Friday, July 10, 2015

Major League Mashup: July 10, 2015

Team Feature: Rochester Whiteout

By: Sam Scarfone

The Rochester Whiteout had a solid opening season with a 2-1 record over Indianapolis thus far, but a lack of beating depth may prove to hold them back this MLQ season.

The Rochester Whiteout features one of the most of talented lineup of keepers seen in MLQ. Names such as Jonathan Jackson, Shane Hurlbert, and Basem Ashkar lead the pack and will undoubtedly be the biggest factor in the team's success this season. This array of keepers provides the Whiteout with a balanced and mixed set of offense and defense. The Whiteout will win the majority of its games by playing a tight defensive game. From first impression the Whiteout lacks the proper support to make the most out of its keepers and thus, they will need to adapt to accommodate that. Against the best teams in the league the Whiteout will want to play a tightly controlled defensive game with their keepers. Beyond their keepers who will need to focus more on defensive play than aggressive pushes, the team will most likely look to chasers Patrick Callanan and Devin Sandon to rack up points. Come championship weekend, their best bet at success will be to keep the score low and in snitch range and banking on former University of Rochester captain Kyle Sanson to make some key snitch grabs.

Overcoming Weaknesses
Far and away the most glaring issue with the Whiteout is its beaters. Unquestionably Alex Venuti is a talented beater and most likely who the Whiteout will be relying on for most of its beating, but the team lacks beater depth. Rochester is not short of beaters, but none provide the huge offensive support that the Whiteout needs. Harry Clarke and Josh Kramer are perhaps the next go to beaters on the Whiteout squad, but pairing them with Venuti gives way to the team’s second biggest issue: their low number of female chasers. On the 25 person roster the team features just three female chasers, Alyssa Giarrosso and Helen Snell. This most likely means that the Whiteout will rarely run a two male beating line, which is perfectly fine, but it is an option that Whiteout really does not have, which just goes to show what little depth the team has functionally. 

The Whiteout has the makings of a top three team in this league. If they manage to keep the points low against more aggressive teams and make sure their keepers are running a tight defense, then I can see them performing exceedingly well. However, one miscommunication or flaw in their defensive game that the opposing team can take advantage of and I could easily see the Whiteout swiftly losing themselves in the catch-up game. A lineup of Jackson or Hurlbert, Sandon, Venuti, and maybe Coleman or Parker, could see this team going farther than many may expect.

Recap: Boston Night Riders vs. Ottawa Black Bears
by Jonathan Parent

The much anticipated MLQ Canadian debut kicked off Saturday, June 27 with the Boston Night Riders crossing national borders to square off against the Ottawa Black Bears in Canada’s capital. Ottawa’s keepers failed to match up or even produce minimally both offensively and defensively, and the Night Riders proved to be perfectly opportunistic. Boston swept the series 190*-30 in the first game, 230-70* in the second, and 160*-20 in the final match. 

Depth alone is not sufficient when team chemistry is nowhere to be found. Against a Boston squad that has been familiar with each other for quite some time now, Ottawa’s offense presented itself as an incoherent bunch of cubs struggling to put two passes together and get past Boston’s beaters. Despite what the score of the third game may indicate, however, the Black Bears managed to come back strong and played a decent game, especially defensively. It was too little too late though and the Night Riders’ offense was simply too much to handle.

Boston’s beaters controlled bludger play throughout most of the three games, allowing Boston’s quaffle players to roam as they pleased in the offensive end. The beater core did a great job at shutting down Ottawa’s offensive drives. Ottawa beater Colin Wallace stood out in the third installment, taking on both Boston beaters in a superb effort to regain bludger superiority in a spectacular fashion, but his team was unable to bounce back and retain the momentum.

With Boston’s aggressive chaser and beater play, it was difficult for Ottawa chasers to get close to the hoops. When Boston’s offensive game finally permitted Ottawa’s chasers to spend some time around the opposing hoops, the Bears did not seem to be able to finish plays. On multiple occasions they succeeded in creating an opening and a scoring chance, only to drop the final pass, miss the shot, or get beat at the very last moment. 

Arguably the highlight of the series was Ottawa chaser Adam Robillard’s goal scored from all the way across the pitch. Trying to avoid a bludger while resetting the play, Robillard kicked the quaffle back towards his own end and could only watch as it bounced and entered the small hoop. Coming in roughly at the mid mark of the series, this along with Robillard’s bow to the crowd came as comedic relief for a frustrated and uninspired Ottawa squad.

The Night Riders outplayed, outperformed, and out-teamed the Black Bears that, for the most part, appeared confused and overwhelmed. Boston demonstrated that they have practiced working as a team, and Ottawa demonstrated that sufficient or adequate practice is still far away, and that they need to go back to the drawing board to unearth not only effective strategies and gameplans, but also team identity and chemistry.

Recap: Indianapolis Intensity vs. Cleveland Riff
by Samantha Dinga and Matt Pesch

The Indianapolis Intensity continued its winning ways in the second series of the season, defeating the Cleveland Riff 110*-60 and 140*-80 in the first two games before falling 150*-70 in the final contest. 

The differences in the matches is due to the two teams’ chemistry and beater play. In its first official game Cleveland took time to find the chemistry that Indianapolis was able to discover in its initial series against Detroit. As a result, the Riff struggled with missed passes and turnovers in the beginning of the series. Still, despite its struggles, Cleveland was able to keep Indianapolis within snitch range in both of the first two contests, overcoming controversial refereeing that favored Indianapolis and some flaring tempers. The key for Indianapolis in the opening two games was its beater play led by captain Tyler Walker.

