Friday, November 6, 2015

Great Lakes Regional Championship Preview

By Tyler Walker Nov. 7 marks the second of eight USQ Regional Championships as 20 teams from the Great Lakes descend upon West Chester, Ohio for the 2015 Great Lakes Regional Championship. The top nine teams will qualify for US Quidditch Cup 9 in April.

The Pool with All the Ohio Teams
Miami University
University of Southern Indiana Quidditch (USI)
Ohio State Quidditch (OSU)
Toledo Quidditch
Lake Effect Tempest (LET) Miami, OSU, and LET make it crowded at the top. Miami comes into the regional championship as the most impressive Great Lakes team so far this season. The Super Ball Brothers Brawl tournament showed exactly what Miami could be this season with in-snitch-range games against the Ball State Cardinals (BSU), Michigan State Quidditch (MSU), and Great Lakes community teams Lake Effect Maelstrom and Lake Effect Tempest. Unfortunately, blowouts at its own tournament quieted a lot of hype for the team. Despite recent results, this is Miami’s pool to win. Connor Stonecash and Michael March hold down their male beater line, but Miami’s female beater depth will give it an advantage. Miami is one of the only teams in the region who can run a double female beater set. This set makes its defense a wall that top teams like Bowling Green State University (BGSU) or BSU struggle with throughout the season. Miami’s biggest challenge will be its lack of playmakers. Matt Mignery has handled this role, but when he leaves the pitch, the offense lacks the passing and patience necessary to score. Expect great things from Miami if it can settle down and focus.
OSU has a good mix of both returning and new players this season, which may help it gain ground as the season moves forward. Julie Fritz, one of the most formidable beaters in the region, remains on the team this year and will lead the beater line with veteran beaters Travis Hammock and Lacey Hutchman. Jeremy Boettner, one of the best quaffle players in the region, will also be playing for OSU; however, he will be wearing a black headband instead of his usual white. His high quidditch IQ and athleticism make him a formidable opponent against any beater in the league, and with big driving keepers like Drake Shafer and Jake Wright ,we could see a revitalization of Ohio State this season.
OSU Beater Julie Fritz | Photo Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography
LET is a team of seasoned players who will not make many mistakes on the pitch. Across the board, LET is a solid team, but it lacks game changing players. Aside from Krystina Packard and Ryan Sparks, this team won’t create match-up problems, but its abundance of male chasers can run with any opposition. LET will win by taking advantage of other teams’ mistakes and forcing opposing teams to make plays when they’re not ready.
USI is the odd one out, not just in its pool but in the region. Having played only one official game in the Great Lakes region gives this second year team great upset potential. Facing teams at the level it has this year will pay off for USI, but not this weekend, and not in this pool. It will be tested against the top and will make bracket, but expect an early exit on Day Two from this young team. TOL has struggled with numbers all season and to its credit has remained official; however, anything except last place might be a stretch in this particular pool.  
The Pool with the Top Seed
Michigan Quidditch Team (UM)
Ohio University Quidditch Club (OU)
Falcon Warriors Quidditch Club (FW)
Eastern Michigan Quidditch (EMU)
Indiana University Quidditch (IU) Anything short of a top seed for Michigan should be cause for concern. The team has dominated the rest of the region this year, only playing one game in snitch range against BGSU, and shouldn’t have a problem in pool play. With the strongest chasing line in the region, led by Matt Oppenlander, Andrew Axtell, and Zach Fogel, Michigan’s physicality knocks its opponents off their game. Beaters Erik Soreide and Lisa Lavelanet can control a game offensively and defensively and are a huge part of the team’s success. Add in Dylan and Zach Schepers, some of the best utility players in the game, and you are left with one of the best 18-minute quidditch teams in the country. However, despite having many athletic players, Michigan has yet to lock down the seeking game. Ben Griessmann is a solid seeker, but we have seen a lot of Michigan’s games drag on.
UM Chaser Andrew Axtell | Photo Credit: Isabella Gong Photography
While UM is the clear favorite, expect Ohio University to have its way with the Falcon Warriors, Eastern Michigan, and Indiana. Ohio is one of the most improved teams in the region, but has yet to play in snitch range against the region’s top teams. Joe Dent is one the best players in the region and has shown that on numerous occasions this season, but if he is not able to drive through the opponents entire defense, Ohio doesn’t usually score. At times Ohio shows flashes of a passing attack, but it relies on its beaters to distract the defense and Dent to do the work.
The final three in this pool all have viable chances to play on Day Two. Although IU is officially 0-4 this season, the team has played some good games, with the most impressive being a snitch range win over inTENNsity at Ball Brothers. IU has advantages over both the Falcon Warriors and EMU especially in the quaffle game, with players like Daniel Pearcy, Gabe Johnson, and Matt Pesch. The Falcon Warriors, on the other hand, will run 21-deep and make opponents stay on point the entire game. They have enough talent to compete for one of the last bracket spots. EMU will be the team watching on Day Two as it has really struggled to put points on the board, only outscoring FW and Toledo Quidditch this season.
