Friday, September 4, 2015

Barcelona Moustaches Time 2: Team Previews

This weekend, Barcelona Moustaches Times 2: The Moustache Strikes Back (BMT2) Tournament will be held in Barcelona, Catalonia. This year, 14 teams from seven nations will compete in what will be the first international tournament in Europe this season. BMT2 will thus be an important arena for teams to prove themselves and show the rest of the continent what they are made of. For newer teams and players, it will be a chance to gain invaluable experience before their own national season’s start. Since the tournament is held in Barcelona, it will for many also simply be a good excuse to go on holiday and play at a fun quidditch tournament. However, with approximately only two international tournaments a year besides the European Quidditch Cup (EQC), winning will be highly regarded and put the winning team and the nation it’s from in the spotlight the coming season.

To get an idea about how teams will fare in the tournament now that the rosters have been released, here are some of the predictions made by the Quidditch Post staff about the teams.


Nightmare Grims
by Marc Garganté

If the Barcelona Eagles are the eternal promise-to-be, the Nightmare Grims are their perfect offspring. They played amazing defense for a first-time team at Tournoi International de la Violette, and they played well in the Catalan Cup despite their defeat in the final. The players who went to Sarteano did well, but the team is still relatively shaky when it comes to the game.

The Nightmare Grims recently hosted a tournament in their hometown of Tarragona, where they were expected to pose a bigger threat. In the end, they only achieved victory against Toulouse Quidditch and did not really cause the other teams to break a sweat.

At BMT2 they will be bringing a mix of experienced and new members. Players such as beater Silvia Fortuny and chaser/keeper/seeker Adrián Medina, who participated in the European Games (EG), will most likely bring the core strength and leadership to the team, while other, slightly older members of the team like chaser Jordi Martín, will build on top of that. On the other hand, a big part of the team is inexperienced on pitch, and the loss of iconic players such as their captain Angel Miguel Guerrero or Xavi “Pümmüki” Rossell, both chasers, probably means the team won’t finish high in the final rankings; they will be able to defeat teams such as Toulouse and Imperius Zaragoza but will struggle against most, if not all, of the other squads in their pool.

Pink Fluffy Unicorns
by Joke Daems

Though intended as a fully international merc team specifically created for BMT2, the Pink Fluffy Unicorns' roster is clearly dominated by Belgian players. This could be to their advantage in the sense that most players have already played together more than once, but it will be interesting to see how they will incorporate the few international players as well. The team will be captained by Laurens Grinwis Plaat Stultjes, one of the most experienced players in Belgian quidditch, who has a thorough knowledge of international play, and co-captained by Pauline Raes, a less experienced player who recently took up coaching of the Bruges Bridgebacks, one of the new Belgian teams expected to join the league for the 2015-16 season.

The team is not only rich in Belgian players, but also in national team players. Only six of the 15 players have not been a part of a national team. Remarkably absent, however, are Deurne Dodo players, some of whom were key to the Belgian Gryffins' successful performance at EG. Other than the Belgian players, North Sea Nargles' star chaser Bram Vries played for the Dutch national team, and beater Lisa Schmerbeck played for the German national team at EG. In addition, Schmerbeck built up some highly competitive experience with the Long Beach Funky Quaffles (LBFQ) at World Cup VII.

Bram Vries at European Games 2015 | Photo credit: Ondrej Hujnak
Though everyone was welcome to join, it seems like the Pink Fluffy Unicorns  despite the cutesy name  boast a strong squad, with most players having at least some experience at international tournaments. Looking at the chaser-heavy roster, the team will mostly depend on dominance in quaffle play, although Grinwis Plaat Stultjes is not too worried about the other positions.

“We have enough players that have experience with beating as well to balance that out,” Grinwis Plaat Stuljes said. “Florian [Dion], Nathan [Wilputte], Brian [Verbeure], and Guillermo [Somuano] are all capable keepers in addition to being chasers; Nathan [Wilputte], Nicolas [Volders], and Lana [Naudts] are trained as seekers as well.

