Monday, October 12, 2015

Northeast 7-5-3-1

By Kyle Carey and Bruce Donnelly

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 Northeast region has a lot to consider this season, especially in regards to predicting the victor at the Northeast Regional Championship.

7 Players to Watch:

1. Tyler Trudeau: Trudeau is coming off a very good MLQ season where he led the Boston Night Riders in goals and assists. Instead of playing with his school, Emerson College, Trudeau has decided to keep for  Quidditch Club Boston (QCB), moving this team yet another step closer to the team that Boston fielded during the MLQ season. The key question surrounding Trudeau is where he will finish the year in the discussion of the region’s best keeper. While he is already in the conversation, Trudeau tends to be forgotten behind Rochester United’s Shane Hurlbert and Trudeau’s own teammate, Jayke Archibald. It is time to see if he can step into the forefront of the discussion.

2. Mario Nasta: Nasta had a solid but not exceedingly memorable MLQ season and it begs the question of whether he will improve on it for this USQ season, where he will be beating for the RPI Remembralls. Nasta’s beating skill and physicality are not in question; what remains to be seen is if he can rein in some of his wild throws and protect his bludger better with his school team. If he can, he will easily lead the next tier of male beaters in the Northeast behind New York University Thunder’s (NYU) Kyle Jeon and QCB’s Max Havlin and maybe even join the pair.

3. Jennifer Freund: As a beater for the  Macaulay Honors College Marauders, Freund is almost entirely unknown. She is only entering her second year in the sport, but it is time for her to be noticed. Freund has a high beating IQ that makes her safe yet skilled when she has control of a bludger and she has more physicality than most of the region’s female beaters, so she can regain control through force. There is such little coverage of Macaulay that she’ll be hard to keep an eye on, but if her skills continue to grow like they did throughout last season, she will be in the same conversation as NYU’s Leeanne Dillmann and QCB’s Lulu Xu for the very best in the region.

4. Carli Haggerty: There might have been murmurs about Harvard Horntails chaser Carli Haggerty before this summer, but the MLQ season certainly made her more well-known. After leading the Boston Night Riders’ incredibly talented female chasers in goals, she is already one of the region’s best. This tall, athletic chaser has great hands, fast reactions, and a quick release. Harvard might struggle again this season, but watching Haggerty grow into a dominating chaser is a good reason to keep your eyes on this team’s games.

5. Teddy Costa: Much like his Remembralls teammate Nasta, chaser Teddy Costa enters this USQ season with a lot of hype from his MLQ performances. His quick-scoring ability and strong point defending should not be a big surprise, as he showed flashes of those skills last season. While it remains unclear how Costa will settle into half-pitch offense situations, there is no question that he has the awareness to adapt to a slower pace at times and the physicality to give a lot of minutes in every game.

6. Jon Jackson: Rochester United is loaded with quaffle-carrying talent. While chaser Jon Jackson on his own is well-known and praised, the narrative of the team will have him greatly overshadowed by his teammates Shane Hurlbert, Devin Sandon, and Eric Wasser. It is going to fall on Jackson to take control in some offensive situations and lead United when he is on the field.

7. Andrew Zagelbaum: Andrew Zagelbaum might have the most memorable snitch grab for a Northeast team ever. That catch for a Macaulay team which failed to make bracket play came at World Cup VII against the eventual runner-up Texas State University - San Marcos. Between last season with The Warriors and his time on the field for the New York Titans during the MLQ season, Zagelbaum has not quite lived up to that moment again. Talk still swirls around his great seeking abilities, but he will need to step up this season and show them off. The Warriors may be in more snitch range games this year, so he should have plenty of chances to get himself back into the elite seeker category.