The Pool with the Tournament Favorite
Bowling Green State University (BGSU)
Michigan State Quidditch (MSU)
Wooster Scottish Nationals
Carnegie Mellon Quidditch Club (CMQC)
Western Michigan University Thestrals (WMU) Bowling Green will win this pool. It has yet to lose a game in quaffle points and has beaten MSU 210- 70 in quaffle points over two games this season. A beating line consisting of Daniel Daugherty, Max McAdoo, Max Portillo, Jenna Rindler, Emily Dick, and Kaitlin Richard means BGSU consistently has bludger control. On top of its talented beaters, BGSU has chasers that can match both the physicality and talent of nearly any team in the region.
BGSU Beater Jenna Rindler | Photo Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography
Michigan State has to be very pleased with its pool. Although Jacob Heppe is still the team’s talisman and carries both its quaffle and seeking game, Michigan State’s fate will turn on its beater play. Jim Richert’s name was frequently thrown around this summer as an excellent beater and seeker for the Detroit Innovators and will have to be at his best for MSU to succeed. He along with Kiera Fisher, Brandon Ollio, and Jacob Bobeldyk, make up a solid beating squad that can keep up with most teams in the region.
The Wooster Scottish Nationals have looked like an improved team this year after their USQ World Cup 8 appearance. Wooster is another team that doesn’t make a lot of mistakes. It does not have the talent to compete with the top of the region, but Wooster handles games against the bottom of it. Wooster should make easy work of the remainder of the pool, while the game against MSU will provide a good gauge for how the team has progressed.
The Pool of Death
Ball State Cardinals (BSU)
Central Michigan Quidditch Club (CMU)
Grand Valley Quidditch (GVSU)
Q.C. Pittsburgh
Lake Effect Maelstrom (LEM) This Great Lakes Regional Championship will feature what should be a semifinal matchup in the first round of pool play. This pool will come down to a BSU and LEM game. Seeker Jason Bowling has constantly proven himself against the best seekers in the country, but this semester he has hit a new stride. At the Quaffle House Cup Bowling gave snitch runners fits by typically ending games on his first attempt. Ball State’s quaffle defense is among the best in the region. With ballhawk keepers Blake Fitzgerald and Nick Kaufman, opponents’ passes around the hoops have to be perfect, while the point defending of Anthony Votaw and Matt Brown is enough to keep ball carriers on their toes. The aggressive beating of Alex Didat and Erin Moreno makes it even more difficult to pass against this team.
Ball State Keeper Blake Fitzgerald | Photo Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography
Lake Effect Maelstrom is a very new team, and as such we can expect growing pains at its first full tournament together. While Ball State should win against a team still trying to discover how to play together, expect LEM to handle the rest of the pool based on its pure talent. Team USA beater Ashley “Crashley” Calhoun handled a lot of the work last year at the beater position, but is joined by Team USA alternate Melinda Staup and former Ball State Captain Danielle Anderson to create a talented beater line. In addition to its beaters, LEM has a gaggle of incredibly talented quaffle players. The line of John Gaffigan, Chris Barnard, Sara Makey, and Jeremy Day can compete with any team in the country, as can the line of David Prueter, David Wilber, Alyssa Marassa, and Tobin Knight. This will be a fun team to watch as the tournament goes. Each player will settle into their roles, but expect bumps early on.
Like most teams in this pool, CMU has very good beaters, led by Jack Slater and Becca Bennett. Slater’s hyper aggressive style and size puts a lot of pressure on his opponents. Pair that with Bennett’s outstanding field awareness and you have a formidable duo. Captain David Wier is getting this team back to competing with the top of the region using physicality, and smart ball movement to do so. New recruit Taylor Felton puts the team in a position to win any game it is in. CMU will inevitably qualify for US Quidditch Cup 9 but with the pool it’s in it may have the hardest road to get there.
No team should be more upset about the pools than GVSU and Pitt. Each would have finished with higher seeds in another pool but one will not even have the opportunity to compete on Day Two, while less skilled teams will at least have a shot. This will be a great game as each will be playing not to go home. Regardless of who wins, neither will be in a great position to qualify on Sunday.
Bracket At least one team will qualify for US Quidditch Cup 9 who did not deserve the bid. The bracket will be a mess because of gameplay penalties, but write in BGSU and UM to make the semifinals right now. If seeding had not been an issue, BSU and LEM would complete the semifinals. Two of these four will make the finals. Expect some party crashing in the semifinals depending on how brackets shape up. Miami, OSU, Ohio, CMU, and MSU will round out the US Quidditch Cup 9 qualifiers. BGSU and UM both have made solid cases to be the favorite this season, but LEM comes in as the most talented team on paper. BSU, meanwhile, is riding the hot hand of Bowling and impressive showings at tournaments this season. Plan for a wild first ever Great Lakes Regional Championship.

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