Thursday, October 29, 2015

2015 Northeast Regional Championship Preview

By Kyle Carey and Sam Scarfone

Halloween marks the beginning of the eight USQ Regional Championships as 24 teams from the Northeast descend upon Total Sports Experience in Rochester, New York for the 2015 Regional Championship. The top 10 teams will qualify for US Quidditch Cup in April.

Pool Play

Pool A:
Rochester United (RU)
University of Rochester
Hofstra University Flying Dutchmen
Alfred University Saxons (AUS)
Clark University Quidditch

Rochester United should be able to sweep this pool. The four other teams do not have enough beater skill to offset the strength of RU’s chasing. The only worry for RU is roster depth. The team does not have nearly enough players to succeed in long, drawn-out games. Rochester United needs to get out of range and catch quickly. RU has consistently beaten teams better than Hofstra and University of Rochester, and will continue to do so. The real test for Rochester United is whether or not it can win without exhausting the extent of its roster. Rochester United’s neighbors at University of Rochester should have the second best record in the pool. When University of Rochester runs a two male beater set, those beaters open up lanes for keeper Basem Ashkar to drive, who, when given the opening is difficult to take down. When the team faces Hofstra, the matchup will be between Ashkar and Hofstra’s Jaime Colon, who has carried Hofstra for the last couple seasons. Most of the offense runs through him, which makes him a target to beaters as soon as he crosses the midfield line. If the Dutchmen are going to beat University of Rochester, they need to cultivate scoring chances for people other than just Colon. AUS and Clark are solidly at the bottom of the pool. AUS should manage to win one game against Clark by virtue of its size and strength.

University of Rochester’s Basem Ashkar may be the key to finishing at the top of their pool | Photo Credit: Sofia de la Vega Photography
Pool B:
Boston University Quidditch (BU)
RIT Dark Marks (RIT)
Harvard Horntails
Brandeis Quidditch (BDS)
Bye (Skidmore was originally in this slot, but has dropped from the tournament)

There is a lot of BU hype this year justifiably so and as the regional championship approaches, there is no doubt it will qualify for US Quidditch Cup 9; however, its performance past that point is questionable. The team has demonstrated that it has no problem putting points on the board with heavy aggression from Curtis Stoychoff in the quaffle game. Stoychoff is supported by talented beaters Peter Cho and Max Beneke; Beneke and Cho offer such smart, controlled, and aggressive beating that it is easy for them to create lanes for Stoychoff to bring the ball through or pass to one of his capable chaser teammates, such as Amanda Varnauskas. BU will ultimately be held back by its lack of an outstanding seeker, which is the main reason the team struggles to beat the Tufts University Tufflepuffs so often. BU is still a cut above the rest of this pool and will easily come out on top.
Amanda Varnauskas returns to Boston University for another season | Photo Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography
RIT and Harvard will take the second and third spots; but the battle for the top slot is honestly a toss up. Harvard is a well-rounded team but is not overwhelming in any particular area. RIT has Matthew Niederberger, who can run through any team’s defense when he is supported by beaters; however, RIT’s beating prowess is less certain. The Rochester area is most notable for the impeccable chasers and keepers it produces, but falls a bit flat in the beater area. This matchup will ultimately come down to how well Harvard’s beaters are playing, and if they can keep the score tame Harvard might take it. Brandeis will then take the next spot with Skidmore dropping from the tournament. Brandeis is by no means a great team, but based on the fact that it has played more official games against more varied teams than Skidmore, it likely would have claimed the fourth spot even without the drop.

Pool C:
The Warriors
RPI Remembralls (RPI)
Emerson College Quidditch (ECQ)
Stony Brook Quidditch (SBU)
Ithaca College Hex

The two teams vying for first in this pool are RPI and the Warriors. The Warriors and RPI met earlier this season in a match that resulted in a 50*-20 RPI victory. Neither side could finish off their attacks, even with the snitch on the pitch. The Warriors chaser defense managed to stop RPI in its tracks while Mario Nasta’s beating kept the Warriors at bay. The addition of Alex Leitch to the Warriors roster should give them the edge they need against Nasta. Nasta and Leitch both beat aggressively, and the hope for the Warriors is that they can cancel each other out.

Alex Leitch joins the Warriors after an intense MLQ season | Photo Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography
Emerson College Quidditch has yet to find its groove as a team this season and sits uncomfortably in the middle of the pool. The team lost every game at Oktoberfest, and it struggled to connect on passes and win beater duels. Despite these issues, Emerson has consistently faced some of the best teams in the Northeast. That experience places it on a tier slightly above Stony Brook, which is a strong team all around but lacks a star to compete against better teams. Stony Brook has the potential to steal a win again Emerson if it can get a lead early against them. Ithaca remains a big question mark since it has yet to play any official matches. This pool has the most potential for upsets; RPI and the Warriors are both favorites to win the pool, but Emerson or Stony Brook could surprise as well.

