By Bruce Donnelly
The Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship took most conventional wisdom and threw it away. Amidst the chaos of dirt paths, hay bales, and frost warnings, the results proved to be even more unpredictable than the field conditions. Then, at the end of it all – just when one might think that anything could happen – the tournament’s most dominant team solidified its command of the region and took home the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship.
Before District of Columbia Quidditch Club (DCQC) and its seeker, Darren Creary, capped off the weekend with an out of range snitch grab in the championship, its opponents, Penn State University Nittany Lions (PSU), made waves over the two day stretch. Penn State, though, wasn’t always on the positive side of the shocking results. Early on Day One, a surprising tone was set for the tournament.
In just the second time slot of the day, the Philadelphia Honey Badgers lined up against lower-seeded Duke University Quidditch. From the beginning of the match, it was clear Duke had come ready to take a win from the highly talked about team. With the help of bludger control and strong seeker beating, Duke was able to break the 90-90 quaffle point deadlock with a game-winning catch to end it 120*-90.
Photo Credit: Isabella GongWhile the talk around the Honey Badgers took a tone of cautious optimism going into the tournament, the talk around fellow Pennsylvanian team, PSU, was a bit more anticipatory of a win – especially with PSU taking on its neighbor and rival, Lock Haven University Quidditch (LHU), in its second game of the weekend. As the game wound on, the expected winner, PSU, led its opponent in quaffle points, and teetered close to getting out of range. As LHU’s aggressive on-quaffle defense held the favorites to a 20-point lead, the team’s seeker, Josh Moules, secured the win from behind, giving LHU its first ever triumph over PSU, with the grab making the score 110*-100.
Lock Haven Seeker Josh Moules makes the winning snitch catch | Photo Credit: Isabella GongAnother surprising run of Day One came from Pool D, the only pool that featured a favorite other than the Pot One team. While many expected James Madison University Quidditch (JMU) to fall from its pre-tournament placement at the top, it was Rutgers University Quidditch (RUQ) who ran the table for the top spot. JMU struggled on its way to third in the pool, falling 130-60* to Virginia Quidditch Club (UVA) and then 150*-50 against RUQ later in the day. Meanwhile, RUQ trumped UVA in a close game that ended just out of range 150*-80 as UVA could not quite pull back in snitch range. With those two convincing wins against tough opponents, and a dominant finish over the Wilmington Warhawks (UNCW), Rutgers entered Day Two as the top seed in the bracket. This first day of stunning results just would not be complete without a similar finish to the day. In the last round of pool play games, George Mason Club Quidditch (GMU), set out to end its winless day against Wizengamot Quidditch at VCU. Despite VCU’s subpar season, in which it had yet to win a game at all, GMU failed to gain any ground over its opponents. Then, as the games of the day were finishing up, GMU fell victim to the final upset of Day One, as VCU ended the tied game with a snitch catch. If anyone thought the surprises would end there, Day Two instead added to the narrative of upsets early and often. In the first games of Day Two, the bracket play-in games, No. 14 seed Tri-State Lightning Quidditch Club took on No. 19 seeded Wilmington Warhawks. Despite the early morning chill, the teams played a hotly contested matchup. With tempers flaring as the snitch came on pitch, UNCW pulled away, gaining a 50-point quaffle lead before ending the game – and the upset – by a large margin. With a marginal upset to start the day, bracket play began and the fun continued! After securing the top seed on a surprising Day One performance, RUQ awaited the outcome of a play-in game between Hopkins Hallows and GMU. After No. 16 seed GMU secured its place in the bracket, the most atypical No. 1 vs. No. 16 seed matchup was about to occur. A day before, GMU might have entered the match-up the favorite, as it entered the regional championship ranked higher than RUQ, but a winless Day One made the underdog’s task seem insurmountable. However, even as Rutgers began taking a lead, GMU’s strong beating showed itself to be its own daunting force. RUQ’s fragility showed itself when the game mattered most, up 20 quaffle points with the snitch on the pitch. It only took a score of 90-70 in quaffle points before first-year GMU seeker Nikolas Adrian pulled the snitch to secure one of the biggest upsets at a regional championship. RUQ would not be the only Top 4 seed to make an early – and unceremonious – exit from bracket play that weekend. The second round brought the victims of an early upset, PSU, head to head with the No. 4 seed and tournament