An additional challenge lies in the individual players' styles, with players like Gust Lumbeeck, Wilputte, and Grinwis Plaat Stultjes often performing hero runs that don’t necessarily always end in goals. The team could also be plagued by recent or existing injuries; Wilputte has yet to finish a tournament without a neck injury, and Volders has been struggling with injuries throughout the season as well.

Looking at the rest of the teams in Group A, the Pink Fluffy Unicorns should be able to make the top three in their group, but it remains to be seen how they will perform against the Dercs and Titans Paris Quidditch. If the results of EG are anything to go by, the Pink Fluffy Unicorns could give the Dercs a hard time, although they're probably no match for the Titans.

The Dercs
by Fraser Posford

BMT2 will be the Dercs’ second tournament outing following their debut at the Eggnog Tournament in Dec. 2014 and therefore their first appearance at an international tournament. With TeamUK and former Radcliffe Chimeras chaser David Goswell as captain, it appears that the Dercs will be one of the favourites to advance from Group A  along with Titans Paris  as they will be bringing a roster featuring some of the most exciting prospects in UK quidditch. The team’s roster is characterized by a huge presence from Durhamstrang players, who make up half the team  a fact that should make the Dercs a more cohesive unit than some of the other merc teams at this tournament.

Amongst them are TeamUK chasers Bex Lowe and Jackie Woodburn (Dercs vice-captain) but I will especially be looking forward to the performance of Ben Guthrie in Barcelona. Guthrie, a new recruit to the Dercs and a Team UK reserve, may appear an unassuming figure on pitch, but his speed coupled with an excellent understanding of chasing, beating, and seeking should not go underestimated, especially off the back of a tournament-winning display for ‘A Midsummer Night’s Team’ at Summer Cup on 13-14 June. Of the non-Durham contingent, new beaters Matt Drummond and Steven Daly  of Southampton Quidditch Club and the Leeds Griffins respectively  also come into BMT2 in fine form after this summer’s fantasy tournaments. Their inclusion on the team plugs the slight beater deficiency that the Dercs had at their previous two appearances.

One thing that will affect how far the Dercs advance in Barcelona is their team size. Despite having a general roster stretching up to about 30 players, many players aren’t able to attend BMT2 due to other commitments, which leaves them with only 11 players, of whom only five are non-male and which could prove to be difficult should injuries strike. However, assuming all 11 stay fit to play, this team should advance from Group A despite facing tough tests against Paris Titans and the Unicorns. Depending on a favourable draw in the upper bracket, the Dercs have the ability to reach at least the semifinals of this tournament and will certainly relish a meeting with the Mighty and Amazing Quercs after their narrow overtime defeat by the Quercs when the two last met in March.

by Marc Garganté

These Sparcs have nothing to do with last year’s Sparcs. There are four players from the Bizkaia Boggarts, seven from Gasteiz Gamusins Quidditch, three from the Madrid Wolves, one from the Malaka Vikings Quidditch Team, and a Barcelona Eagles merc player. Nine of these players have been to the EG, and nine out of 16 players have been to other tournaments as well: Transpiriquove, Catalan Cup, and Rivas Quidditch Cup. It’s true that, with the exception of the French tournament, the others have been very small and local, but these players make up their lack of experience with strong sports backgrounds.

Their biggest assets will probably be the beater pair Ander Carbón of the Boggarts and Daniel Báscones of the Wolves; together, they have the strength and stamina to pose a threat to almost anyone at the tournament. Miguel Vásquez  also a player for the Wolves  played with the Boggarts at Transpiriquove, and after making life a living hell for the Eagles, he will probably be the quaffle reference of the team alongside the Vikings’ Paula Marmolejo with her rugby background.

The major drawback will be having almost half of the team from the Gamusins, a young team in the Basque Country with no experience on their backs. These players will be using this tournament as a developing point. This might make the general performance decline on Day One, either due to lack of stamina from the Gamusins or due to these newer players leaning on their veterans and tiring the experienced team members excessively.