Pool D:
Quidditch Club Boston (QCB)
Tufts University Tufflepuffs (TUQ)
Macaulay Honors College Marauders
The Rogues
University at Buffalo Dragons (UBD)

QCB is inevitably going to win this pool. No team has managed to play in range against it this season, and it has faced better competition compared to any team in this pool. Every other team in Pool D needs to make a choice: play QCB all out, or accept the loss and rest. Getting a good seed going into the playoffs will be a matter of trying to minimize the point differential.

QC Boston’s domination of this season indicates a good showing at regionals | Photo Credit: Nikki Smith Photography
Tufts and the Marauders stand the best chance of putting up points against QCB. Tufts has gone through an awkward transition since last season. The Tufflepuffs have a sizable returning chasing corps, but their beaters are new to the game. The absences of David Stack and Andrew Miller have left a gaping hole in the team this fall. Stack was the clear MVP at keeper during last year’s regional final, while Miller is an established top beater in the Northeast. According to official rosters Stack should make his first appearance for TUQ this weekend. He needs to be able to shake off the rust from not playing in order to lead his team. If Stack can’t work his magic , TUQ is not the definitive number two team in the pool. The Marauders are the best Pot 4 team in the tournament. They have the potential to pick up wins against the higher ranked Rogues and Tufflepuffs. Tufts has a more cohesive passing game, but the Marauders are willing to play physically.

The Rogues are talented and athletic, but raw. The Rogues roster is almost entirely made up of new players. In order to win against Tufts and Macaulay, the Rogues need to be able to adjust to their opponent’s level of play and learn each game. University of Buffalo has played a handful of matches last season. The team’s lack of experience will make it an easy opponent for the rest of the pool. Pool D is almost certainly this tournaments “Pool of Death.” TUQ has the potential to win in any other pool, and the Marauders could have avoided a play-in game on Day Two had they been placed anywhere else.

Pool E:
New York Quidditch Club (NYQC)
SUNY Geneseo
Syracuse University Quidditch Club
New York Badassalisks (NYB)
University of Massachusetts Amherst Crabs (UMass)

There is no question that NYQC (formerly NYU) will remain basically uncontested for all of pool play. While NYQC is by no means an unbeatable team, it is certainly a cut above every other team in this pool. Dylan Meehan and Stanford Zhou are both more than capable beaters and will have to step up as NYQC’s main beating force to control the pace of its games. Zack Gindes and Kyle Carey are strong leaders and they will have no issue piloting a great team to success. Timothy Gersten, who got his first foray into quidditch at ECQ last year, is not the most experienced player but one who, without a doubt, will be an asset to NYQC’s chasing line. Austin Nuckols has also been a promising player on many fronts, and although he has a way to go developmentally, he is definitely one to keep an eye on.

Dylan Meehan is expected to bring much experience to NYQC’s beater core after playing with the Titans in MLQ last summer | Photo Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography
With the rest of the teams, there is not much to write home about. Despite being ranked rather high on USQ, Geneseo is not a team to expect much from. The team will most likely come second in its pool, but its closest matchup skill-wise – barring NYQC – will be against Syracuse, a team that Geneeso has already beaten before. Geneseo is a team who seemingly wins mostly on snitch grabs as several of the games it won this season were either SWIM or 10 points off from being in range. NYB and Syracuse will be the third and fourth ranked teams in the pool based solely on the fact that they are both more experienced than UMass.

Bracket Play

Of the 24 teams in the tournament, 20 move on to play Day Two. The top 12 of these teams move on immediately to bracket play while the other eight have to play in matches to enter the round of 16. Teams that lose in the first round of bracket play are placed in a single elimination losers bracket. From the losers bracket, two teams qualify for Nationals; the remaining eight bids are given to the winners of the round of 16 for a total of 10 bids. Due to the addition of Rochester United and allocation of slightly fewer bids to the Northeast, one team that traditionally qualifies for Nationals will not qualify this year. Harvard, Hofstra, Macaulay or Emerson may find themselves in this situation.

Once bids have been allocated, bracket play becomes a game of luck and conservation. Every team wants to avoid the tournament favourite, QCB, until the finals. QCB should take the No. 1 seed, while Rochester United takes the No. 2 seed. The remaining top seeds are a toss up between NYQC, RPI, Tufts, the Warriors, and BU. It is unlikely that any team outside of these seven will advance to the semifinals. The Northeast could see a three-community-team semifinal this year. Chances are high that the finals will feature a community team, a first in NERC history. The overwhelming opinion in the Northeast is that QCB will win the Northeast Regional Championship. The team is gifted in every facet of quidditch, and has the most collective experience in the region. It would be surprising if any team can stay in range against it, let alone beat it. This year’s Northeast Regional Championship has effectively become a competition to see who is second best. Will it be Rochester United, or does a college team stand a chance at reaching the finals? Only one thing is for sure, this Halloween weekend is going to be full of some tricks and beats.

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