Monday, November 9, 2015

Mid-Atlantic Preview 7-5-3-1

By Erik Morlock With the season starting to intensify, teams around the country are looking 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 Mid-Atlantic region has a lot to consider this season, especially in regards to predicting the victor at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship on Nov. 14-15.

7 Players to Watch:
1. Darren Creary, Keeper/Seeker, District of Columbia Quidditch Club (DCQC): Creary was just highlighted after his incredible success during MLQ’s inaugural season. Creary was able to shine in MLQ because he was not forced into a ball-carrying role, like he was with Wizengamot Quidditch at VCU. Now that he has graduated from VCU and is playing with the premier community team in the Mid-Atlantic region, his success should continue for the same reason. He is nearly uncoverable because of his size, wingspan, and vertical reach. At 65”, with very good hands, Creary is a top-tier receiver who can only be stopped with a bludger.
Darren Creary played as both keeper and seeker this past summer | Photo Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography
2. Scott Axel, Beater, Penn State University Nittany Lions (PSU): Penn State is an incredibly physical team. The team avoids being one-dimensional with its strong beating corps, led by Axel. Its strengths on both offense and defense were displayed in the match between Penn State and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) at Founders’ Cup that resulted in a 220*-180 win for PSU after nearly 33 minutes. Penn State should only improve in the coming season with Axel leading the charge. With the ability to play aggressively or conservatively depending on the circumstances, he can single-handedly force an opposing offense to be patient or – more likely – grow frustrated. 3. Sarah Vanlandingham, Chaser, Virginia Quidditch Club (UVA): Vanlandingham has an incredible on-pitch presence, which she has established after playing in only two tournaments in her career. At 6 1, she is a very big target for a UVA offense that likes to have its female chaser behind the hoops. Her presence is also threatening because of her solid hands. One must expect her to continue only to improve as the season goes on since she is so new to the sport.
Vanlandingham is a fresh face to quidditch but has already shown great promise on the pitch | Photo Credit: Nicole Harrig Photography
4. Jonathan Milan, Chaser, George Mason Club Quidditch (GMU): GMU looks to continue its success after last season’s appearance at USQ World Cup 8. Milan adds his strong tackling ability to a defensive side that does not often look to make physical stops. Alone, he is able to add another dimension of physicality to the GMU defense. 5. Kyle Bullins, Beater, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Bullins is well-known as a hyper-aggressive beater for UNC. Since a long list of players departed from UNC after the last season, expect to see Bullins play a larger role than he has in the past in order to help boost the UNC offense that has traditionally not needed any help.

