Monday, November 16, 2015

Midwest: 7-5-3-1

By Chris Fisher 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 Midwest region has a lot to consider this season, especially in regards to predicting the victor at the Midwest Regional Championship in November.
7 Players to Watch: 1. Jacob Parker (Mizzou Quidditch): Last year saw Mizzou Quidditch take huge strides forward as a team when it made it to the semifinals at the 2014 Midwest Regional Championship and advanced to bracket play at World Cup 8, both big milestones for the program. However, as is the case with almost every collegiate team, it has lost key players to graduation. Probably the biggest loss is that of starting keeper Josh Ebbesmeyer who has been Mizzou’s best ball handler for the past couple years. It will be up to Parker to pick up where Ebbesmeyer left off, and Parker is more than capable of doing just that. He has a blend of physicality and finesse that is ideal for keepers. He ran the show enroute to the Final Four finish at the regional championship last year, in only his first semester playing, with Ebbesmeyer absent due to injury. It will be exciting to see what he can do with a season under his belt.
2. Jeffrey Siwek (Illinois State University Firebirds): Siwek has made huge strides as a player over the last two years, and is now one of the captains of the Firebirds. Illinois State will look to Siwek to put the majority of its points on the board, especially early in the season as it tries to find its footing after losing key offensive players Alyssa Marassa and Nick Sorrentino to graduation this summer. Siwek’s confidence as a player has definitely increased recently, and he has looked much more physical driving to the hoops, a great addition to his skill set. Another newfound addition to his skill set is seeking, so watch out for that this year. 3. Alexander Obanor (TC Frost): To be blunt, Obanor has the raw athleticism to be the best chaser in this region, hands down. So it is frustrating to know that he has played at two World Cups now without garnering much attention. TC Frost is a team that has been right on the competitive edge, making two trips to World Cup and even picking up a few victories, yet it never seems to be able to stick with the top teams at bigger tournaments.With this new region, though, this could be the year that everything changes. Another reason to think TC Frost may be more competitive this year is that it is Obanor’s first year as the team’s coach, along with coaches Luke Zak and Zane Kaiser. If Obanor can dedicate himself to the team, build a system to help it excel and use its natural talent, TC Frost could be a very different team this year, and Obanor has the potential to lead his teammates to new heights.
4. Courtney Chediak (Kansas Quidditch): Chediak is one of the most highly regarded chasers in the Midwest. However, after she spent part of last season on the  Crimson Warhawks and is now dealing with concussion issues, it is up in the air whether or not Chediak remains the best female chaser the new Midwest has to offer. Chediak is one of the most experienced players (if not the most experienced) on the released Kansas roster. While not in a captain position, she will still bring veteran leadership to the pitch. If Kansas can get her on top of her game and as involved in the offense as she was two years ago at the regional championship, where the team finished as runner-up, it may just be able to hoist the regional trophy this time around. 5. TJ Thurmond (Iowa State Quidditch): Iowa State is a team that has been around a lot longer than most people think. Despite being official for three years, the team has never really broken into the competitive quidditch scene. Thurmond has great speed, and really impressed at the shortened Midwest Fantasy Tournament earlier this summer. Thurmond is a strong driver and also a competent seeker, bringing a good utility player to his team as it looks to get over the hump this year. 6. Hallie Schley (Minnesota Quidditch): Schley will pair with Minnesota Captain Tim Ohlert to form one of the top beating pairs in the region. Having played together for a while, they have chemistry and the knowledge of Minnesota’s famous Hoop Zone defense. Schley and Ohlert will be the heart of Minnesota’s defense, which should be as hard to score on as ever.
7. Maggie Anderley (Minnesota Nice Quidditch Club): Nice has some very good players and recognizable names, like those of captains Joshua Zemke and Cody Narveson. Anderley, on the other hand, is a name that is not as well known. This is her second year playing quidditch, but she has yet to really break out. However, she has the tools to be the best female chaser in the region. If Nice can get her involved in its offense, it could use that as a huge advantage, as female chaser is the one position where many of the top teams in the region lack a standout player. 5 Midwest Storylines: 1. Regional Split: While this new region did get to keep the name of the Midwest, it is clear that this is a completely new region. Many of the old Midwests most dominant teams now reside in the Great Lakes region. Minnesota, Missouri, and Kansas are the three high-profile teams in this new Midwest region. While Marquette University Quidditch is the only team in the region ever to be crowned Midwest Regional Champion, that successful fall semester for Marquette has proven to be quite a fluke. Geographically, this is a massive region, and while the split was necessary, this new region, unfortunately,  still leaves a lot of its teams very isolated from each other.
Kansas Quidditch at USQ World Cup 8 | Photo Credit: Sofia de la Vega Photography
