By Dylan Meehan and Kyle Carey
With the absence of this year’s Northeast Regional Fantasy Tournament, the Gruesome Twosomes Fantasy Tournament became the premier fantasy tournament in the Northeast this summer. In an unconventional format, two players from various regions across the U.S. joined forces to put together teams of 13 in an attempt to take home the gold – not unlike the “Gruesome Twosome” from “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” As one of the only competitive outlets of the summer for non-MLQ players, the fantasy tournament came with an unexpected sense of seriousness usually reserved for the regular season.
Fun Team (Tye-Dye): 0-4
Although the Fun Team, led by Kyle Carey and Kyle Jeon, did not win any of its games, it achieved its pre-tournament goal: to be the most fun team. While this focus on fun was a bit detrimental to reaching the team’s full potential, it was a refreshing spirit in a fantasy tournament where some teams lost sight of the main reason most people play quidditch: to have fun.
Despite chanting “Will we lose? Probably. Do we care? No!” the Fun Team managed to keep the majority of its games tight. This was due to dual chasers/keepers Zak Hewitt and Kyle Carey, as well as a strong beating corps headed by Kyle Jeon and Leeanne Dillmann. Hewitt and Carey served as the primary ball handlers and scored the majority of the team’s goals while Dillmann and Jeon held opposing beaters at bay. If the team had dedicated its energy to winning, or at least staying in snitch range, it could have gone all the way, riding on the work of those four players and a few clutch grabs from Abhishek Samdaria at seeker. Other standout players were Drew Brekus and Jess Coleman, with the latter surprising everyone by trying his hand at beating and proving to be a useful utility player for the tye-dye team.
The Fun Team’s raw talent managed to keep it in games despite devoting most of its efforts to goofing around. In the end, the Fun Team won a day full of good times and left the pitch with something worth more than a medal: memories.
White Cox (White):0-4
The White Cox, spearheaded by Chris Champitto and Caitie Probst, was one of the few teams that suffered from an expensive last minute drop by Brandon McKenzie. Luckily, the team had two more keepers with Ben Mertens and Matt “Moose” Niederberger, who filled the void by controlling the game’s pace and grabbing passes and shots out of the air. Edgar Pavlovsky and Champitto ran the offense with drive-and-dishes to off-wing chasers Josh Moules, Erin Mallory, and Jess Daly, who all contributed heavily to the team’s offense by being viable catch-and-release options. The White Cox’s primary beaters—Tyler Potoski and Dante Close—tried to create chaos while Caitie Probst was left to anchor the defense.
Beater Dante Close | Photo Courtesy of Tom Powers
This team’s downfall was its lack of player chemistry; it had all the pieces there, but they didn’t quite fit together. The chaser game was filled with a lot of great cuts and open players; however, the team failed to capitalize on these opportunities due to missed passes and vulnerable positioning. In the beater game, the White Cox often performed better when it didn’t have bludger control; with bludger control, both beaters were constantly pushed back to the hoops on defense while, without control, the players stayed toward the top of the pitch waiting for an opportunity to get bludgers back while preventing opposing beaters from tearing apart the defense.
The White Cox was a team that, given time to mesh, could have competed with the best at this tournament. However, due to the lack of player chemistry—a chronic problem at fantasy tournaments—a lot of the team’s plays fell flat leading to an 0-4 performance.
That Team (Blue): 1-3
That Team was formed by Alex Amodol and Mike Iadevaia and wound up losing all but one game despite the team’s high potential. With beaters Scott Axel, Etienne Pogu, and Mike Iadevaia, That Team was one of the few teams of the tournament that had a multitude of male beaters to throw at opposing teams. Pogu also spent time playing chaser depending on where he was most needed. Pair all of these elements with keeper Andrew McGregor and chaser Kara Levis, and you have the foundations for success.
The one thing That Team lacked was a consistent seeker. While it lost the majority of its games, the team managed to stay in range throughout the day. With the last minute drop of seeker Andrew Zagelbaum, Eric Pagoada was forced to step out of his usual chasing position and wear the yellow headband. Toward the end of the day, Pagoada found his groove and helped That Team win its game against the White Cox. However, the lack of an experienced seeker was felt earlier on and was detrimental to the team’s chances of winning.
Zagelbaum’s absence held this team back in a huge way. He cost almost a fifth of Amodol’s and Iadevaia’s budget, and was not replaced for the tournament. If those galleons had been used to bolster the chaser line up instead, That Team might have gone home with a better record than 1-3. The presence of one more big name player would have helped this team break out of mediocrity and given it a better shot at taking the trophy home.
