigours of some of the more experienced beaters, the Werewolves showed surprising intuition and courage in their beater play, which is so rarely the hallmark of new teams. This is largely thanks to Marit Epskamp, Chula Bruggeling, and Linda Hooijschuur, the Werewolves’ primary beaters; Epskamp in particular showed confidence in leading the beater lineup and coordinating it in the face of difficult games.

The Werewolves were at their best when they focused on defence, slowballing as much as possible and shutting down opposing attacks with bludgers to make it difficult to score against. However, the offence generally looked confused, typically consisting of one driver taking a flock of chasers up with them without a clear strategy or passing options. That said, with talents such as Juliane Schillinger and Nick van Klaveren, the Werewolves show great potential for growth.

The Werewolves frequently demonstrated fantastic spirit and tenacity, rallying a reasonably small squad with admirable determination against some very tough teams. With this attitude, hopefully the Werewolves will be able to commit to their training over the next season and manage some wins at the next EQC when they have more collective experience under their belts.

Quidditch Hussars
James Burnett

Bringing an audacious roster of only 10 players to Oxford, the sole Polish representatives at EQC 2015 suggested strong early development for a nation in which quidditch is very new. Surprising nobody in ending the tournament on a 0-4 record, one still imagines the Quidditch Hussars will be happy with their EQC performance.

Placed in a truly vicious group, the Hussars suffered crushing defeats against both French champions Paris Frog and Belgian runners-up Deurne Dodo. However, they put up a spirited performance against the Oxford Quidlings, scoring a pair of early hoops before slipping out of range. Although elimination in the first round of the lower bracket and an eventual 31st-place finish are not glamorous, the Hussars put five hoops past eventual lower bracket champions the Leicester Thestrals, showing solid offensive foundations in need of greater depth, experience, and tactical development.

Particularly impressive in such a nascent team was the interplay between chaser Alek Hibner and keeper Jagoda Sadecka, with the latter’s careful advances and calm distribution complementing the formidable pace of her teammate. Safe in the knowledge that Sadecka could pick him out when the moment arose or provide a reset option, Hibner made incisive wide runs both on and off the quaffle, which allowed the Hussars to poach some hoops against far more experienced defences.

Team Canada veteran Jonathon Braun certainly contributed to the team in a major way, bringing energy and experience to an otherwise hesitant, tentative beater strategy. When on pitch, Braun could be heard commanding the Hussar’s defence and giving them a structure they otherwise lacked. That said, his absences were equally conspicuous with the Hussar beaters failing to command channels of movement and possession in their own half when the Canadian was on the sidelines, making even simple offensive tactics, such as a drive against a set defence, highly effective with enough physicality.

With all four of their games concluded out of snitch range, it is hard to reflect on the Hussars’ seeking game, although their proclivity to attempt cold catches likely means that a 1-3 snitch catch record does not represent strength. Overall, the Hussars showed signs of a quaffle game that could soon grow to match the standard of Spanish, Italian, and perhaps even Belgian teams, especially on offence. Their inexperience showed painfully in their home-grown beaters, and one expects that to continue to let the Hussars down over next season unless they can take on (and learn from) a seasoned replacement for the outgoing Braun. Still, for a new team from a fledgling quidditch nation, the Hussars attended EQC, scored some impressive hoops, and gained valuable playing experience; that is definitely enough to be satisfied with.

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