Thursday, June 11, 2015

Summer Cup 2015 Preview

With the inaugural Summer Cup being held in Durham, UK this weekend, our analysts take a look at what people can expect. Beginning with a detailed assessment of each team by Alex Harrison, before he is joined by Ashara Peiris to name some of the players to watch at the tournament, we'll be sure to whet your appetite for one of the most anticipated UK events of the summer period.

Team-By-Team Analysis:
Alex Harrison

Pool 1

The Napoleon Dynamites (captain: Sam Senior)
Chance of progressing from group: 70%

Sam Senior's team is the joint-smallest at just eleven players, which is mostly the result of him splashing an enormous 42 on Lucy Quidditch. It might well prove to be a good call, as his beater lineup – featuring the aforementioned major expense, as well as Katya Veleva, Luke Stevens, and utility players Ben Morton and Matthew Guenzel – is arguably the strongest in the competition. His quaffle lineup is stacked with good players who have the potential to form a slick unit, though the lack of big quaffle drivers could hurt them. Senior can look to a deep seeker lineup of Ben Morton, Johnney Rhodes, and Sash Steele to help dig his team out of any quaffle points deficit, and with solid depth across the board despite a lack of numbers, the Napoleon Dynamites should be a force to be reckoned with.

SQC3 (captain: Connor Simpson)
Chance of progressing from group: 50%

TeamUK reservist Fiona Howat was the joint most expensive player of the draft with Lucy Quidditch, and together with 26-coin Cory Faniel and Simpson himself, they have every position covered. Bargain buys Alice Drinkwater and Elliott Fogg improve the team further, though a lack of dedicated male quaffle players could cause gender rule issues for Simpson's team, and drag some of his beaters into the chasing lineup. SQC3 is something of a wild card: Simpson has lots of very good players, but will have difficulty building a functioning team out of them. I would expect them to seem unbeatable at times and fragile at others, and their success depends on how well Simpson can minimise their weaker periods.

The Dog's Bollocks (captain: Ollie Hymers/Amy Maidment)
Chance of progressing from group: 45%

With original captain Amy Maidment unable to attend the tournament, Ollie Hymers has taken command of the Dog's Bollocks, easily the largest team in the tournament. Maidment opted to buy numerous cheaper players over splashing on stars, though 28-coin Adam Jasko will anchor the Bollocks' chasing lineup. The beating lineup, which features seven dedicated players, looks unwieldy, though five of them are Durham players who presumably know each others' play styles. A deep pool of male quaffle players – Jasko, Brandon Fitz-Gerald, Alex Harrison, and Henry Williams among them – are available to Hymers, who can play both chaser and beater themself. However, the true test of the Dog's Bollocks will be whether the beater lineup can gel and compete against some of the star names they're up against.

Carpe Jugulum (captain: James McGurk)
Chance of progressing from group: 35%

Only three of James McGurk's team hail from south of Durham; five Durham players and four Scots make up most of Carpe Jugulum. McGurk spent big on players he is very familiar with, which could well help his team settle quickly; he will look to Durhamstrang keeper Jim Marschalek and the Loughborough Longshots' Daniel Mitchell to anchor his quaffle lineup. These players, alongside himself and Anthony Tatman, give the team a strong core, while the three female Edinburgh chasers should be familiar with each others' game. His first-choice beater pair must surely be Marcus Buechel and Ashara Peiris, which could cause some gender rule restrictions on the flexibility of the team’s lineup; McGurk has relatively little beater depth, which could in turn cause congestion in his quaffle lineup, preventing him from playing many of his best players at once.

Pool 2

The Pimm's Parade (captain: Jack Lennard)
Chance of progressing from group: 25%

Jack Lennard's Pimm's Parade again has only eleven players, though with solid gender and positional balance. All three of their primary beaters are female, so I'd expect either Lennard or Durham's Matthew Litwinowicz to bolster that lineup. One of only two Chimeras in the tournament, Matthew Western, will surely be critical to the quaffle game alongside Kat Jack and Jackie Woodburn. However, overall the Pimm's Parade seems to be a relatively technical team with few big physical types. Woodburn and Litwinowicz seem to be the main players of the seeker lineup, which could cause problems in a group featuring numerous good seekers on other teams.

A Midsummer Night's Team (captain: Seb Waters)
Chance of progressing from group: 80%

A Midsummer Night's Team will be heavily favoured by many observers: in addition to captain Seb Waters, their potent quaffle lineup includes two stars from the Third Annual Mercian Cup winners in Tom Heynes and Robbie Gawne, while Ben Guthrie and Ben Middlemiss are two of the toughest beaters in the whole tournament. Again, only having eleven players could cause problems later on, but several bargain female chasers and a hugely stacked seeker lineup including Oliver Barker and Caitlin Hamilton give them great versatility in every position. With powerful keepers at a premium, Heynes will be one of the most important players at the Summer Cup, and his relative bargain price of 35 gave Waters the ability to construct a tough, quick, flexible team which should at least reach the final.

