Friday, June 19, 2015

Major League Mashup: June 20, 2015

Welcome to the first Major League Mashup where our staff runs down all of the happenings each week in MLQ.

Indianapolis Takes Down Detroit 3-0
Earlier this week we published Blake Fitzgerald’s recap of the Indianapolis Intensity’s victory over the Detroit Innovators. Check it out here.

Team Feature: Indianapolis Intensity
By Matt Pesch

Hot Start
The Indianapolis Intensity surprised many this past Saturday, beating the Detroit Innovators in all three games of MLQ’s opening series. While predictions from both the Eighth Man and the Quidditch Post predicted Detroit would take the series, Indianapolis swept.

There is no doubt Indianapolis’ speed and early-established chemistry are the team’s main strengths. With a vast majority of players having played for the Ball State Cardinals this past USQ season, or recently graduated from Ball State, Indianapolis knows how to work together.

Indianapolis also has the speed needed to weave through zones, draw the defense out of the zone, and dish out an easy pass-and-shoot right by the hoops. Furthermore, the team has the roster depth needed to maintain this fast pace throughout an entire series. While other teams may slow in the second or third game of a series, Indianapolis will take advantage and quicken the pace.

Though many discredit Indianapolis’ beater game, it is actually quite strong. Indianapolis starts with a two-male beater pair to gain bludger control and quickly revert to a classic one male and one female set for the remainder of the game. Led by team captain Tyler Walker, this beater line has depth. Walker also has the ability to adapt his game to work with any other type of beater, both offensively and defensively.

Overcoming Weaknesses
Lack of tall, bruiser-type players might be Indianapolis’ biggest absence from the team’s roster.  With no players taller than 6-foot-2 and only a couple of larger male chasers, Indianapolis could be stopped with relative ease if it attempts to drive on teams with bigger chasers.

Despite this lack of size, most players on Indianapolis have the grit to go after even the biggest quaffle carrier on an opposing team. When just one isn’t enough to force a pass or cause a takedown, a second chaser jumps in to finish the job.

Seeker Jason Bowling  | Photo Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography
Indianapolis doesn’t have just one or two key playmakers, but a whole group of them. Jason Bowling, the team’s primary seeker, has the amazing ability to catch a snitch in one-on-one situations. Anyone who doubts his talents need only to look at who caught all three snitches in the season opener: Bowling. With the fierce competition and similar skill levels of all eight MLQ teams, seeker game could be what makes or breaks teams this summer.

Keepers Blake Fitzgerald (also a team captain) and Nicholas Kaufman have the awareness and quick feet to convert turnovers into easy fast break points. Despite their slender builds, both are able to break tackles and drive to the hoops. Another key player on the quaffle is Anthony Votaw. Whether it’s a catch-and-shoot, power drive to the hoops, or a crushing defensive hit, Indianapolis can count on Votaw to make things happen.
Beater Alex Didat, Keeper Nicholas Kaufman | Photo Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography
In addition to Walker, beater Alex Didat can take control when it comes to bludger game. His size and quick response time make him the perfect aggressive beater, which pairs nicely with his female counterparts. The three primary female beaters – Danielle Anderson, team manager Erin Moreno, and Melinda Staup – are great defensive beaters with tremendous accuracy. They know exactly when and where to throw the bludger, especially when their chasers are wrapping up the opposing ball carrier.

Beater Melinda Staup | Photo Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography
Off Pitch
Without a doubt Indianapolis is the most unified team in MLQ when not on the pitch. The managers and coaches live in the same house and open it up for Ball State players and non-Cardinals alike to stay on weekends, when practices are held. Over half the team stays overnight at the house, despite many living just blocks away. This closeness easily carries over to game settings. When someone makes a mistake, they may be subbed out, but there are no ill feelings towards them. Competition is important, but so is friendship.

Preview: New York Titans vs. Washington Admirals
By Mike Pascutoi

The inaugural match for the East Division kicks off this Saturday at Fort Washington, Maryland with the championship favorites, the New York Titans and the Washington Admirals. These two teams feature contrasting styles, with the Titans featuring a deep roster of stars and the Admirals featuring underrated players from a variety of Mid-Atlantic teams. In light of the string of upsets last weekend by the Indianapolis Intensity over the Detroit Innovators, the common spoken cliché is that any team can win any given Saturday in Major League Quidditch (MLQ). This weekend, however, the Titans will likely show that this is not to be the case.

