Friday, August 7, 2015

Major League Mashup: Aug. 8, 2015

Team Feature: Detroit Innovators By David Wier
This weekend, the Detroit Innovators head into their final regular season matchup against the Cleveland Riff. A first or second place finish in their division is out of Detroit’s reach, but the series will determine final positioning for the entire division besides Indianapolis Intensity, and it’s possible for Detroit to take the third place rank from Cleveland. Even to achieve that, Detroit has its work cut out for it.

After a botched win was wrenched from Detroit due to a roster error against Indianapolis, the Intensity went on to sweep Detroit 3-0. With such an underwhelming season opener, it is no wonder Detroit would only get its first taste of victory after it had lost its series against Rochester Whiteout, 2-1.

One glaring weakness for Detroit is a lack of organization. The first win in Detroit’s Indianapolis series not being counted was a total failure on the part of its leadership, which is surprising, considering its leadership includes Alex Scheer, an integral part of management at the highest-placing Midwest team at World Cup 8, Blue Mountain Quidditch Club, and the Great Lakes Regional Coordinator. At best, the team’s leadership robbed Detroit of a 1-2 series, and at worst it demolished the team’s morale. An endless amount of “what-ifs” are possible. A number of players on Detroit’s roster don’t have their full information included, and some key components of the roster have made few appearances at games or practice. As the inaugural season of our sports “Major League,” the league leadership and teams have understandably faced growing pains, but Detroit has seen some of the worst.

Going into this weekend and, more importantly, the MLQ Championship, Detroit needs to live up to its namesake, because frankly what it has been doing so far just isn’t working. Here’s hoping we see some stellar performances from the following players that make Motor City proud.

Key Players
On paper, Detroit looks like it has some solid talent and promise, but in reality it has struggled severely coming together as a team. Its passing varies between nonexistent and sloppy. Detroit’s lineup is stacked with large bruisers, so the team’s drives can be downright intimidating, but if the opposing teams beaters can keep them away from the hoops they often lose steam and their heroballing ends in a turnover. Dylan Schepers, Detroit’s highest-scoring quaffle player, simultaneously holds the record for turnovers on the team. Schepers’ ability to drive will be key to Detroit racking up points, but he needs to keep his passing options, such as the oft-ignored Sara DeLongchamp, in his line of sight. The same applies to a lesser extent to Eric Wasser and Matt Oppenlander, Detroit’s other keepers. Detroit sports big hitters with a great sense for the game, such as David Wilber, Matthew Oates, and Alex Scheer, and if these players can lock down on defense alongside their beaters, Detroit could show up a force to be reckoned with.

Detroit’s beating game has been a bit more consistent, often running two-male beater sets or relying on Ashley Calhoun’s dominating play [equivalent ]. Calhoun has over a 96 percent beating accuracy and the second most turnovers forced on the team, while only playing half as many games (yet another challenge Detroit faced). Alongside Calhoun is Tad Walters who, although moving across the country to play with entirely unfamiliar teammates (beyond the possible odd fantasy tournament), has shown fantastic chemistry alongside Calhoun, Jim Richert, Sarah Walsh, and Lisa Lavelanet. Walters alone has forced a dozen turnovers and has a 89 percent beating accuracy, and his partners Richert and Zach Schepers have almost equally impressive records.

Chaser Sarah Walsh | Photo Courtesy of Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography

The seeker question for Detroit has been hit again and again, and I will not repeat it here. Needless to say, the team has yet to see a breakout talent, and at this point it is doubtful it will before the championship.

So what does Detroit need to succeed at the MLQ Championship? Its upcoming series against the Cleveland Riff needs to be a staging ground for its strategy going into the championship. Its key players need to show up and make efforts to build some chemistry. Detroit’s best case scenario is a third place finish in its division, and although no team wants to finish last, perhaps Detroit’s focus should be to establish itself as a true “team” and to hopefully cause some upsets and turn some heads come Aug. 22. The Innovators have the talent; it remains to be seen whether their “big names” have the guts to swallow their pride and join together as a team.