Bullins must step up this season to fill the gaps left by the large departure of graduates from UNC’s team | Photo Credit: Kat Ignatova Photography
6. Brendan O’Connor, Chaser, University of Richmond Quidditch: Richmond also has a somewhat depleted roster from last season. O’Connor will be the key player for Richmond, coming off of a winning MLQ season with the Boston Night Riders. Though not inexperienced as a central player for his team, he is more alone in this role than in previous seasons. Whether or not O’Connor will have adequate support will be the central question for Richmond this season. 7. Lindsay Marella, Beater/Chaser, Rutgers University Quidditch: Lindsay Marella was a part of the successful New York Titans and had a key role in their solid first season. She plans to continue this with Rutgers, a team that looks to make a run for US Quidditch Cup 9 qualification. Marella will beat or chase, depending on what her team needs, and can play in either position exceedingly well. She has size, physicality, and hands – a combination that is not particularly common for beaters in the region. 5 Mid-Atlantic Storylines: 1. The Rebranding of the Washington, D.C. Community Team: The Washington D.C. community team underwent a transformation this year from Capital Madness Quidditch Club to the District of Columbia Quidditch Club. The transformation also comes with a leadership change, with quidditch veteran Steve Minnich taking over as president of the organization. With the change in leadership and  name come a host of on-field changes and personnel additions, most notably Darren Creary as highlighted above. This new incarnation of the Mid-Atlantic’s premier community team should be interesting to track, especially after its solid finishes at Turtle Cup V and Keystone Cup II. 2. Status of Community Teams in the Mid-Atlantic: Aside from DCQC, the Mid-Atlantic does not have any other strong community team to challenge the top echelon of college teams in the region. Of course, community teams will continue to grow as more players graduate from college, but there seems to be a shortage in this region. As this season continues, spectators can expect new community teams in the region to slowly begin to challenge DCQC. Where these teams will be remains a question for now. However, the Philadelphia Honey Badgers could make a run for US Quidditch Cup 9. The Honey Badgers have been able to challenge some solid teams in the region in previous years and they should only continue to improve, since they avoid losing players to graduation. The team’s only losses at Turtle Cup V came to DCQC and Maryland Quidditch. 3. Effects of MLQ on the Mid-Atlantic: One would hope that after MLQ’s all-star summer league teams, its players would improve going into the USQ season after constantly competing at a higher level than what is consistently seen in USQ. Keep an eye on the MLQ players who are playing this USQ season, and see if their teams might have a newfound sense of aggression or physicality, namely Cory Apps for George Mason and Natasha Conerly for DCQC.
Conerly returns to the pitch this season after her MLQ season with the Washington Admirals | Photo Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography
4. Effects of Changes in USQ Rulebook 9: The Mid-Atlantic has typically been a more patient and calculated region compared to other regions. The reset rule, which does not allow a quaffle player to pass back into their own half of the pitch from their opponents half without an eligible receiver as the intended target, could perhaps hurt overly patient teams. Though discipline has not been challenging for many Mid-Atlantic players, the increased role of blue cards could also contribute to more penalty minutes in general. 5.  World Cup Qualifying in the Mid-Atlantic: We recently learned that the Mid-Atlantic is getting an incredible 10 bids for US Quidditch Cup 9. It didn’t take long for speculation about the 10 qualifiers to appear. Does Villanova Community Quidditch have the personnel to continue to be a threat in the region? Which new teams have a chance at last spots? Keep an eye out for Rutgers, James Madison University Quidditch, and the Philadelphia Honey Badgers as they compete for bids. 3 Burning Questions: 1. Is Maryland Quidditch’s reign over? Maryland Quidditch lost its first match to a Mid-Atlantic opponent since a loss to the NYDC Capitalists in March 2014 when it lost to UNC at Turtle Cup V. There might be temptation to jump at the possibility of Maryland being dethroned, but don’t hold your breath. Remember, Maryland took last year’s regional final to overtime with a snitch catch. Maryland was losing to UNC by 30 points then and still squeezed the overtime win. With so many snitch range games and the loss of Harry Greenhouse, the team was bound to drop one. Another Maryland loss will not come easily. Maryland is still the king to slay in the region, for now.
After a Final Four showing at World Cup 8, UMD faces pressure to excel in their region this season | Photo Credit: Sofia de la Vega Photography
2. Will the Mid-Atlantic continue a strong showing at US Quidditch Cup 9? Mid-Atlantic teams far exceeded expectations at World Cup 8. Now the region as a whole might be getting a bit more attention, so can the teams live up to it? Graduating players always make this a tricky question, since many talented players seem likely to stick with the sport and join a community team, rather than leave the league like one would see in NCAA sports. Still, it is early in the season, and with little cross-regional play, the strength of the Mid-Atlantic is hard to gauge. Mid-Atlantic teams have worked hard to show they can compete with other regions and at this point, there is little reason to expect that will change now. One might immediately think of powerhouse community teams like Rochester United and Quidditch Club Boston as challengers to the Mid-Atlantic, but USQ remains mostly college teams and we should see the Mid-Atlantic continue to compete in these interregional games, even if the top-tier teams outside of the region are getting disproportionately better. 3. Will the Mid-Atlantic Tea Party continue this season? You got the invitation, you just might not have realized it. Mid-Atlantic teams have earned a reputation for being overly chatty with the referees, often slowing the game to an abysmal pace. Whether this says more about the referees or the players is difficult to answer, but with changes to the rulebook helping to speed games up, many of these adjustments coming from the Mid-Atlantic’s own Michael Clark-Polner, these tea parties might be on their way out as well.
Referees may face resentment from Mid-Atlantic players this season as the pace of quidditch continues to pick up | Photo Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography
1 Regional Champion: 1. Maryland Quidditch:
Although Maryland Quidditch said goodbye to a number of departing players like every other college quidditch team, Maryland remains talented because its game works like machinery, and each player is an important cog. When one player subs off, the team is able to function the same way it did previously. Maryland is simply too deep and efficient to be dethroned this year. The road to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship is a marathon, not a sprint, and the well-oiled Maryland machine cannot be bet against at this point in the season.

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