The first thing you should know about the Washington Admirals is that they have several cohesive chaser lines that they can depend on. A talented quaffle player core from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) consisting of Max Miceli, Andrew McGregor, Lee Hodge, and Emma Troxler  can lead the line, teams such as Virginia Community Quidditch and Capital Madness will also contribute to the quaffle play. The variety of styles played during the regular season should allow the Admirals to switch readily between a high-octane offense led by Miceli and co., and a more slowed-down style.

The Titans, considered by many to be the deepest team in the league, will attack Washington’s defense with its fantastic chaser depth. With chasers Michael Parada, Taylor Crawford, and Missy Hanley (all from the Warriors), the Titans can throw a disciplined and multi-talented line that can shut down Washington’s attack and generate an efficient passing offense. The Titans will likely focus their offense around former Texas keeper Augustine “Augie” Monroe (Texas Cavalry), a player who has defined his career on drive-and-dish plays that rack up both his goal and assist totals. With off-ball options like Parada, Brandon McKenzie (the Warriors), Lindsay Marella (Rutgers University), and Tim Keaney (the Warriors), look for Monroe to lead a high-scoring Titans offense that will likely leave the Admirals scrambling to stop their defensive assignments.

Key Matchups:
Ricky Nelson vs. Titans beaters
Several people have been quick to point out that each team in this matchup is without their best beater. Both New York’s Kyle Jeon (NYU Nundu) and Washington’s Kyle Bullins (UNC Chapel Hill) were noticeably absent from the rosters. This puts even more pressure on Washington’s Ricky Nelson (University of Maryland alum) to control the pace of the beater game, a key factor in shutting down New York’s superior quaffle game. Nelson, however, will have to hold off an aggressive beating game from four of the best beaters in the Northeast this past season, Leeanne Dillman (Emerson College), Mike Iadevaia (Hofstra University), Mario Nasta (RPI), and Theresa Buchta (Hofstra University). Nelson, the most consistent beater on UMD’s final four squad this past year, will have to play some of the best quidditch of his career to retain bludger control long enough to give the Admirals’ offense more opportunities to score.

Augie Monroe vs. James Hicks
The best driving keeper in quidditch goes up against one of its toughest defensive stalwarts. New York’s keeper Monroe, fresh off of leading the University of Texas to its third straight World Cup victory, is a deceptively strong and quick keeper who creates every opportunity to score every time he has a ball in his hand. The Washington Admirals, lacking a marquee point defender outside of Steve Minnich (Capital Madness), will lean heavily on former UMD keeper James Hicks (Capital Madness). Hicks will need to revert to his form from two seasons ago, when he was the focal point of UMD’s stingy defense that rode them to a Sweet 16 finish at World Cup VI. Stopping Monroe is a key to slowing down the Titans’ offense long enough to keep the game in range. A large part of that will be Hicks’ ability to stop Monroe’s drives and make quick reads to shut down Monroe’s passing options.

Final Thoughts
The seeker game in quidditch has evolved to the point where efficient seeker-beating can completely make up for the lack of a consistent seeker and render superior seekers obsolete for much of snitch play. This means that the Washington Admirals will have to retain bludger control against the deep Titans beating core to give seeker Steve Minnich any space to make a play on the snitch. With Titans seeker Andrew Zagelbaum (the Warriors) failing to remain consistent, it will be on Minnich to take advantage of every opportunity he has with the snitch if the Admirals wish to pull an upset over the favored Titans.

Chasers: New York
Beaters: New York
Chemistry: New York
Seeker: Washington
Coaching: Even
Depth: New York

Prediction: New York sweeps, winning the first game ISR due to superior seeker-beating but taking the next two OSR due to superior depth.

Preview: Indianapolis Intensity vs. Cleveland Riff
By David Wilber

The second weekend of Major League Quidditch’s inaugural season is upon us with a matchup between the Indianapolis Intensity and the Cleveland Riff. This matchup might gain a lot of attention after last week’s sweep of the Detroit Innovators at the hand of Indianapolis. For Cleveland this will be a chance to show it is one of the strongest teams in the league and a team to be feared going forward.

Last week the Intensity was led by keeper Blake Fitzgerald and chaser Matt Brown. Together they scored a majority of their team’s points in the series and played great defense. Matt Brown proved he is a point defender you do not want to mess with. His lateral quickness was able to keep any ball carrier in front of him and his tackling was superb all day. Blake Fitzgerald showed how speed can be a huge asset on the field. Fitzgerald ran the offense well all day and made some great stops when it seemed giving up a goal was inevitable.