Preview: Boston Night Riders vs. New York Titans
By Sam Scarfone

This weekend will be host to unquestionably the most anticipated match of the season, the Boston Night Riders vs. the New York Titans. With a 6-0 record this season, the Night Riders are the favorite to win, but the Titan’s 5-1 record, suffering only a single loss to the Washington Admirals, ensures a competitive series of games. A 3-0 sweep over the Ottawa Black Bears provides some extra momentum for the Titans, but it remains to be seen whether it will be enough to overcome the current leader of the East Division.

This set of games will most likely be the closest in this MLQ season. Despite many in the community seemingly picking the Night Riders as the stronger team, the Titans feature a near equally talented cast who can go toe to toe with the Night Riders’ strongest. And while the Night Riders do edge out the Titans in the beating game, thanks in no small part to Max Havlin, the Titans might just have the advantage in the chasing game. Ultimately, the Night Riders’ beaters are just too powerful for the Titans to fully capitalize on their chasing strength. Ottawa was able to take advantage of some holes in the New York defense to put points on the board, and if the Titans fail to correct these vulnerabilities, the Night Riders could definitely take advantage. Speaking quite frankly, the Night Riders have more room for error. The beaters on the Night Riders are talented enough to cover some defensive mistake their chasers may make but the Titans lack the same luxury.

Notable Keepers:
This is an area where both teams shine. The Night Riders offer huge offensive threats with David Foxx, Tyler Trudeau, and Jayke Archibald. All three are immense powerhouses. Foxx in particular is known for making insane drives to the hoops, as is Archibald for his ability to make extremely accurate long distance shots. The Titans fire back with Augustine Monroe and Zak Hewitt as their offensive powerhouses. Monroe’s ability to wait until the right moment to push makes him a valuable asset, and Hewitt can muscle through defenses for some fast drives. Adam Kwestel and Alex Linde, who are in their own right very competent, are both rostered for this game as well, but they don’t really stack up to the Night Riders’ keepers in terms of offense.

Notable Chasers:
The Titans, as stated earlier, offer a stronger line up in this field. Tim Keaney, Drew Brekus, and Kyle Carey stand out as huge support for the Titans, offering a good mix of speed and strength that complement each other nicely, and they can easily play around the Night Riders chasers. The Night Riders sport chasers such as Sheldon Bostic, Conor Murphy, and Harry Greenhouse. Greenhouse acts as a valuable defensive player, while Murphy and Bostic will be more useful making pushes.

Missing from the Night Riders roster is Hannah DeBaets, their strongest female chaser. While this definitely hurts the Night Riders, they are still supported by Emily Hickmott, Carli Haggerty, and Julia Baer. Stephanie Breen makes her MLQ debut this weekend and will prove to be an asset to the team. Her talents will finally be brought to the pitch and as Emerson College Quidditch’s strongest female chaser last season, no doubt she will be valuable in this upcoming set of games. The Titans still have a stronger line-up though, with Lindsay Marella and Colleen O’Mara, extremely physical players who can outperform Hickmott in terms of physicality. Missy Hanley also provides great speed and utility for the Titans. With fast cuts behind the hoops, Hanley could easily score some important goals.

Notable Beaters:
Here’s where the Night Riders really overcome the Titans. Max Havlin is phenomenal, and he is supported by a fantastic cast of beaters. Aaron Wohl offers excellent speed to their beating lineup. Lulu Xu and Cassie Samuels also operate as important defensive beaters. The four of them have experience beating with each other in some form or another prior to this MLQ season and it lends itself to their cohesive playstyle. The Titans have Leeanne Dillmann, Mario Nasta, and Dylan Meehan as their strongest beaters, with Amanda Dallas and Theresa Buchta as solid beating support, but none of them stack up against the Night Riders in comparison. They also lack the chemistry that the Night Riders have, which could lead to pivotal  moments where the Titans would  struggle to keep bludger control and let in some goals in the process.

