Thursday, August 27, 2015

Major League Mashup: Aug. 27, 2015

Team Feature: Cleveland Riff
By Chris Fisher

On paper, the  Cleveland Riff entered MLQ’s inaugural season as the best team in the North Division. The team was a veritable mash-up of two of the best programs in the region—Bowling Green State University (BGSU) and Ohio State University (OSU)—so it’s clear why. Leadership duo Dan Daugherty and Katie Milligan led BGSU to back-to-back regional final appearances, including one victory, and a Final Four finish at World Cup VI.

Cleveland Riff at MLQ Championship | Photo Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography

Daugherty and Milligan were joined by a roster made up of the best these two teams have to offer, barring a few exceptions such as Zak Hewitt, Chris Bowman, and Gunnar Smyth, and even a few players from other programs sprinkled in—namely Miami University, the University of Rochester Thestrals, Central Michigan University, and Blue Mountain Quidditch Club (BMQC).

With 19 of its 30 players from BGSU or OSU, Cleveland was in a unique position in the North Division. The Rochester Whiteout and the Indianapolis Intensity players hailed predominantly from just a single team, giving both the Whiteout and the Intensity a strong sense of internal chemistry from the start, while the Detroit Innovators boasted players from several different programs, a fact that left them struggling for an identity. Cleveland, however, was somewhere in between. The Riff had lines with plenty of chemistry and unique play styles, but not exactly a complete and cohesive whole. 

Although it wasn’t the case all season, according to a middling 4‐3 SWIM record, this teams seeking game should have been built to be one of the best in the league, especially with smart veteran beaters like Julie Fritz, Matt Eveland, Max McAdoo, and Chad Brown protecting Team USA’s Sam Roitblat.

Key Player:
Jeremy Boettner has been well-known in the Midwest and Great Lakes Regions for nearly two years now, but MLQ saw this star rise more prominently across the quidditch community as a whole. He is a chaser with some of the best hands around, he takes smart shots, and he has a battery that doesn’t quit. Boettner brings constant energy every time he walks onto the pitch, even when the minutes he puts in build up. He can be seen putting in a long shift at keeper, subbing off for David Hoops, and then immediately coming back on as a chaser.

Chaser Jeremy Boettner | Photo Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography

Breakout Players:
Keeper Josh Scott and chaser Kendall Kuhn are two players who weren’t on many people’s radar when the Riff’s initial roster was announced, but they both turned in solid seasons with the team. Kuhn is a stout point defender; on offense, he excels at driving against no-bludger situations and he brings a lot of intensity to the pitch, which can sometimes get him into trouble. Scott, similar to Kuhn, doesn’t have a large impact on team statistics, but he does bring a lot to the team. He is an athlete who can put in time at any quaffle position and do an above-average job, especially when the team has players like Boettner, Hoops, and Daugherty to make their marks. With Riff’s back against the wall, the team needed an overtime victory in its final match of the season to secure second place in the North Division. With a lineup resembling that of a Midwest All-Stars team, Boettner, Hoops, Daugherty, Taylor, Eveland, and Fritz took the field together for their longest length of time this season and did enough to get the win when it meant the most

Recap: Boston Night Riders vs. New York Titans
By Bruce Donnelly

The Boston Night Riders and the New York Titans finished MLQ’s inaugural season in a series to decide the best record in the league and the champion of the East Division. When the schedule was released, this was the series most people circled as “the one to watch.” Most expected these three games to be the most competitive and contested matches of the season.

The series opened with the Night Riders and the Titans trading goals in the opening minute of the first game. The Titans scored two more goals before Boston seeker Dan Howland ended the game with a snitch grab, finishing the first game with an 80 QPD. Out of snitch range seemed to be the theme of this series and, most often, it wasn’t very pretty.

Boston Seeker Dan Howland pursuing a snitch catch | Photo Credit: Loring Masters

The Titans entered the series with their only loss of the season to the Washington Admirals, but during the series against the Night Riders, the Titans were missing coach Michael Parada and seeker Andrew Zagelbaum. While the absence of these players could certainly be felt, it would have made little difference on the series to have them. From beginning to end, the Titans seemed completely overwhelmed.

For the Night Riders, this series was expected to be their first challenge of the season after two series that were entirely out of range. The truth of the series was more similar to what they had already experienced, however, than to what they were expecting. It was their size and skill with their quaffle carriers that made this series no-contest.

There were certainly periods in the second and third games where the Titans showed signs of life, mostly when Augie Monroe was on the field as a chaser. The real show, the Night Riders dominance, were Emerson College Quidditch keepers Tyler Trudeau and David Fox as they dragged the Titans around on their way to create goal-scoring opportunities. Adding to the keepers’ size was the complementary speed of Teddy Costa and Jayke Archibald, and it was no surprise that the Night Riders’ offense was so potent.