My prediction is the Sparcs will land mid- to low-range in their pool. They will probably be able to win over Toulouse, Imperius, and the Nightmare Grims, but they will struggle against the stronger teams. If they make it into the upper bracket on Day Two, it might be as fourth in their pool or as eighth in the general ranking. However, these players are known for more than one unexpected surprise, so their performance against the Eagles, the Dercs, or the Unicorns might make it or break it for them.

Imperius Zaragoza
by Marc Garganté

Imperius Zaragoza is not as new as people would imagine. It has been around for about a year already, and it’s been a very active part of its community. That said, it has barely played a single game. The only experience it can rely on comes from the Catalan Cup, where it participated as a guest team.

Imperius will be bringing only seven players, which does not include some of the team’s strong leaders like Noelia Doñate or promising new stars like Dani Olid. They are far from being a highly athletic team. The merc players they are bringing joined up with Imperius for this tournament because they didn’t make their respective home teams’ travel teams for this event, so it is likely that Imperius will probably see itself last in the ranking. It does have an unrelenting force in the figure of Moises Albir, although his physical prowess is nullified by his inability to properly initiate contact  probably gaining him more than one yellow card.

With this being said, Imperius Zaragoza might be one of the teams that takes the most out of this tournament. The team is attending with the intention of an international experience. The players will return home with loads of new things to implement in practice, having met and befriended other European quidkids, and with a backpack full of memories to share with their teams.

Barcelona Eagles
by Kai Haugen Shaw

The hosts of the tournament have been upping their practices from one to three times a week and have been participating in group conditioning in preparation for the tournament. While the homecourt advantage might be weakened due to the added stress of hosting, the team will have an advantage in the fact that it is used to practices in the 30 degree Barcelona weather.

The Eagles are dead set on going far this tournament and have even lent players there weren’t room for on the roster to Imperius Zaragoza, which seems like a good choice as they still have one of the largest rosters in the tournament with 18 players. One of the more notable players on this roster is Chema Hidalgo, who many may know from past European tournaments for his snitching. His height, long arms, and years of snitching experience make him lethal as a seeker, and this will give the Eagles a clear advantage whenever they are in snitch range. Besides Chema, the Eagles have Marc Garganté; as his name indicates, he is a big guy, but he also has a very accurate shot, and with a background in basketball, he possesses good field awareness. Another player to note is Alba Arrieta, as a prominent beater; she has high stamina and an accurate shot that will help wear out any attacks from teams in worse shape. She mostly plays defensively and won’t be too much help to the team’s offense; however, she will be an important cog in the team’s defense.
Chema Hidalgo snitching at European Games 2015 | Photo credit: Ondrej Hujnak
While they have quite a few good players and generally are in quite good shape, I don’t think they have the tactical gameplay or team cohesion and finesse to take them all the way to the top. Their passing game is not up to par with their main competitors, and their beating game, while quite good, isn’t at the level of teams like Titans, Quercs, and Ridgebacks. While they do wrap players and do an admirable job in defense, they seldom tackle, which is a defensive tool that would help them a long way against the best teams. The Barcelona Eagles should be able to win big against the less experienced teams in the tournament; however, I think they similarly will struggle against the very best. They have put a lot of hard work into the preparation for the tournament, and they have the potential to surprise. That said, it’s likely they will fall short of the semis and fall short at the quarterfinals, where they will probably be ranked closer to fifth than eighth.

Titans Paris Quidditch
by Kai Haugen Shaw
The reigning European champions were viewed in our last article as the clear favorites for the season. However, now that the rosters have been released, it’s become evident that we are not looking at the same team who won the 2015 European Quidditch Cup (EQC). Titans Paris is only sending nine players down from Paris, which is far fewer than they normally do, and seeing as a few key players are missing, they simply won’t be the threat they initially were expected to be.