The Titans will need to be running like a well-oiled machine if they want to win. While the two teams are both equally talented in many areas, the Titans still can’t seem to form a cohesive whole. However, despite the obstacles holding them back, the Titans are an immensely powerful team, one that can beat the Night Riders if it can come together. If the games are kept within snitch range, it is either team’s game to win. Boston’s Harry Greenhouse, Gregory Bento, and Daniel Howland are impeccable seekers, but Mo Haggag and Edgar Pavlovsky of the Titans are also incredibly talented, so much so that any one of these seekers could make the grab and win the game.

Preview: Detroit Innovators vs. Cleveland Riff
By Chris Fisher
Its rivalry week for the MLQ as the league’s fiercest city rivals, New York and Boston in the East, and Cleveland and Detroit in the North, face off in the final weekend of the inaugural MLQ regular season. While this Northern division clash lacks the division title intrigue of the East’s game, there are certainly postseason implications here. Depending on the result of the series, Cleveland could find itself anywhere from second to fourth in the division; second has it avoiding a first round matchup with either of the two East powerhouses.

Cleveland enters its final matchup needing only to win the series to grab second place in the division, and even though the transitive property has no place in sports, the team looks to be in great shape to do just that. Its ability to cycle lines with not only high chemistry but also with drastically different play styles has really helped the team succeed. Of course, the high-profile quaffle line of David Hoops-Daniel Daugherty-Meredith Taylor-Jeremy Boettner boasts some of the best passing in the league. However, this line has not clicked as well as some may have hoped, and splitting up one of these ball carriers from the others has proven to be most effective thus far in the season. Should this line really start clicking come championship weekend, Cleveland may be the North’s best chance to take down the best the East has to offer.

Chaser Jeremy Boettner | Photo Courtesy of Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography

It may be repetitive at this point, but the story for Detroit continues to be about the players it does not have as opposed to those that it does. Coming into the season, no team’s roster announcement was as much of a disappointment as the Innovators’, with many of the bigger names in the state, like Andrew Axtell (who moved), David Prueter, Brandon Booth, Jacob Heppe, Christopher Barnard, and Malek Atassi, choosing to spend their summers away from the game. For these games, however, the team’s “stars,Matt Oppenlander and Ashley Calhoun, will finally attend a series together and dominate offensive play (editor’s note: while Calhoun is listed on the roster, it is rumored that she will not be playing this weekend). Eric Wasser and Ben Ackland will be the primary keepers, although Wasser may not be playing his best game and Ackland wasn’t very effective in the series against Indianapolis. Expect Oppenlander to don green quite a bit this weekend, which will further weaken Detroit’s chasing lines.

Detroit will be in luck this series with the team’s most consistent players, Lisa Lavelanet, Jim Richert, and Tad Walters supplementing its hero-ball offense. However, Cleveland’s beaters will be stiff opposition with Julie Fritz, Matt Eveland, Max McAdoo, and Max Portillo all having fine seasons in their own right. Chad Brown has chosen to hurt his own team by focusing on his quaffle game this summer. Brown’s fellow Falcon teammates have held their own backing up Eveland thus far; however, should they struggle, Brown could always switch headbands and turn the tides back in Cleveland’s favor.

Detroit will hope to find the same success using aggressive beating strategies against Cleveland that Rochester Whiteout did in their second game, clearing lanes for bruising chasers Dylan Schepers and David Wilber as well as agile drivers Oppenlander and Kyle Judkins. Cleveland will be without the physical presence of Mike Gallagher, which may be good news for Detroit as it leaves Ron Coleman as the only real physical presence to oppose its drives.

Detroit will face the challenge of not wanting to enter into a shootout with a much better offense, but it should keep in mind that the team doesn’t have a consistent seeker to really challenge Team USA seeker Samuel Roitblat in a low-scoring SWIM situation should it choose to slow play.

Alex Scheer
While always a bigger name in the community, Scheer is usually being lauded for his accomplishments off the field, whether it be the first televised quidditch match, being named Regional Coordinator, or even Ref of the Year. However, Scheer has quietly been playing some of his best quidditch this summer. He is Detroit’s most patient ball handler and may prove vital should Cleveland’s beaters stymy Detroit’s driving game. Detroit’s most formidable line will be Oppenlander, Judkins, Scheer, and Sara DeLongchamp, with the ball in Scheer’s hands. Scheer has also had success with a yellow headband in the past and may be Detroit’s best option for a quick grab if the team can keep it in range.

