Friday, October 9, 2015

Great Lakes 7-5-3-1

By David Wier

As the season starts to intensify, teams around the country look to understand individual players and competing teams in their region. With many new and experienced players to watch, five important storylines to look out for, and three crucial questions to examine, the Great Lakes region has a lot to consider this season, especially in regards to predicting the victor at the Great Lakes Regional Championship this November.

7 Players to Watch:
1. David Prueter: After an injury early in the spring semester, contributing in no small part to Central Michigan Quidditch Club’s (CMU) 1-4 record at World Cup 8, left him unable to make an MLQ appearance, keeper David Prueter largely fell out of any quidditch discussion. Since his graduation, Prueter has appeared on the Great Lakes Community Quidditch (GLCQ) roster. The Elite 8 team formerly known as Blue Mountain Quidditch Club (BMQC) will not take anybody by surprise this year with a lineup that is shaping up to have the best the Great Lakes region’s recent graduates have to offer. Much of the ball handling for GLCQ will fall to Prueter. Prueter’s ability to develop chemistry with new players, as well as continue working alongside former teammates, will be instrumental to GLCQ’s success in the fall semester and onward.

David Prueter will be playing for GLCQ this year | Photo Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography
2. Chris Fisher: Chaser Chris Fisher represents a second new key piece of GLCQ, although his presence on the team is still up in the air. During his time at CMU, Fisher was often overlooked due to the impressive ball handling of Prueter or the explosive drives and temper of Brandon Booth, but Fisher’s off-ball play behind the hoops was equally important to CMU’s success. After Prueter’s injury, Fisher had few ball-handling players who could offer the passes he needed behind the hoops. Playing on a team with a healed Prueter, as well as Gaffigan and other previous teammates, Fisher will fill gaps in off-ball chasing from last year’s roster.
3. Jim Richert: I am a firm believer that beater Jim Richert is an extremely underrated player. After Richert helped to lead Michigan State Quidditch (MSU) to the Sweet 16, it just doesn’t make sense for Jacob Heppe to be the only MSU player who deserves any recognition. On top of that, Richert spent his summer playing for the Detroit Innovators, and while they finished last in their division and sixth overall, Richert exceeded his team’s mediocrity. A summer spent competing against some of the best beaters in the country made Richert an even greater force, garnering more well-deserved attention for his team’s successes.
4. Erin Moreno: After the departure of Melinda Staup and Danielle Anderson, much of the Ball State Cardinals’ non-male beating will be in the hands of Erin Moreno. Moreno will need to do a phenomenal job of filling these two players’ shoes, both during games and as an off-pitch leader. Alongside Tyler Walker , Moreno played for the MLQ North Division champions, the Indianapolis Intensity. Her opportunity to hone her skills over the summer and develop chemistry with Walker, her presumptive USQ season beating partner, will help Moreno develop the confidence to fill in the void graduating players leave. Going into the 2015-16 year Ball State has lost the most significant number of players in the non-male beater position, so Moreno’s ability to step up in her own right and cultivate her back up is a key factor in Ball State’s continued success.
Erin Moreno returns to Ball State after a MLQ season with Indianapolis Intensity | Photo Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography
5. Matt Pesch: Matt Pesch is poised to be an instrumental player in mixing up the power rankings in the Great Lakes. This region is a top-heavy one, with teams like GLCQ, Bowling Green State University (BGSU), and Ohio State Quidditch (OSU) consistently rated exceptionally well, some considerable mention of Michigan Quidditch Team and Ball State, and then lumping of all the other teams together in an “everyone else” mentality. If Pesch is able to surround himself with a handful of athletes for the 2015-16 season he may be able to put Indiana University Quidditch (IU) on the map. In its first year as an official club sport, IU may get some wins off of mid-tiered Great Lakes teams this season, and Pesch might get some recognition as a talented athlete.
6. Alyssa Marassa: Historically, Alyssa Marassa has suffered from the same issue as Pesch; that is, being a talented player on a young team lacking depth and athleticism. Illinois State University Firebirds did not see as much growth between World Cups VI, VII, and 8 as some other teams did. In the 2015-16 season, Marassa will play for GLCQ and will finally get the recognition she deserves. Marassa is one of the most physical non-male chasers this side of the Mississippi and  a reliable passing option. Due to her previous team’s lack of depth, Marassa is accustomed to assuming a greater role in the quaffle game and taking on players much larger than herself. Marassa will definitely add to the physicality and raw talent of GLCQ, and will quickly be shifted to its A team roster.
7. Erik Soreide: Michigan Quidditch has been a consistent force in this region and is poised to be a top-tier team. Michigan routinely produces a breakout star, and this year’s will be Erik Soreide. Michigan typically runs an aggressive beating style, and Soreide fits this system. He offers a tighter alternative to Zach Schepers and, as a relatively unknown talent, will give Michigan the ability to hang with GLCQ, BGSU, and OSU.