That said, Titans Paris has always been known for the excellent physique and good stamina of its players, and the players left on the squad are by no means an exception to this rule. While Titans won’t have the depth to the roster that it normally has, we can still expect the same excellent passing game, which will still be assisted by a controlled beater game and hard tackles by defensive chasers. Unfortunately, with only two substitutes in the hot Barcelona weather, Titans Paris’ players will struggle to keep up the fast pace of their game even with their superb stamina. If they get any injuries, especially to one of their female players  of which there are only three  they will be in real trouble.

Based on the roster, I think the competition the team will face at BMT2 will make it tough to get through to the semifinals, and Titans Paris might not even win its own group on Day One. I don’t put it past Titans to still muster up a trophy run; small teams with great synergy have done well in the past, and there might be some players who shine in the absence of Albert Bregeault’s shadow. In the end, I believe Titans will end up somewhere between fifth and eighth place, as its roster for BMT2 simply doesn’t have the depth to stand against the best teams.

Toulouse Quidditch
by Sherrie Talgeri

With a largely experienced 13 player roster and an adequate balance of positions and gender, Toulouse will have an advantage against smaller and unbalanced teams. Having encountered the majority of its pool before, the team will have a good idea of what to expect, especially thanks to past wins against the Nightmare Grims  although this was followed by a more recent defeat at the Transpiriquove Cup  Imperius Zaragoza, and an earlier incarnation of the Sparcs that leave it well-prepared for BMT2.

Toulouse captain Pierre Elefterion will be focused on maintaining united beater and chaser lines and increased physicality. Training twice a week means that the team is at average fitness for this tournament, but it will be unlikely to match the stamina, cohesion, and hard tackles of more seasoned teams. Other teams should watch out for talented chaser Emeline Bosc, a Team France alternate who has also played with the Eagles, and Ludovic Langlais, a utility player whose preferred position is beater. Bosc has excellent positioning and adds a great deal to the team’s passing game, while Langlais knows when to deal swift and accurate beats.

A prediction of somewhere between fifth and eighth place overall seems reasonable, but this depends on how players deal with teams such as the Dercs and the Unicorns. This is a solidly mid-tier team that will do well by a good margin against smaller, inexperienced teams, play a tense match against the Eagles, and will stumble when contending with more athletic and tactical teams.


Average Joes
by Fraser Posford

Led by Radcliffe Chimeras beater Alice Walker, the Average Joes follow in the footsteps of Ollie Hymers’ Los Conquidstadores at last year’s BMT2 as a UK Merc team assembled solely for the tournament. The Joes will be one of three UK Merc teams at BMT2, alongside the Dercs and reigning champions the Mighty & Amazing Quercs. They may be average by name, but there are certainly some special players on this team. A core of Oxford University Quidditch Club (OUQC) players makes up the roster  including new Radcliffe Chimeras captain Abby Whiteley and former Quidlings vice-captain David Dlaka. Of the Oxford contingent, I will be most interested to see how speedy chaser Mark Richards fares in Barcelona, who made some impressive performances at Valentine’s Cup 2 (for Warren McFadyen’s One Knight Stand) and EQC for the Chimeras in a supporting role. This time around, however, it looks like he will have a big hand to play in the success of this team. Another player to watch out for will be Tom Ower, a very capable chaser who, as captain and founder of the Brizzlepuffs, has often had to sacrifice focus on his personal development and performance in order to better manage the Bristol side. Seeing Ower play without the burden of captaincy should prove refreshing as he links up with Richards  as well as chaser/seeker Sash Steele of the Leeds Griffins, who comes into this tournament off the back of a successful display at the League of Extraordinary Ghentlemen in Ghent, Belgium, where she was named MVP.

With the chasers and seekers on the Average Joes’ roster, they certainly have hopes of emulating Los Conquidstadores as tournament semifinalists. Their lack of designated beaters and keepers  the Griffins’ Kunal Ramchurn is the only dedicated keeper in the initial roster  is a worry, though the Joes are one of the teams set to be supplemented with merc players by the tournament organisers, which may well boost their chances. It’s not expected for Average Joes to blow too many teams away on the scoreboard, and they may even struggle due to low numbers, but if Steele and London Unspeakables’ Fiona Howat who was chosen for the Team UK reserves – are on form as seekers, they could do just enough in the early matches to see them go further into the competition.

