Thursday, October 22, 2015

East Midlands Cup 2015 Recap

by Lucy Quidditch and Claudio Svaluto

East Midlands Cup 2015 took place on Oct. 17, with six teams participating. The Loughborough Longshots hosted the Keele Squirrels, the Leicester Thestrals, Taxes Quidditch, Derby Union Quidditch Club (DUQC), and the Nottingham Nightmares. Claudio Svaluto and Lucy Quidditch sat down to take a look at what each team can take away from this season opener.

It is to be expected that not all teams will perform to their usual standards so early in the season. This can be seen in the results from last season’s tournament, where Nottingham suffered a poor opening weekend to its season, and then went on to end the season as one of the top teams at EQC 2015.

Overall, the tournament ran smoothly, with a high standard of reffing, especially given the last minute nature of referee appointments. The new rulebook caused less disruption to gameplay than was perhaps anticipated; teams adapted well to the new rules concerning resetting the quaffle, for example. However, the lack of professional first aid was disappointing, especially at a tournament with so many new recruits on rosters. This may be why QUK reconsidered their involvement with this season’s event.

Keele went into the tournament with some sceptics yet again predicting a down year, but as always the team reloaded well with athletes in all positions. Elliot Galbraith, a new beater for the team, showed great field awareness for a fresher, and played a large part in Keele’s final match after Connor Simpson was injured in the semifinal. The addition of Oscar Hearnden gives Keele another keeping option, and one who plays similarly to Christopher Scholes-Lawrence. Perhaps Keele’s current weakness is in its non-male beater line, with Mel Piper filling in at beater for much of the tournament – something outside of her normal comfort zone. Although Keele’s freshers show a strong base for another good year, Keele will want more than that, and changes will need to be made if Keele wants to challenge for regional or national titles.

Leicester, in a reverse of its usual eccentric results, were extremely consistent this tournament. In-range losses to Keele and Taxes even had the same root cause: an inability to keep up once the snitch is on pitch. Leicester’s beating game seemed to lack experience, allowing Keele to pull away and Taxes to make up a 70-point deficit from its two pool play games. Leicester’s freshers however were a bright point for them, with Alessandro Zazza standing out as a bulky keeper who could impose his physical presence with both offence and defence. This seems to beckon towards another up and down season, but expect Leicester to at least be in range with most high-level teams before the snitch is on pitch.

Loughborough, the host of the tournament, looked strong at points and weak during others. Bill Orridge controlled play entirely as beater against most teams, as one might expect after his performance at European Games 2015 this summer. However, his surrounding chaser corps often could not capitalise due to a slight slowness in decision making and an inability to drive through high-level point defenders. Perhaps Loughborough looked best while playing Hasan Azad a cricket player for Loughborough and a talented new beater while Orridge chased, giving Loughborough a solid driver and someone to clear lanes. It is hard to get a clear view of Loughborough going forward, as the team definitely used this tournament to give freshers a lot of game time, so expect better results in future games. Perhaps this was the cause of its loss to Taxes in overtime; the cause could not be exhaustion, as Loughborough boasted a full squad. Loughborough will want to practice keeping focus in high pressure situations, as its chances of a Top 3 placing in the UK this season may well depend on it.

Taxes brought a small roster made up of strong and experienced players to East Midlands, but despite its third place finish, its lack of depth was plain to see. In the team’s semifinal game against Nottingham, Taxes capitulated, giving up numerous turnovers and no-bludger situations in the face of aggressive beating against a tired defence. However, in its earlier games, Lee Baughan played particularly well, driving the ball and the team while the snitch was on pitch against Leicester and Loughborough. Baughan’s great driving ability, along with the experience of Taxes’ beaters, allowed Taxes to pull back into range in two separate games, with the seeking ability to pull out the results. Becky Thomson also shined as beater, with great catching skills and the ability to anchor a defence. Balance is now the key for Taxes. The team needs to focus less on building a strong roster of utility players, and more on having players fulfill particular roles in order to improve the team. Taxes certainly has the talent to shine in every factor on the pitch, and this will only grow at Southern Cup, with Bex McLaughlin returning from Barcelona to play for the team they founded. However, Taxes has little training time to figure out its best roster configuration before the biggest challenge the team will face.

Derby showed up with a small roster of just 10 people, and matters were not helped when Charlie Schofield, its captain and most talented quaffle player, was concussed 19 seconds into his first game. Derby will hope to bring a larger roster to Northern Cup so the team can actually compete, and put this result behind it. Derby would have been hoping to get more of its new recruits some experience before Northern, so it’s an extra blow that so many Derby freshers dropped out of attending East Midlands.

Nottingham won the tournament in tidy fashion, up at least 50 points on every team before the snitch got on pitch. A radical departure from last season’s results, the Nightmares came in aiming for a convincing victory. The addition of David Goswell obviously leant an extra dimension to Nottingham’s movement, but all of Nottingham’s freshers played impressively, rarely looking lost or making tactical missteps past the team’s first game. The only aim for Nottingham now is for its passing game to produce the same results as its driving, although with some of the strongest beaters in the country clearing lanes for the likes of Goswell and James Thanangadan, why change a winning formula? Nottingham will be very happy with its performance at this event, though the team will be the first to tell you that the season is a long one, and much can change before BQC 2015-16 and EQC 2016.

The Nottingham Nightmares put the ghosts of last year's event to rest | Photo credit: James Thanangadan


Group 1:
Derby 30* - 120 Loughborough
Nottingham 190 - 40* Derby
Nottingham 120* - 20 Loughborough

Group 2:
Keele 130* - 50 Taxes
Taxes 80* - 70 Leicester
Keele 120* - 60 Leicester

Fifth Place Playoff:
Leicester 140* - 30 Derby

Nottingham 130 - 60* Taxes
Keele 100* - 40 Loughborough

Third Place Playoff:
Taxes 140*^ - 110

Nottingham 120* - 30 Keele

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