The Gardeners (Green): 2-2
The playing style of David Fox and CJ Junior’s team, the Gardeners, was a throwback to the “hero ball” days of quidditch. The team relied on the strength of a few of its chasers, like David Fox and Dylan DeAngelis, to rack up the points by driving through opposing teams’ defenses, while its beaters attempted to create chaos with no bludger scenarios. Keeper Tyler Trudeau greatly contributed to the team’s offense as an adaptable ball handler who stepped up when his team called for a hero, but also knew to dish the quaffle to his teammates with a better shot.
The Gardeners’ main weakness was their beater play. While beaters CJ Junior and Amanda Dallas are both competent, things never clicked between them, which often forced the team’s chasers to stop opposing offenses without bludgers. The team had the right type of chasers to make big stops on defense, but the lack of teamwork between Junior and Dallas wound up with the two spending more time running after loose bludgers than playing a part in the defense. In the games where the duo managed to pay cohesively, the Gardeners were able to stay in snitch range, a dangerous position for opposing teams as the Gardeners had a multitude of bodies to throw at the snitch.
In the end, the hero balling wasn’t enough to win it all, proving fantasy tournaments have reached a point where it is necessary to have more than a good keeper and a seeker to take home the gold.
Pussycats (Pink): 2-3
Led by Sean Beloff and Shannon Moorhead, the Pussycats’ playing style was opposite to what their name suggests: physical and bold. Beater Alex Leitch looked to give chasers Michael Beloff and Sean Beloff scoring opportunities by taking out opposing beaters with intense physicality, while beaters Mary Cueva and Shannon Moorhead held the defense. Couple this with the always open and reliable Carli Haggerty, and some clutch grabs from Tom “Chiddy” Powers, and the team could have gone far. Unfortunately, due to work commitments and car pooling issues, the team lost a big chunk of its scoring options after its quarterfinals game.
However, this allowed some of the team’s lesser known players to step it up. Beater Lindsay Geller and chaser Adam Kwestel took charge in the Pussycats’ last game and helped keep their team in the game against the Goombas until shortly before the snitch came on pitch. In the end, it wasn’t enough to make it to the finals, but no one can deny they went down fighting.
The Pussycats may have had the best female depth at Gruesome Twosomes which would have served them well if the tournament followed the normal gender rule policy. The team began to click toward the later half of the day and might have caused a few more upsets if necessity did not take away some of their top players.
Neon Green Cards (Neon Green): 3-2
The Neon Green Cards brought more than a little flash to Gruesome Twosomes. Helmed by North Star’s Erin McCrady and Q.C. Boston: the Massacre’s Jayke Archibald, the Neon Green team played the type of fantasy quidditch that is fun to watch. Archibald performed as people have come to expect from him at fantasy tournaments: one play Archibald would sink a long shot and the next he would make a pinpoint pass for the assist. Wing chaser Tim Keaney provided Archibald a near endless amount of looks at the hoops. The chemistry between the two former Hofstra University Flying Dutchmen teammates was evident, and it resulted in the majority of Neon Green’s goals. Rounding out the offense, Ethan Sturm used his surprising speed and knowledge of the game make cuts and beautiful passes. The precise plays of Archibald, Keaney, and Sturm made for exciting quidditch and left onlookers with the feeling of watching an actual team.
While their offense was nearly flawless, the Neon Green Cards’ defense left much to be desired. In the typical fashion of the Northeast, the chaser defense was too reliant on beaters. With two of the best beaters in the Northeast, Stanford Zhou of New York University Thunder and Lulu Xu of Boston University, and the beating prowess of McCrady and Tad Walters, this did not seem like much of a problem. However, once the Neon Green Cards’ beaters were taken out of the picture, teams with physical chasers were able to rack up point after point without much difficulty. If the defense had a stronger point chaser, the Neon Green Cards would have been unstoppable.
Despite not having the tightest defense, the Neon Green Cards still managed to win the majority of their games. The team never fell out of snitch range and even took the eventual champions into overtime. If referee calls had tipped in favor of the Neon Green Cards, they might have gotten a rematch with the Goombas, and the Gruesome Twosome Fantasy Tournament might have had a different champion.
The Bleeding Sweeneys (Red): 5-1
The Bleeding Sweeneys, managed by Michael “Yada” Parada and Billy Greco, were one of the more star-studded teams of this tournament. Due to expensive roster drops, Greco and Parada managed to steal some of the best chasing talent at the tournament in the supplementary draft to add to the team’s already scary chaser line up. Among their biggest stars were Alex Linde, Max Miceli, and Jaime Colon-Velez, who all alternated between keeping and chasing. Linde and Parada finally got the chance to take advantage of their height and speed as off-ball chasers, while Miceli and Colon-Velez used their drive-and-dish capabilities as the team’s primary ball handlers. The team also snagged many of Parada’s former Penn State University Nittany Lions teammates to round out the chaser dominance, including Tommy Byrne, Nick Romano, and Jason Rosenberg.