Although up to this point no team in the North division has lost a series held in its home state, I think that streak ends here on the final week of the season. Cleveland holds the advantage at every position as well as depth and should simply be too much for Detroit, who will end the season in the cellar of the North. Cleveland sweeps.

Recap: New York Titans vs. Ottawa Black Bears
By Bruce Donnelly

It would be hard to call the New York Titans’ 3-0 series victory over the Ottawa Black Bears a disappointment. Every game was out of snitch range and the Titans’ offense only failed to score over 100 quaffle points in the third game of the series. While they did not entirely dominate bludger control, the Titans were clearly in control of beater play in this series.

Despite the overwhelming advantage in overall play, the Titans failed to impress in their tune up games for their series against the Boston Night Riders. Aside from a 90 point lead at the time of Mo Haggag’s circus catch in the first game, the Titans offense was held largely in check for most of the series, including long periods of time in which the Black Bears stayed in range during the opening half of the second and third games.

It often fell to the Titans’ substitutes, like Steven Ficurilli and Drew Brekus, to score goals from chances created by Augustine Monroe. Monroe and Lindsay Marella remained the most consistent starting quaffle carriers for the Titans.

The longest scoring drought came at the beginning of game two. After Felix Tremblay’s goal off of brooms up and a follow-up goal by Marella, both teams failed to score for nearly four minutes, caused by goal-saving beats and errant passes by both teams. For the Black Bears, these droughts had to feel like small victories against what should have been a high-powered Titan offense.

The Titans’ surprising lack of scoring was at its worst in the third game, when they only scored 90 points and were barely out of range when Edgar Pavlovsky made a quick grab to finish off the day. This was largely due to good defending by the Black Bears’ quaffle players, beginning with keeper and coach Jamie LaFrance, and strong beating by Erin McCrady, Alexandra Bassa, and Mathew McVeigh.

While the Titans were not without bright spots from all of their substitutes, they should have performed better against the shorthanded Black Bears. Going up to Boston, where their depth will be matched, the Titans must bring more to win the East Division.

As the Black Bears head to the championship weekend with a first round matchup against the North Division winners, the Indianapolis Intensity, they have to feel encouraged despite this loss. With a full roster, expect the Black Bears to put on a good showing in the final tournament.

Recap: Ottawa Black Bears vs. Washington Admirals
By Jonathan Parent
Jonathan Parent is a keeper on the Ottawa Black Bears.

First game: Washington 130*-120 Ottawa (OT no catch)
Second game: Washington 90*-60 Ottawa
Third game: Ottawa 100*-60 Washington

The Washington Admirals concluded their regular season with what proved to be the tightest series of the division so far. Coming out on top, Washington improved its record to 3-6 and placed itself in the third position with two wins and a loss against the Ottawa Black Bears. Ottawa managed to grab its first victory of the season and almost made it two in a heartbreaking overtime loss.

Photo Courtesy of Ben Holland Photography
Washington took a very long time to get the machine going as the series kicked off and Ottawa appeared to be in control of the game, but once Washington started it didn’t stop. Washington’s first goal came around the 11-minute mark and by then the team was well out of snitch range. But slowly Washington was able to pull back and reduce the difference with some renewed intensity, as well as effective seeker beating and snitch defense. After a dubious snitch-catch wave on Ottawa’s Alex Naftel, it didn’t take Washington’s Darren Creary much time alone with the snitch to send the game to overtime with a beautiful diving grab.

The quaffle play in overtime remained tight as Ottawa quickly went up 20 points only to be scored against three times unanswered (the last two of which were scored by Creary). Just as the game seemed to be over, a delay of game penalty was called against Washington with about six seconds left, giving Ottawa one last chance for a drive. In the end Ottawa was able to get in close enough to the hoops to muster a shot, but did not capitalize.