2. Twin City Separation: This season will see the introduction of a new community team into the new Midwest, Minnesota Nice Quidditch Club. This new team will be debuting onto the scene this year led by a plethora of Minnesota Quidditch graduates. The team will be in direct competition with TC Frost for players in the Twin City area. This is especially interesting seeing as TC Frost is already an established program, and one would think the Nice players would have just joined TC Frost. As it is, Minnesota is quidditch-crazy enough to have sufficient players for both teams to coexist. Only time will tell whether they would be better off united. 3. Transfer Policy: Although it seems USQ’s new transfer policy has made an attempt to get rid of B Team set-ups, that has not stopped Kansas from keeping the Crimson Warhawks as an official team and competing alongside them. However, the new policy has kept any of the other teams in the region from making any new B Teams, despite large teams and growing rosters. Minnesota always has plenty of players in its house league, which would seemingly be a candidate for a B Team. Illinois State and Marquette both had multiple teams at Firebirds Opening Day, but these will not be official. 4. Growing Stars: Becoming a smaller region should give some players time to shine and get their names out there, especially those that were buried when being compared to ‘bigger name’ teams and players from the old Midwest. Beaters like Joshua Zemke, David Becker, and Tim Ohlert are incredibly talented, but were never given the recognition they deserved. Surely there are many other players who could be listed here as well, but hopefully their play will speak for itself, and many new names will become wider spread in the new Midwest as the cream rises to the top. 5. State of Illinois: Illinois is one state that always seemed to be on the outside looking in at the old Midwest. It would always have a few committed teams (Illinois State, Loyola University Chicago, Southern Illinois University Quidditch) that were official and would show up to a decent amount of tournaments each year, but none of them ever achieved much of note. The teams rarely were able to stay in snitch range with the more competitive teams at regional championships, and Illinois State’s upset of Central Michigan Quidditch Club to get a World Cup bid at the 2012 Midwest Regional Championship is probably the high point for the entire state’s quidditch history. With a much less crowded pack at the top of the region, this could be the year that one of these Illinois teams (Illinois State most likely) will be able to make some noise.
Illinois State Firebirds | Photo Credit: Isabella Gong Photography
3 Burning Questions: 1. Colorado? Yes, Colorado is the 38th state in the union, but did you know it is also home to at least two USQ official teams? Colorado State University and University of Northern Colorado both have been official teams for a while now, but their problem is that they are among the most (if not the most) isolated teams in the continental United States. Provo Quidditch, the nearest official team to both (excluding each other), is located more than six hours away by driving, and the real kicker is that this team is not even located in Colorado’s region. Playing the majority of their official games against the West and having been in the Southwest region prior to the new Midwest, Colorado faces a huge challenge to try to stay competitive. 2. Who steps up for departing players? The ‘Big Three’ programs in the new Midwest are as previously stated: Missouri, Minnesota, and Kansas Universities. Each of these programs is dealing with the problem that plagues any collegiate program: they have all lost key pieces to graduation over the summer. Kansas saw its veteran beater core of Doug Whiston, Samy Mousa, and Kate Cooley all move on; Minnesota had Cody Narveson and Zemke, among others, go on to found Minnesota Nice; and Missouri lost a lot of leadership and experience from its chaser lines. Kansas of course has the benefit of being able to draw from an established B-Team, and Minnesota has a large intramural group, but recruiting will be crucial for these three teams to stay as the cream of the crop, and could be the key to giving one of these teams the edge. 3. Who is the fourth semifinalist? If those previous three teams mentioned, Kansas, Missouri, and Minnesota, are a cut above the rest of the region, consensus seems to leave us with the final burning question of who will join these three in the semifinals at the regional championships and the regions final US Quidditch Cup 9 bid. At this point, it seems very wide open, and any team with a strong enough recruiting class could make the jump. The safe bet would be that the fourth semifinalist will be one of the following: Illinois State, Marquette, Minnesota Nice QC, or TC Frost. Right now I would have to give the slight edge to TC Frost, seeing as they have Cup experience with one another and a strong core. Any of the other three could easily step in as well, though, especially Minnesota Nice. 1 Regional Champion: 1. Mizzou Quidditch:
As mentioned previously, Missouri had its best year in program history last year, and I expect them to continue their upward trajectory and take the regional championship title this year. Having just won its first tournament in program history, the unofficial Firebird Opening Day, Missouri has the fewest holes to fill from its team last year. The team last year was made up of a number of first-year players who will only progress this year. Finally, the real key to their successes this year will rest on the shoulders of David Becker, the best beater in the region.
Photo Credit: Adi Licona

Cody Narveson and Lexi Bedell contributed to reporting.

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