Passionisms QC (captain: Fraser Posford)
Chance of progressing from group: 60%

Passionisms QC have lost their most expensive player, Leeds seeker Matty Percival, but his replacement by teammate Steven Daly leaves Posford's team in a very strong position despite Posford suffering a hand injury which prevents him from playing. Lee Baughan provides tremendous versatility, covering all positions. Meanwhile, several bargains – including both the current and previous captains of the St Andrews Snidgets at 7 apiece – give them enviable depth and gender balance. Baughan and Daly are two of the best beaters in the tournament, and having them on the same team should worry every other captain. Posford's ability to spend so little – Percival was the cheapest top buy of any team – while filling his team with good players should see his team do well, and their match with A Midsummer Night's Team will make very interesting viewing.

The Bone Breakers (captain: Hannah Watts)
Chance of progressing from group: 35%

The Bone Breakers are an intriguing team. Their key players – such as Jade Strange, Ben Pooley, and Nat Thomas – tend towards being quick and technical rather than big and physical, which could either see them run rings around more physical teams or be flattened into the unforgiving dirt. This is another well-balanced team in terms of both position and gender, though their unlucky group draw might condemn them to early elimination given the calibre of the teams they're facing. Watts has cleverly hoarded keepers, with Pooley, Anjit Aulakh, and Dominic Mellor all providing viable options in a tournament where some teams barely have one keeper. A number of cut-price but useful players such as the incredibly underpriced Matthew Drummond give them good numbers overall.

Players To Watch:
Ashara Peiris & Alex Harrison

Joanna Tsyitee
First up we have Carpe Jugulum’s Joanna Tsyitee. Ordinarily a chaser for the Holyrood Hippogriffs, Joanna showed an enormous amount of talent and physicality at last week’s Third Annual Mercian Cup, where she was one of the Yaeger Bomb’s most consistent scorers. Although relatively inexperienced (she has only been playing for 3 months), she has already shown exceptional positioning and a great catch-and-release technique that lends itself naturally to the behind-the-hoops position. She also demonstrates a certain aggressiveness - she demonstrated this trait by putting her entire body through a hoop in a (successful) attempt to score a goal. She has also exhibited ample skill in slowing and stopping an offence whilst on defence. Furthermore, her familiarity with a number of fellow Edinburgh teammates on Carpe Jugulum will undoubtedly lead to significant unity on pitch and allow her to score or assist with many hoops.

Anjit Aulakh
Anjit Aulakh of Southampton Quidditch Club 2 is the type of player that any team would be happy to have, and one that spectators love to watch. Aulakh is an incredibly versatile and agile player, who is able to both drive up the pitch as a primary quaffle carrier or play as a winger in which he will perform a gravity-defying leap before dunking the quaffle through the hoop. On defence, he is a hard hitting tackler and excellent marker, who rarely leaves any opening for opposing players. Although he is one of the more expensive players on his team (only Nat Thomas and Jade Strange cost more), this will likely only push him even harder to perform at the level which he has over the entire season. A successful performance at Summer Cup will not only cement his position as a member of SQC’s first team next year, it will also show the country that he is one of their top quaffle talents.

Phil Brown
One of Derby Union Quidditch Club’s longest standing beaters, Phil Brown. Since starting to play quidditch just over a year ago, Brown has proven himself as one of Derby’s most consistent beaters, combining both speed and aggression. These attributes allow him to cut off any attack when defending and to aid his own team whilst on offence. Whilst with a bludger, he is incredibly difficult to deal with and has an exceptional understanding of the game that ensures that he is always in the right place to make an important beat. He has also shown great skill as a seeker, which included catching a snitch catch whilst in SWIM range for his team at Mercian Cup. As at that tournament he is on a team with Lee Baughan - their time playing together at Mercian will have allowed Brown to make the most of the growing synergy between the pair. Passionisms QC will be hoping to use Brown’s beating to keep them within range before unleashing him on the snitch.

Matthew Drummond
Matthew Drummond went for a very low 4 coins to the Bone Breakers, who may not be aware what a bargain that was. Drummond has flown under the radar at SQC, which is understandable given the depth of their beater lineup, but his dynamic performance at Mercian for the Apostles has turned more than a few heads. Cheap players who turn out to be excellent are always a common surprise, and the Bone Breakers will quickly realise that in Drummond they have an intense, hard-tackling beater who can hold his own against anyone at the tournament.

Matt O’Connor
Matt O’Connor may have stepped down as captain of the St Andrews Snidgets, but he will be a significant presence at Summer Cup. Sold for a mere 7 coins despite being one of the most physical quaffle drivers in the north, his power will be a highly useful asset in a tournament which is relatively devoid of physical players. Look for his demolishing runs through the midfield, which often require multiple chasers to stop, and which can inflict severe blows on a heavy quaffle defence. With the bonus of versatility at keeper, seeker, and even beater, O’Connor would have been a useful acquisition for any captain during the draft, and will be looking to make a large return on his captain’s investment.
(Editor's note post-publication: O'Connor can no longer play in the tournament)

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