5 Great Lake Storylines:

1. Walker and Daugherty beating: This summer saw Ball State’s Tyler Walker don a black headband, and if BGSU tryout results are to be believed, Dan Daugherty will be following suit for the upcoming season. Walker had a phenomenal MLQ season, leading his team to first in its division and earning him a spot on the North’s All Star team. He will be an asset for Ball State, representing a true utility player with the athleticism to back it. Daugherty seems to be more of a question mark. As he put significantly less time in at beater for MLQ than Walker did, it’s a wonder if his position switch will be as valuable. With the loss of Chad Brown, it makes sense for Daugherty to switch, but much of BGSU’s quaffle game revolved around him, and with the loss of Zak Hewitt to deal with as well, BGSU may be stretched too thin.

2. CMU Rebuilding: Most teams are familiar with losing key starters due to graduation or transfers, especially after this year, but no team was as wholly gutted as CMU. No less than four of its starters are no longer with the team, as well as its backup keeper and starting seeker Brandon Booth. CMU’s beating core is still mostly intact from last year, but had yet to truly recover from the loss of Ashley Calhoun, Andrew Derry, and Tom O’Neil the year before. CMU’s leadership is in the hands of players who have years of experience under the team’s founders, but whether CMU maintains its relevance seems to be a huge question mark that largely depends on the quality of its recruitment.

3. The Future of GLCQ: No team in the Great Lakes has sparked more rumors and questions than GLCQ. As World Cup 8 wrapped up, the future direction of the Elite 8 BMQC was on everyone’s minds. With the departure of Luke Changet and Alex Scheer’s abdication from leadership, Chris Barnard, the true breakout player of this region last year, took over the helm. A behemoth of a player who took the pitch for the first time no more than a year ago is now leading our region’s juggernaut of a community team. Early predictions have this team as a front-runner of the region, but as challenges arise in fielding a consistent roster and developing chemistry between veterans accustomed to a certain status on their college teams, it will be interesting to see how GLCQ actually performs.

4. Transfer Policy: In a community typically divided about most issues, the USQ transfer policy introduced for the upcoming season elicited an uncharacteristically unified negative response. In a region relatively heavy in B teams (the Mighty Bucks, Michigan B, the Spartan Spitfires, the Falcon Warriors, etc.) this policy has serious ramifications. As rosters are depleted due to graduation, we may see the evaporation of B teams in an effort to create the greatest quality A teams. These B teams, which have served as opportunities to cultivate new talent, may not see as much play time. The rule seems to be a necessity as community teams pop up, but it creates greater challenges for their college counterparts.

5. Midwest/Great Lakes Split: The Great Lakes/Midwest region split has serious ramifications for mid-tier Great Lakes teams. The Midwest will be dominated by the trifecta of Kansas Quidditch, Mizzou Quidditch, and Minnesota Quidditch. In the past, these three teams fit comfortably into the large amounts of bids allocated to the Midwest, with the typically more talented mid-tier now-Great Lakes region teams beating out the mid-tier Midwest teams for the remaining bids. With the regional split, teams like Ohio University Quidditch Club, Purdue Intercollegiate Quidditch Club, Falcon Warriors Quidditch Club and IU, who were some of the last to qualify for World Cup 8, will have little chance to get bids, and teams like CMU and Miami University may find themselves in fierce competition for any remaining bids.

3 Burning Questions:

1. GLCQ World Cup Roster?: GLCQ plans to use the tournaments leading up to the regional championship as tryouts for the team it will bring to US Quidditch Cup 9. Although rosters have been posted, what changes will we see between now, the regional championship, and in April? Will some of the returning members reclaim their spot on the A team? Will this system potentially preventing the development of chemistry hurt GLCQ’s performance? Ultimately, can the Great Lakes version of Lone Star Quidditch Club live up to the hype?

2. World Cup Performance?: World Cup 8 saw underwhelming performances from a number of the Great Lakes region’s most highly rated teams. OSU and BGSU, consistent World Cup performers and some of the most highly rated Great Lakes teams, did not make bracket play, nor did Ball State or CMQC. What went wrong? And more importantly, will these teams make the necessary corrections to prevent similar disappointments from happening this year?

3. Has OSU Fallen From Grace?: After a 1-2 record at Tournament of the Stars 3, with a loss to Illinois State University and an out-of-range loss to Michigan, OSU has had a rough start to the 2015-16 season. Although OSU showcased potential depth, talented veterans Jeremy Boettner, Julie Fritz, and Chris Bowman were joined by almost an entirely new roster. Is this further deterioration of OSU’s program, some of which we saw at World Cup 8? Can OSU’s veterans whip its new players into shape for future tournaments, in an effort to maintain the performance we expect from OSU?

1 Regional Champion:

When predicting a regional champion, it’s alluring to try to predict a Cinderella story. That said, only one team really makes any sense to win the title, and that’s Great Lakes Community Quidditch. However, such a statement requires qualification. If, and only if, GLCQ can field the best players its roster has to offer, will it win the regional championship. As already mentioned, it seems likely that Gaffigan, a key quaffle threat from last year, will be absent. If absences such as his are commonplace, a Michigan Quidditch Team including Andrew Axtell or a Ball State or BGSU team with some quality recruitment would have an equal shot as well.

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