The second and third game contained much less excitement than the debut and proved to otherwise be much tighter and hard-fought. Creary and Michael Dong led the offense for Washington with unrelenting support and pressure from chasers Cory Apple, Kyle Stolcenberg, and John Bridstrup. Steve Minnich also stepped up his passing critically in key moments. For Ottawa, the same can be said of keeper Jamie Lafrance and chaser Matt Bourassa, both of whom led the offense with the help of chasers Adam Robillard, Brian Wong, Michael Fishman, and Naftel.

Keeper John Bridstrup | Photo Courtesy of Ben Holland Photography

Overall, Washington maintained the upper hand in the seeker and keeper categories, but Ottawa’s relative success was in great part due to its chasers and beaters, the latter of whom outplayed and presided over their American counterparts. Erin McCrady, Matthew McVeigh, and Martin Chiasson gave the Washington beater corps a little more than they could handle, creating opportunities on offense and shutting down plays in front of their hoops. The beater play clearly tightened up around the snitch, however, and both teams had their part to play in the longevity of the first game.

The third game was by far the shortest of the three, with Ottawa seeker Adam Robillard pulling the snitch within five seconds of being released, giving Ottawa its first victory of the season.

Although Ottawa has improved its play dramatically since its series against the Boston Night Riders and managed to dominate the play for a longer time, Washington was able to rally twice and seeker Creary delivered the goods with back-to-back clutch snatches and a multi-goal overtime performance.
Recap: New York Titans vs. Washington Admirals
By Chris LeCompte
This recap was from one of the first series of this year’s Major League Quidditch season. In order to cover the season as a whole, we do not want to neglect this recap which has gone unpublished until now. We apologize for the late analysis.

The Washington Admirals’ home opener on June 20 showcased two competing styles from two teams who still had some rust to shake. The Admirals’ offensive capabilities were put to the test against a defense captained by Augustine Monroe of the Texas Cavalry. The New York Titans had to adjust to an Admirals squad who showed a little more chemistry than they had anticipated, especially on defense.

Game 1
In Game 1, the two defenses battled it out and only allowed a combined four goals in the first 20 drives. Then the Titans adjusted to the Admirals and rallied, scoring on six of the next 11 drives, while the Admirals only scored one of their next 10. The opening game seemed just the formality of a snitch catch away from sealing the first victory of the Titans’ season. However, the Titans devoted their beaters to the snitch, allowing the Admirals to return seven goals and make the game snitch-range again. The Admirals caught the snitch to get a victory over the Titans 130*-110.

Game 2
In Game 2, the Titans came back with a new tempo while the Admirals tried to keep up. A shallow Admirals roster allowed the Titans to score on brooms up, as well as 50 more unanswered points before the snitch came on pitch. With the score 60-20, the Titans continued to dominate the quaffle and bludger games and scored on six consecutive drives after the expiration of the seeker floor. The Admirals were only able to return three goals before the Titans caught the snitch.

Game 3
Before starting this section, it is important to note that the film had to be pieced together, and sections of the game are missing from the final film.

In the third game, the Admirals’ chaser and beater lines’ chemistry faltered and they were not effectively communicating, causing the chasers to put up long shots and passes, or turn the ball over when their beaters were not prepared to stop a fast break on defense. The Titans’ chasers maintained field awareness and when their beaters forced a turnover, a chaser would bolt down the field for a relatively easy cherry-pick. Another changing factor in Game 3 were the referees. Having shaken off the rust after being inactive since World Cup, the referees were back in the swing of things. The Admirals racked up several cards, including a crucial red on the beater line while the snitch was on pitch. The Admirals’ lone remaining beater was not able to cover both the snitch and the hoops, allowing the Titans to rack up the points for the next two minutes.

In Games 1 and 2, both teams used unreliable long shots and passes behind the hoops. Only 36 percent and 33 percent of drives were converted by the Titans and Admirals, respectively. These low percentages were caused by the frequent long throws and desperate shots by both teams. Since the bludgers seemed to be in near-constant flux, with heavy offensive beating coming from both sides, the defense really came down to the chasers. The Titans displayed physicality at the top of the field, forcing either long passes or tackles, while their keeper line ate up those long passes and returned them for buckets when the beaters were occupied. Both teams devoted beaters they could not afford to the snitch, allowing the quaffle game to determine the outcomes.

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