It’s not all about the chasers, though. Indianapolis’ beaters are the most dangerous part of the team’s roster. With Tyler Walker, who is almost always the best athlete on the field at a given time, paired up with Ball State Cardinals teammates Erin Moreno and Melinda Staup, Indianapolis has the beaters to take on any team. Jason Bowling will be the seeker for Indianapolis again, though he will have a tougher time against Samuel “Sunshine” Roitblat. Bowling was two for two ISR last week, so look for him to continue that streak.

Cleveland enters this weekend as the favorite in the North division. One look at its roster and you can see why. Daniel Daugherty and Jeremy Boettner are two of the best quaffle players in the league, and seeing them play together at Black Swamp Fantasy showed just how good they can be. Couple that with great beaters like Chad Brown, Julie Fritz, Matt Eveland, and 2014 Team USA seeker Roitblat, and you start to see just how much potential this team has. The main weakness appears to be male chaser depth, but the second and third lines are still capable of not losing a big lead given to them by the first line.

This series looks amazing on paper. If both teams bring their full 21 and play to their potential, we should be seeing the best games of the season. I don’t see any games being pushed out of snitch range and we will get a great seeker battle between two of the best seekers in the Midwest region, Roitblat and Bowling. I believe the first game will go to Cleveland ISR, the second game to Indianapolis ISR, and the final game will go to Cleveland ISR.

MLQ: Logistics of the First Week
By Danielle Lehmann

A new league during the summer months with elite players, powerful teams, and effective officials. This is what MLQ advertises with its “major league” competitions. After the first week of the season, some are not convinced these standards will be met.

The first week of MLQ brought many challenges to the field, with two standing out above the rest. The first is the appeal that might have contributed to Indianapolis sweeping Detroit. During the first game of the team’s three-match series, Niko Banks caught the snitch, winning the first game for Detroit. Erin Moreno, the Indianapolis manager, discovered his absence on the roster and immediately appealed the game.

“On Wednesday, Detroit submitted a roster without Niko Banks,” said Ethan Sturm, the founder and co-chair of MLQ. “On Friday night, they contacted us to clarify the roster policy. We made it clear that the roster they submitted Wednesday is the one they must use. They acknowledged it and said they'd let the player know he couldn't play.”

Banks, however, still played after the warning. This disregard of set rules – after asking for clarification – made appealing the game easier to do. MLQ policy mandates if a game is successfully appealed, the game must be replayed, which is why the first day of games consisted of four, not the usual three, games.

The second challenge for MLQ last week landed with the referees. On MLQ’s website it’s stated that for finding and training the best referees, the league has paired up with International Referee and Development Program (IRDP) with veteran official and officials manager Andrew Canto coordinating.

“The IRDP is an organization formed for the express purpose of the certification of consistent and competent referees around the world,” states the gameplay section of MLQ’s site. “Through the usage of online and in-person tests, constant evaluation and re-evaluation, the IRDP’s focus is to provide all leagues with the highest quality of referees available.”

And while this sounds great, a rumor circulated on social media that officials were found on Craigslist, threatening to undermine the officials’ credibility.

“I had not heard anything about that rumor until far after the fact,” said Sturm. “I know that one of the goal referees was rather inexperienced, but I trust my referee director and his recruiting. Getting minor gameplay staff for singular matches, especially ones as geographically isolated as this past weekend, is a tall task. But that's no excuse, and we intend to do a better job going forward.”

Canto offered further explanation: “We advertised in a variety of ways, through multiple social media platforms, one of which was Craigslist. Through there, we found someone with past refereeing experience in multiple sports to fill out our crew. We are focused on finding non-player, non-team-affiliated refs, and if the sport is to continue into the future, we need more non-playing refs.”

This weekend, games are being played in Indianapolis and Washington DC, which should help with this issue.

“Both games this weekend are being played in more traditional quidditch hubs and both have staff with depth and breadth,” said Sturm. “This is our first season, and it’s going to have its ups and downs, but I expect the product you’ll see this coming weekend will be a great example of what our league is capable of.

Being “major league” is a tall order to fill. The task of establishing a reputable league is not easy, even will with full teams of dedicated players. A lot rests on MLQ’s ability to show, rather than tell, that the league is an official force that can produce valuable statistics, video and experiences for anyone interested in quidditch.

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