5 Northeast Story Lines:

1. Competing with the rest of the US: World Cup 8 saw the Northeast underperform across the board. NYU, Tufts University Tufflepuffs, and QCB were expected to make deep runs at the championship, but all three teams struggled on Day One. Some teams, like the RPI Remembralls and the University of Rochester Thestrals had unexpectedly strong showings, even as the rest of the Northeast tanked. The Thestrals managed to make it into the Sweet 16 while RPI managed an impressive upset against Arizona Quidditch Club. The blame for the Northeast’s performance is usually placed on the snow and the cold, which kept the region from playing any tournaments before World Cup. However, to fully explain the reason for the Northeast’s defeats, one also needs to look at the region stylistically. When matched up against Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, and Southwest teams, the Northeast floundered. The region was not able to compete against the physical, driving-heavy offenses of its opponents. Northeast defenses were not able to make stops without help from their beaters. Perhaps this is because of an over-reliance on beating or because the Northeast naturally attracts players of smaller stature. Still, the Northeast must develop a more aggressive style of play if it is going to seriously compete outside of its own region. This will be the year when teams in the Northeast begin catching up physically or fall to the wayside. As of now, no team in the region is known for its physicality as a whole, although there are individual players, like Teddy Costa of RPI and Harry Greenhouse of QCB, who capitalize on their physicality. If they want to keep up, the rest of the region must follow suit.

2. The rise of Rochester United: The creation of Rochester United deepens the field for this year’s Northeast Regional Championship. Combining some of the best players from University of Rochester and RIT, Rochester United will look to be the dominant team in upstate New York. Hurlbert will lead the team as the main ball carrier, accompanied by the experienced chasing of Sandon and Jackson. We have had glimpses as to what Rochester United will look like from the play of last year’s University of Rochester team, and this summer’s Rochester Whiteout. A solid seven Whiteout players are on the 18-person Rochester United roster. Hurlbert and Jackson will be the focal points of the offense, using their speed to drive for the majority of goals. It is unclear what the beating for Rochester United will be like. It does not have any proven beaters beyond Kyle Savarese, and most of its female beaters have never played quidditch before. The Rochester-area teams have always excelled at chasing more than beating. If Rochester United can put together a decent beating corps, the goals will come easy for its offense and it will have the potential to beat any team in the region.

3. Community teams and MLQ: College programs across the country have become increasingly wary of community teams, but no community team has ever been dominant in the Northeast. At times, the Warriors and QCB seemed to be unbeatable, but a college team has always managed to keep them from winning a major Northeast tournament. However, MLQ has changed the landscape of the Northeast. By creating stronger connections between community and college players, MLQ has made community teams far more enticing for top college players who want to win. Tyler Trudeau’s move to QCB is a prime example of this. Poaching from colleges has not been a big problem in the past, but there have been incidents of it. The Rochester Whiteout, the Boston Night Riders, and the New York Titans consisted of many players from Rochester United, QCB, and the Warriors. These teams will not have to undergo the awkward transition from the summer to the regular season because of their MLQ experience. Their players have been competing at the highest possible level for months. This year, the Northeast Regional Championship is on Halloween, so the amount of time to prepare is limited. This fall, it would not be surprising if we saw any one of these three Northeast community teams start to win, and win by a lot, against the college programs.

4. A rebuilding year for Emerson College Quidditch: Emerson has continually been a top team in the Northeast. However, this year is about rebuilding since the team has lost the veteran talents of Leeanne Dillmann and David Fox to graduation. At the same time, Dom Bailey and Tyler Trudeau have chosen to leave Emerson in order to play for QCB. The loss of Trudeau is the most devastating departure for this Emerson team. Trudeau was the kind of player that a college program could build itself around. His unexpected absence leaves questions as to what this year’s Emerson team will look like. Emerson has always had a strong pipeline of new players from its house league program, but now lack its stars as teachers. People raised similar concerns about Boston University Quidditch (BU) last year after it lost most of its regional championship roster. Like BU, Emerson should bounce back from its losses, but will not be the same team it has been for the last couple years. This season is an opportunity for new faces to shine at Emerson, and for the team to build up a roster that can become a force in the Northeast once again.

5. The Northeast Talent Divide: The Northeast filled 13 World Cup spots during World Cup VII. The following year, during World Cup 8, it received 12 bids. Of those 12 bids, 11 of the qualified teams had played in the previous World Cup, and the sole new team was the Warriors, who had previously competed in the Mid-Atlantic as the NYDC Capitalists. In the Northeast, the same teams consistently qualify. The divide between these teams and the teams on the edge of qualification is significant. On Day Two of last year’s regional championship, there was not a single team that qualified for World Cup that played a snitch range game against a team that did not qualify.

