Tuesday, September 8, 2015

MLQ: Reflection: New York Titans

By Kyle Carey 

When I found out about Major League Quidditch, I jumped at the chance to join. Having only played two seasons for New York University (NYU), I viewed MLQ as a league where I could develop my skills as a player. I was overjoyed when I made the 30-player New York Titans team. The roster was full of names that I recognized and respected. From the original 30 members, a corps of around 25 formed who would end up playing in the different series.

When I heard Augustine Monroe was going to play with us, I was terrified and excited.  My only experience with him as a player was watching him win World Cups VII and 8. He was a larger-than-life figure for me, almost a celebrity. His spot on the team caused people to laud us as the league favorites, and his presence put a tremendous pressure on us to be good. I wasn’t sure that our team, with its lineup of diverse players, would be able to live up to the expectations placed upon us. The Titans recruited from a variety of USQ regions and Europe. It was impossible to tell what the team’s style of play would look like before we started the season, but we all had faith that Michael Parada and Monroe would bring us together somehow.

We started the year off against the Washington Admirals in a series that many people believed we would sweep. We dropped the first game but managed to win the day with a 2-1 record, but even with the comeback, our loss shook the team. It was a sign that we still had kinks to work out. The next test was against the Ottawa Black Bears, with the series ending in a 3-0 sweep, but they were able to keep up with us even though we won well out of snitch range every game. There was a certain uneasiness going into the series against the Boston Night Riders, as they had developed a chemistry that we were still struggling to find. The Night Riders took the series three games to none in what was the most demoralizing point of the season for us. The Boston matches forced us to rethink our strategy and training. In the two weeks before the championship, there was a renewed commitment among the team to winning. We spent countless practices working on our weaknesses, knowing that we would face Boston again. Come the championship weekend, we reached the finals and got our opportunity to play Boston. We came close to beating them in two intense and controversial games. The loss was hard for all of us, but we knew that this season had become about more than winning.

The NYC teams have never been the closest. NYU had always existed in something of a bubble, separate from the rest of its neighbors. In the Big Apple Quidditch Conference (BAQC), every team has a distinct and different style. My experience with NYU had instilled a great reverence for careful beating and slow chasing. On the Titans, I was forced out of my comfort zone; we focused on playing a drive-and-dish game rather than a passing offense. The burden was put on chasers to make plays defensively without beaters. At first, the system was awkward for most of the team. Many of us did not have formal instruction in how to tackle or make push passes, so during the first couple of practices we were given a crash course on quidditch basics. It was frustrating to realize that there were such humongous gaps in my understanding of the game.

I found that I could learn a little from every player on the team. Each of us had something that we were exceptionally good at. Tim Keaney can position himself and catch like no one else. Parada has the gift of knowing where and when to shoot. Leeanne Dillman always places herself at the right distance between her opponents and the hoops when beating. The small things I started to notice about other players helped me better myself. My confidence continued to grow all summer, as it became more and more clear that I could compete alongside the rest of the Titans.

All summer, I watched as other players developed around me as well. Everyone on the team knew that Lindsay Marella would be a breakout star from the beginning of the season. As early as the second or third practice, she developed a clear chemistry with Monroe. If he could put the ball in her hands near the hoops, she was going to score. No matter how much we tried to balance teams during scrimmages, any team with Monroe and Marella was going to win. She was not the only one who matured this summer. Dylan Meehan, our most consistent beating option, grew more comfortable beating against MLQ’s best. He was able to fill the absence of Kyle Jeon and became a star beater in his own right.  Veteran players like Taylor Crawford and Michael Parada began playing like they had at their peaks. Marella, Meehan, Crawford, and Parada are all a testament to the positive effect MLQ has on player growth.

The difference between the Titans during the first Washington series and the finals against Boston is astounding. We practiced on dirt fields at the East River Park in Manhattan. We came from New Jersey, Long Island, and Connecticut through traffic to get there. Running around on the field kicked up dust, slowly covering us in it. We had to play in the heat and humidity with cuts, bruises, and injuries. The Titans road to the finals was not an easy one. New York City can be an inhospitable place for quidditch, so it took determination and fortitude for us to do as well as we did.

Even though the Titans didn’t win the championship, I’m happy with the outcome of the season.  Losing to Boston gives New York quidditch a reason to keep getting better. I saw glimpses of how great Macaulay Honors College, Hofstra University, the Warriors, and NYU could be in the play of my teammates. I’m more excited than ever for what New York can produce in the future. The BAQC will no longer be the kind of conference where teams work separately to get better; it will now be an environment for us to develop as a whole. Even though we might not don the jersey again until next summer, we all remain Titans.

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