Photo Courtesy of Tom Powers
While the team arguably had the strongest chaser line up, Parada and Greco’s focus on drafting chasers hurt the Bleeding Sweeneys in the beater department. While Nik Jablonski, Greco, and Carlos Metz are solid beaters, they were outclassed by other beaters at the tournament and lost a lot of steam toward the end of the day. The chasers on the team were talented enough to pick up much of the beaters’ slack, as shown by the number of bone crunching tackles Colon-Velez delivered in the finals.
Another glaring weakness in the Bleeding Sweeneys was their alarming lack of female players; with only two female players, the team required the adjusted gender rule to achieve success. Even so, the Bleeding Sweeneys earned their place as runners up at this tournament. The depth and talent of the team’s chaser lines combined with the cohesion of playing styles paved the team’s way to the finals and gave the Goombas a run for their money.
The Goombas (Brown): 6-0
Augustine Monroe and Hank Dugie were at the head of this team of hard hitters. The duo brought their signature Texas physicality and combined it with a drive-and-dish offense to bring the Goombas to victory. Thanks to the altered gender rule, the Goombas were easily able to play a two-male beater set when need be. Beaters Stephen Jaworski and Dylan Meehan were able to create chaos deep into other teams’ defenses with their aggressiveness and speed, allowing Monroe and Dugie to break through defenses. Steven Ficurilli and Lindsay Marella provided off-ball support for the Texans when Monroe’s and Dugie’s drives were not enough to make a goal. Marella, a New York Titans and Rutgers Nearly Headless Knights chaser, had one of the most outstanding performances at the tournament. There wasn’t anything she could not do; Marella scored key goals, forced turnovers, and made difficult stops, fitting seamlessly to the Southwest style of play of the Goombas.
The team’s undefeated run was ultimately a product of a defensive mindset that isn’t often seen in many fantasy tournaments. Few teams managed to score more than a couple points on the Goombas, and all but one of their games were out of range when James Richter, Mo Haggag, or Robert Walsh caught the snitch. However, the most impressive thing about this team is that the Goombas did not ride solely on the success of their super stars. The team worked together to play unselfish, hard-fought games that earned them the title of Gruesome Twosomes champions.
While fantasy tournaments have lost some of the value they have had in past years, there is a lot that can be taken away from Gruesome Twosomes, good and bad.
First, an adjusted gender rule is never a good idea. Not only did the rule change undermine gender minority players’ abilities, it also took away from the gender inclusivity of the sport. Many teams at the tournament only allowed one gender minority player on the pitch at any given time. While this was in part due to the limited amount of gender minority players on each team, the pool of gender minority players to pick from was too large to allow this to happen. To make matters worse, this rule was put in effect after the draft because certain teams had failed to pick a suitable amount of gender minority players. This put the teams that made sure to draft enough gender minority players at a physical disadvantage, while also increasing the pressure to not play gender minority players. At a fantasy tournament, everyone should get playing time regardless of skill, position, or gender; therefore, tournament directors need to scale their events appropriately so they do not have to resort to these measures. They risk killing the fun, competitiveness, and inclusivity of quidditch.
Photo Courtesy of Tom Powers
Gruesome Twosomes struggled to strike the right balance between fun and competition. At times it felt as if the level of physicality and intensity were excessive. The range of experience at tournaments like this is always large, and it can be discouraging for new players when they are constantly taking hits and hard beats. At Gruesome Twosomes, there should have been a greater emphasis on teamwork and safety. Summer quidditch is about enjoying the game and meeting new people; there should exist a balance that allows the games to be an enjoyable time for veteran players and newcomers alike. It was worrisome to see the way some people handled themselves at Gruesome Twosomes; whether it be hot-headed frustration or disrespect for fellow teammates and players.
That being said, Gruesome Twosomes was definitely a tournament with a lot of competition and interesting matchups such as Parada vs. Archibald, McGregor vs. Miceli, and Monroe vs. basically everyone. On the whole, there was not a lot of hero ball and the level of play was generally high, which gave onlookers a first glimpse at some of the sport’s rising stars. Young players like Marella and Brekus began to show their elite potential while veteran players like Xu and Hewitt proved the media does not always recognize great players. On the whole, Gruesome Twosomes Fantasy Tournament did its best to fill in the void of the Northeast Regional Fantasy Tournament; and, while it did have some issues, it was a day full of fun, competitive quidditch.