Vienna Vanguards
by Fraser Posford

As Austria’s only team, the Vienna Vanguards are pioneers for the development of quidditch within their country. They are coming to BMT2 in search of some difficult and competitive matches.  The Vanguards likely wish to leave Barcelona with a win or two following their inception at the end of 2014. This will be the team’s second-ever tournament appearance, having competed in April’s EQC, where they experienced heavy defeats to Crookshanks Lyon, the Falmouth Falcons, and the Oxford Quidlings but defeated Germany’s Black Forest Bowtruckles to secure a third place finish in their group. As EQC and a few friendly matches with Three River Dragons Passau have been the Vanguards’ only competitive action in their short history, the team is still a largely unknown entity in European quidditch, and this could work to their advantage.

Vienna’s roster of 17 will be one of the largest at BMT2. A sizeable roster will allow them the opportunity to keep their lines fresh, assuming players are rotated well,  and will be a tactical advantage over the other teams in their group, who will likely tire more quickly in the Spanish heat. Captain Lukas Linser and chaser Dominik Hiesl look set to be the team’s main quaffle carriers and, as the duo proved at EQC, both have the speed to unlock defences but will require support from their fellow quaffle players particularly on defence if the Vanguards wish to progress in BMT2, as a lack of physicality definitely undermined their performances at EQC. In the beater department, the Vanguards will be assisted by merc Nina Heise, a German international and former Southampton player whose experience will be invaluable to the team, especially due to the harsh learning curve associated with beating. Further experienced merc players Darmstadt captain Tim Simmert and Toulouse’s Yohan Riquet will also bolster the squad.

With the likes of the Norwegian Ridgebacks, the Mighty and Amazing Quercs, and ODTÜ Hippogriffs occupying the same group, it appears that Vienna are underdogs once again and look unlikely to advance to upper bracket play on Sunday. However, the Vanguards will be determined to prove themselves at BMT2, and I could see them potentially being one of the tournament’s surprise packages capable of causing an upset against either the Bad Sexy Glitters or the Average Joes. One thing is for certain, no matter their performance, BMT2 will be a tournament at which the Vienna Vanguards will broaden their collective quidditch experience and may well become a platform for some of their players to make a name for themselves across the continent.

Norwegian Ridgebacks
by Abby Whiteley

One of the more formidable mercenary teams in the mix, the Norwegian Ridgebacks will be another exciting display of the talent Norway has to offer, following strong performances from the nation at both EG and the EQC. The Ridgebacks are bringing seven players from the Norwegian national team that took third place in Sarteano to Barcelona, and they have an impressive core of players who have been practicing constantly this summer. The majority of the remaining players are either former or current members of OSI Quidditch, the Norwegian champions.

Some key players who will be making an appearance are Kai Haugen Shaw, captain of OSI and one of the primary keepers for the Norwegian national team, and Anders Kulsrud Storruste, a fantastic beater who was unable to attend EG but who made an impression at EQC. The fact that they will be surrounded by players with whom they have experience playing alongside of will work hugely in the favour of the Ridgebacks, as they will suffer less from the vacillations characteristic of new mercenary teams. NTNUI, the highest-ranked Norwegian team at EQC with a fifth place finish, is represented in one of its key players, Jørgen Helgeland Stenløkk, who can turn his hand to whatever position is required in the team.

The average quality of the squad is impressive, and so it would not be surprising to see the Ridgebacks with a spot in the semifinals, or even competing for the top spot. With a weakened Titans squad, the tournament is anyone’s game, and we could see the Norwegians supplanting the defending BMT champions.

Bad Sexy Glitters
by Abby Whiteley

A mercenary team of French and Belgian players, the Bad Sexy Glitters is another team that was established strictly as an opportunity to afford its players some extra playing time. However, the team still sports some big names that could unlock the potential of the other players and make a surprising impression.

