Friday, June 12, 2015

Week One MLQ Preview: Intensity vs. Innovators

By Colin Richards

Tomorrow marks the start of the inaugural season of Major League Quidditch (MLQ), and all eyes are on Culver, Indiana as the Indianapolis Intensity host the Detroit Innovators. The Intensity will also host the Cleveland Riff in a little over a week, so it is crucial that they get off to a hot start.

Indianapolis will likely follow the offensive strategy of Ball State University, as 16 of the 22 on their roster played for Ball State this season. While the team lacks Midwest beating sensation Trevor Campbell, they will have Alex Leitch (Blue Mountain Quidditch Club) in his place partnering with Melinda Staup (Ball State). Leitch is a great pickup for the team, and should help them try to pull even in the beater game with Ashley Calhoun (Blue Mountain) and Tad Walters (Loyola University New Orleans). Picking up Leitch also allows Tyler Walker (Ball State) to get involved in the quaffle game more. A quaffle line of Walker, Blake Fitzgerald (Ball State) and Mac Randolph (Ball State) could do some serious damage as all three are fantastic playmakers. The Intensity should be able to sub quickly and often, as there is little drop off between their first and second lines. This strategy may be successful in tiring out the bigger players on the Innovators.

The Detroit Innovators may have had the best late pickup of all the MLQ teams, as beater Tad Walters moved to Toledo in order to play for the team. Walters will be paired with team USA member Ashley Calhoun, creating one of the scariest beater matchups in the North Division. The Innovators are much deeper at beater with players such as Jim Richert (Michigan State University), Brandon Ollio (Michigan State), and Ryan Sparks (Blue Mountain). This should allow the team to hold strong defensively when Calhoun and Walters are on the bench. The quaffle players of the Innovators should be able to physically outmatch their competition on the Intensity, with players like Ben “Snowman” Ackland (Blue Mountain), David Wilber (Central Michigan), and Matthew Oates (University of Michigan). Their physical presence, along with some great off-ball female players like Sara DeLongchamp (Michigan State) and KT Quasarano (Marquette University) should be able to help open up lanes and get some quick scores around the hoops.

Key Player (Indianapolis): Jason Bowling 
Photo Credit: Isabella Gong Photography

If the Intensity can keep the game in range it is hard to bet against Ball State’s Jason Bowling. He was phenomenal for Ball State this season, with snitch range catches against elite programs such as Ohio State University, and Bowling Green State University. If Leitch and Staup can give Bowling a chance to catch, odds are he will, especially with no seekers of note from the Innovators.

Key Player (Detroit): Ryan Sparks

Photo Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography
Sparks is a true utility player, able to beat and chase at a consistently high level. This tournament we will likely see her at beater, subbing in for teammate Ashley Calhoun. While Calhoun is a Team USA player, the drop off from her to Sparks is not as large as one might think. Sparks is faster than Calhoun and should be able to cover the field well in her absence. Sparks is also a good seeker, using her long arms to get around the snitch quickly. She could easily come away with the catch if given enough support from the Innovators beaters.

Chasers: Edge Innovators
Beaters: Edge Innovators
Chemistry: Edge Intensity
Seeker: Edge Intensity
Depth: Even
Prediction: Detroit wins all 3 games, with only 1 win in snitch range.

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