Boston’s Tyler Trudeau takes on New York’s Augie Monroe | Photo Credit: Loring Masters

While Boston’s beaters, including Max Havlin and Mary Cueva, had an exceptional series, the Titans did much to make the Boston defense’s day a lot easier. Bad passing and reckless driving made the Titans’ chasers a feast for the Night Riders’ aggressive beating and led to several turnovers, which the Night Riders capitalized on in transition. One such turnover led to Costa adding a play to his highlight reel as he jumped clear through the hoop for a dunk in the first game, setting a metaphoric tone for the series. The series continued its dominant warpath as chasers Carli Haggerty and Emily Hickmott added heavily to the scoring, rendering Harry Greenhouse’s exceptional seeking more of a mercy to the Titans.

Recap: Detroit Innovators vs. Cleveland Riff
By David Wier

The final series of the North Division featured the 1-5 Detroit Innovators defending their home turf from the 3-3 Cleveland Riff. In arguably the closest and possibly most controversial series in MLQ’s inaugural season, onlookers wouldn’t have believed the North Division’s champion had already been named based on how hard these two teams fought.

The series featured two very different playing styles, making for an interesting contest. Cleveland could best be described as slow and methodical on offense. The team’s ball handlerstypically David Hoops or Jeremy Boettner—would walk the quaffle up and let beaters Matt Eveland, Julie Fritz, and Max McAdoo decimate Detroit’s defending chasers, while slowly pressing the opposing beaters back to their hoops. Combine this with the blazing speed and accuracy of Hoops and Boettner and some ineffective keeping from Detroit players such as Ben Ackland, and you have an explanation for why Cleveland was up in quaffle points in the first two games. Even when lacking control, Fritz and Eveland have impressive coordination and provide opportunities for shots, which was especially showcased in the third game. The chemistry everyone assumed Cleveland would have from the start seemed to have finally appeared, and it gave Cleveland the win in the first game, 90*-50, with a snitch grab from Sam Roitblat.

Detroit, in contrast, played a chaotic series. Tad Walters and Jim Richert had trouble adapting to Cleveland’s aggressive style, but by the middle of the second game, and definitely by the third, they had compensated. As was typical, most of Detroit’s points came from drives by Dylan Schepers and Matt Oppenlander, while beaters Walters, Richert, and Zach Schepers played aggressively and sowed chaos amongst Cleveland’s ranks. This is similar to a Detroit lineup from previous series; however, it must be said that, in this series at least, what this team does, they do well. Detroit took the second game 100*-80 with a snitch grab by Richert, making the series 1-1.

Matt Oppenlander of the Innovators, crashing through the defense | Photo Credit: Alanna Rae Sparks Photography

As Detroit adapted to its playstyle, Cleveland was forced to rely on its superior passing and quaffle player support from such players as Meredith Taylor and Josh Scott. Detroit continued to gain momentum and outstrip Cleveland in quaffle points, and Chad Brown, a player often vocal about his distaste for playing beater despite his experience and talent, donned a black headband and put on quite the show. In one specific play, Brown completely locked down on defense, preventing Dylan Schepers from driving and forcing him to march side to side on the pitch just to make a weak shot, resulting in a turnover. Walters and Richert put up a competitive snitch beating game, but with Richert at beater, Detroit had no other player with any success to put in at seeker. Brown and Fritz matched the beating game, allowing for a grab from McAdoo, and the game was forced into overtime.

In overtime, Cleveland and Detroit remained evenly matched, but some botched passing attempts from Detroit and a characteristically long and accurate pass from Dan Daugherty resulted in a goal from Kendall Kuhn, putting Cleveland up by 20 points when the clock wound down. Detroit was able to match one goal, but when game time came to a close, Cleveland had possession and closed out the series with a failed attempt from Daugherty to Kuhn. Cleveland took the third game 130*-120 and the series 2-1. 

A recap of this series wouldn’t be complete without at least a cursory mention of the referee debacle. Alex Scheer (Detroit) and Katie Milligan (Cleveland) were the referees for this series. Although Cleveland typically suffers from having few non-male players on its roster, especially after a serious injury to Amber Harmon, Detroit suffered more from the loss of Scheer, one of few talented distributors on a roster that suffers from flexibility. That’s not to mention the endless speculation of Scheer’s and Milligan’s abilities to referee objectively, although from what could be seen, both referees maintained their professionalism as best they could, and should be commended for doing so.

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