One of the biggest names on the Bad Sexy Glitters is Tim van Huygevoot, captain of Team Belgium at EG and an excellent keeper who will be one of the primary driving forces of the team’s attack. He is adept as part of a fluent passing game but can also drive when the situation calls for it, and his opportunism will serve the team well.

If she is utilised correctly, Marine Delobel is a powerful behind-the-hoops threat; if the playmakers of the squad recognise this and make the passes she needs to convert the points, she will pose a significant threat. Moussa Fall, who also represented Team Belgium at Sarteano, will be a keystone in the Bad Sexy Glitters’ beater game. The team will be able to field a formidable beater set when he is alongside Soraya Abbagnato, a veteran of both Paris Frog and Team Italy with a wealth of experience to bring to the lineup. However, the Bad Sexy Glitters will also afford an opportunity to spot some French and Belgian talent that might have been overlooked at EQC or EG. It will be interesting to see which new names the team is able to put a spotlight onto during this weekend.

Like many of the mercenary teams here, the team is not necessarily looking for competitive glory, but it may still find it with a bit of luck in pool play; it certainly has some surprising strength when one looks past the frivolous name and kits, and it could cause an upset.

ODTÜ Hippogriffs
by Jack Lennard

ODTÜ  also known as METU in English  is home to three distinct teams. Many are likely already aware of the Unicorns and the newly established Phoenixes, but it is the oldest team in Turkish quidditch that will be present at BMT2 this year  the Hippogriffs. Led by captain Ekin Berkyürek, the Hippogriffs are bringing 14 players to Barcelona, hungry for glory. After coming second at the Turkish Quidditch Cup in March 2015 and currently leading the league, the Hippogriffs are on a fantastic streak at the moment, having not lost a game so far this season.

Players to watch out for are the captain, Berkyürek, who is renowned in Turkey for his accuracy in long beats; Mert Bekar, who could give the Hippogriffs a great deal of physicality in the quaffle game, and Ecem Satici, who is often underestimated and will bring a great deal of determination and agility when making counterattacks. For BMT2, the Hippogriffs has picked up a few players from the Boun Centaurs  including Satici  and METU Phoenix, which will give an already strong team even more depth.

ODTÜ Hippogriffs face the Ridgebacks first; with five members of the roster hailing from the Turkish national team that lost to Norway at EG 2015, they will be out for revenge. The Ridgebacks can expect a fierce match, and it could set the tone for the rest of the tournament.

With many expecting the Quercs or the Ridgebacks to provide the strongest opposition this weekend, the Hippogriffs stand a very strong chance of taking the international quidditch scene by storm and shocking the favourites this weekend.

The Mighty And Amazing Quercs
by Jack Lennard

The reigning champions of BMT2  having defeated Deurne Dodo A in the final in 2014–the Quercs will be coming to Barcelona with a reputation to uphold. Playing for the first time under new captain Jan Mikolajczak, the Quercs also boast several new additions to their impressive roster. Mikey Ansell, a relative newcomer to the UK scene, brings additional physicality and stamina in the quaffle game, which will really help the team in the Catalan heat this weekend. Meanwhile, Franky Kempster will be hoping to continue establishing her name on ever-larger stages, with Tom Norton, fresh from captaining TeamUK at EG 2015, joining the squad and bringing talent to the team in almost every position.

Other players to watch out for read like an all-star team from the continent: Luke Twist rejoins long-time teammate Mikolajczak and has been reunited with former Radcliffe Chimera Elisabeth Jørstad. Ben Morton and James Burnett bring years of experience to the field, and Bex McLaughlin is an intimidating figure to face up against in front of the hoops.

The Quercs will definitely be going into this tournament as favourites. The Titans  having beaten the Quercs in the final at Tournoi International de la Violette  trail behind, bringing a weaker squad than usual. However, that means that it is also the Quercs’ tournament to lose, and there are certainly teams that will threaten their chance at retaining the trophy. The Ridgebacks will be hoping to build on the Norwegian performance at EG 2015, and the Quercs will need to play their best to prevent an upset.

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