Beater Max Portillo | Photo Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography

In the third game, Cleveland was able to find its rhythm with a beater line led by Max Portillo and Julie Fritz, who controlled play in the absence of Walker, who had to leave to catch a plane shortly into the contest.
Beater Julie Fritz | Photo Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography

Although Indianapolis took two of three matches, the fact that the three teams tied on net-quaffle points showed just how even the series was. The two teams each have recipes for victory, and it may come down to who can better execute their strategies in the playoffs.

Preview: Washington Admirals vs. Boston Night Riders
by Erik Morlock

The Washington Admirals have a tall order ahead of them after a 1-2 series finish against the New York Titans as they take on the Boston Night Riders in an MLQ East Division series. The Night Riders look to continue their success after a dominating sweep of the Ottawa Black Bears.

Although the Admirals exceeded expectations by taking a game from the Titans, they need to work on building chemistry and using their depth to succeed against the Night Riders. Foremost, the Admirals need to utilize the players they have on their roster together. The team, like every MLQ team, has tremendous individual talent, but alone, those players cannot lead their teams to victory. Virginia Commonwealth University’s Darren Creary was nearly the entire reason the Admirals came away with a win. He was the tallest person on the field and the Titans had no response to his alley-oops. By game two, the Titans shut down the Admirals offense for the rest of the series and the Admirals had no other successful options. Players were forced to play out of their typical positions and, with an additional lack of chemistry, the quality of passes were poor. This must change for the Admirals if they wish to see a better result against Boston. Though the Admirals are physically and athletically comparable to the Night Riders, the Admirals seemed to be completely drained when their series against the Titans turned into a battle of physicality. If the Admirals fall into this again, they will be unhappy with the result this weekend.

The key factor in this series will be how the beaters are able to work with the quaffle players on each team. QC Boston’s Max Havlin displayed exactly what he can do with a bludger and how that can dominate an entire team with beaters that cannot match up. However, that quickly became unnecessary with the physicality of Boston with players like Richmond’s Bo O’Connor and Emerson College’s Tyler Trudeau. The bludger game will be much more balanced in this series. Between University of North Carolina’s Max Bullins, who we are still waiting to see for the first time for the Admirals, and University of Maryland’s Ricky Nelson, who had a solid performance in the first series, the scales will not be tipped in Boston’s favor. Detailed stat keeping also displayed beater Anna Leonard’s (University of Virginia)  presence on the field, keeping bludger control the entire time she was on the pitch, and hitting 100 percent of her beats in game one against the Titans. The Admiral’s quaffle-players, however, were unable to take advantage of the beaters relative success on offense. If the Admirals’ offense does not improve, it could again be their downfall. The Admirals must also avoid the penalty box. Numerous cards led to easy goals for the Titans and the Admirals’ had two players receive red cards in the three-game series.

Although the Admirals will likely be outmatched by the physicality of the Night Riders, the discrepancy between the two teams will not be significant. Considering this is also the second game for both teams, chemistry should be improved. This weekend should be much more of a tactical display than it was for either team in their first series. This series should also display the first snitch-range situation for the Night Riders which they  should be very capable of handling with UMD’s Harry Greenhouse and Daniel Howland. If the Night Riders play their game, the Admirals will struggle. It will take very smart and efficient play from Washington for them to upset the Night Riders. Boston will take the series 2-1.

Preview: Rochester Whiteout vs. Detroit Innovators
By Tracy Dunstan and David Wilber

We’re now into the middle of the inaugural season of Major League Quidditch. Rochester and Detroit will both play their second round of games this Saturday, July 11, in Henrietta, New York. The Detroit Innovators will be working hard to turn around its 0-3 record, while the Rochester Whiteout will try to improve on its 2-1 standings. 

This Saturday will be Detroit’s first game since the opening match against Indianapolis Intensity. In order for the Innovators to walk away with a series win this weekend they will need their top players to really step up. Chaser Matt Oppenlander, who was not at the games against Indianapolis, will be the main offensive threat. Oppenlander is an extremely smart and versatile player who has shown the ability to take over a game.  At beater the Innovators will need huge games from Tad Walters. He played well against Indianapolis, but this weekend, without Ashley Calhoun, he will need to play some of his best quidditch in order for Detroit to pull out some wins. Finally, Kyle Judkins is a player to really watch out for. He was also absent from the Indianapolis series and will be looking to make up for lost time against Rochester. Judkins is very fast and can play both chaser and seeker very well, so keep an eye out for some breakout games from him.

Although Rochester is not lacking in depth, this Saturday the team will need to focus on their imbalance of female players. Four female players are on the roster and only one of the four, Sara Smacher, is a beater. This will make it more difficult for Rochester who has to focus on their beater game in order to pull ahead of Detroit. Calhoun’s absence will give Rochester an advantage, but they may need it in order to concentrate on seeker-beating. If Rochester can successfully keep Judkins at bay, Rochester seeker Kyle Sanson could take the snitch. 

The outcome of the games will fall to the success of Rochester beaters, Alex Venuti and Josh Kramer, as well as Sara Smacher. If Detroit’s chasers can create better chemistry, however, and Oppenlander plays a solid offense, Detroit could take the win. Rochester will win 2-1 with all games ISR. 

Chaser: Detroit
Beater: Rochester
Chemistry: Rochester
Seeker: Detroit
Depth: Rochester

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