The Northeast has a clear divide between the top and the bottom, with very few teams at a level in between. Brandeis Quidditch and Syracuse University Quidditch Club might be the only two teams that bridge the gap. These programs have never been able to make the jump because they lack players that can carry their teams. It is more difficult to explain why the lowest-tier teams cannot make the jump to the middle-tier. Perhaps they do not have the size or organization to compete. However, it is more likely that the root of the talent divide can be explained by the phrase “success begets success.” The top Northeast teams do the best because their early successes as programs allow them to get invited to the best tournaments. More needs to be done to provide playing opportunities for new and struggling teams, or else we may see some teams pack it in because the competition is too great this season.

3 Burning Questions:

1. What will the Northeast be known for? The Northeast region as a whole needs to do some soul searching. It is often heralded for its beating, but the West region has had more elite beaters for a long time. Others claim that the Northeast’s great strength is its strategic advantage, yet this has led to very few big out-of-region victories. The character of the Northeast is in question: if they are not the smart region or the beating region, then what are they? The Northeast will never be the athletic or chasing region as long as the Southwest keeps churning out the players that it does. Other regions have definite organizational advantages, which can be seen by the prevalence of B Teams and large rolling rosters not present in the Northeast. The Northeast, the birthplace of quidditch, has lost its identity. Its individual teams have long and storied pasts and distinct styles but it is difficult to conceive of the region as united whole. This will have to be the year that the Northeast establishes new strengths, or it runs the risk of becoming an irrelevant region.

2. Can a New York team win the regional championship for the first time? Boston has held a tight grip on its regional championship monopoly. For four years BU reigned as champions, competing against Emerson for two of those years to keep the title. Last year, New York University made history by being the first New York team to ever compete in a regional championship final. While Tufts won the championship in the end, NYU’s success was representative of a greater trend. University of Rochester, NYU, and the Warriors were the only Northeast teams to make it to the Round of 16 in World Cup 8. Seven out of the 12 Northeast teams who won bids were from New York State. There has been a clear shift of talent in the Northeast. The top Boston-area teams are still the most elite, but there are more and more quality New York teams. Rochester United, RPI, NYU, and the Warriors are all contenders to win the Northeast Regional Championship. Still, you would be hard pressed to find someone who does not place QCB and Tufts in a separate category from these New York teams. The trajectory for New York is upwards, while many Boston teams have shown signs of plateauing. Boston has kept its edge in the past because of the experience and knowledge in their community. New York coaches, such as Kyle Jeon of NYU with his innovative attacking strategies, have proven that the quidditch intelligence gap is getting smaller. The strong community in upstate New York has also produced a growing number of experienced players. The winds may be shifting in New York’s favor, but it will take another month to find out.

3. Will we continue to see the two male beater set? QCB sets the standard in the Northeast for beating. When Michael Sanders and Max Havlin paired up at the beginning of last season, the rest of the Northeast had to adjust when facing them. This year, QCB won’t have the personnel to run a two-male beater set they do not have another top male beater beyond Havlin. In addition, beyond Julia Baer, QCB does not have female chasers capable of effectively running a two-female lineup. For other teams, it does not make sense to run two male beaters. It is simply too difficult to find two male beaters and two female chasers of quality in order to execute the strategy. Only Tufts, with its female chaser depth, can run this lineup successfully without a drop off in quaffle play. Emily Hickmott and Hannah DeBaets have proven that they can maintain a high level of play when they are on the field together. Tuft’s two-male beater setup helped secure its victory over NYU in the regional championship final match. It is unclear whether or not teams will continue to utilize this strategy, but chances are it will not be as prevalent as last year.

1 Regional Champion:

Quidditch Club Boston: Last season, QCB fell in the regional semifinals to Tufts. Since then, the team has expanded on that regional core. QCB now features Harry Greenhouse, Lulu Xu, Ethan Sturm, and Tyler Trudeau. These veteran players fill the gaps that the team desperately needed last year. Greenhouse provides QCB with a seeker, so that it will not need to turn to converting chasers. Xu gives the team the female beating option it never had. Trudeau can drive at an elite level, putting less pressure on Jayke Archibald to score. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is Sturm, whose head for the game will give QCB the ability to make key changes during games. If he gives input on strategy, it is going to take an exceptional team to beat QCB. This team has gone too long without a major tournament win to let this year slip by it like all the rest.

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