favorites, University of Maryland (UMD). Two-time defending regional champion UMD entered Day Two with a significantly undermanned roster. While early attention was on the team’s undermanned quaffle lineup, the loss of a beater would be its unravelling. Instead of having a prior obligation keep Mike Madonna from missing the quarterfinal game, it was two early yellow cards that removed him from the Maryland rotation. After a yellow for interference in the fifth minute, it took only one full play out of the penalty box for Madonna to take himself out of the beater rotation with a second yellow on a questionable hit from behind. Still, UMD did not seem dispirited, even against the hard-hitting PSU defense. It did, however, fail to pull away from its No. 6 seed opponent. Then PSU showed why the expectations for it had been so high. PSU’s strong seeker beating kept the score level with the snitch on pitch while also exposing the glaring hole in Maryland’s beating depth left by Madonna’s dismissal. It was all left to PSU seeker Josiah Hritsko to guarantee this year would crown a new champion. PSU was not done sending Top 4 teams home as it lined up against the tournament’s No. 2 seed, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). This time, though, the favorites would not let PSU keep the score level. With even beating, UNC’s aggressive quaffle carriers pressed PSU’s defense hard, forcing adjustments and getting out to a 30-point lead as seekers were released. Out of the box, UNC seeker Alex Crawford and PSU seeker Michael Eccker took bludger hits and headed to their respective hoops. The race was on to the snitch, a race that Eccker won, making a fast grab in his first try and sending the semifinal game into overtime. The five-minute period displayed a great explanation as to why both teams were there, but as time wore down, PSU took the 10-point quaffle lead. UNC drove in hard at hoops, making one last effort to force a second overtime. With the quaffle carrier tackled just before the hoops, UNC’s beaters worked to clear defenders. Just as the opening was made, however, the final whistle sounded and UNC left its second consecutive regional championship down 10 in overtime. As much as the Cinderella story is a fun one to tell in sports, PSU would not complete its run when it faced DCQC in the finals. In a weekend where DCQC played only one snitch-range game – against Lock Haven in the quarterfinals – it continued its unstoppable pace. The magic of PSU’s previous two games had worn off, and the team was unable to grab that one last catch before the incredibly talented DCQC team blew open an 18th minute, 20-point lead into an out-of-range game. After DCQC doubled its lead and then some, Creary caught a one-armed snitch to cap off DCQC’s dominant weekend with a 200*-110 regional championship victory.
Photo Credit: Isabella GongAll-MARC Tournament Teams
By Steve Minnich Every team had its fair share of standout players during this season’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship (MARC), and our analysts got together to select teams that stood ahead above the competition. With crunching hits and tasty beats dropping as often as points were put on the board, this defense-first mentality is highlighted with the selection of an All-MARC Defensive Team to go along with an All-MARC First Team. Listed below are the two teams with analysts offering their takes on some players’ inclusion. All-MARC First Team Keeper: Justin Cole, UNC
Cole takes this spot over stiff competition from the field. While Andrew McGregor’s fluid drives (DCQC), Brenden Hutton’s hot shots (UMD), and JC Arencibia’s smashing defense (RUQ) all had them in consideration, it was Cole’s ability to block shots, create opportunities on offense, and finish plays that earned him this spot. If these skills are not impressive enough, he did it all with a bum ankle. Cole’s physical strength is complemented by his ability to defend on both sides of his body, making jukes a lot more difficult for opposing players. Chaser: Max Miceli, DCQC
No question about it, Miceli was the engine that kept DCQC’s offense running. In the championship game alone, he accounted for 80 points on his own and assisted on another 30. He could have had more if he and McGregor had not played pattycakes mid-pitch every possession with the snitch on pitch. Miceli’s strong passing abilities stood out in the game against the Penn State University Nittany Lions (PSU) because he opened up DCQC’s other chasers to make intelligent plays and strong drives. Just as impressive was his performance on defense, swapping seamlessly between point defending or pinning attackers to the ground.
DCQC chaser Max Miceli | Photo Credit: Isabella GongChaser: Brandon Poole, Appalachian Apparators Quidditch (AA)
Poole put in big performances to get his underpowered team into US Quidditch Cup 9. His versatility on the wing and finishing touch drove the Apparators to victory, while his hands-on defense neutralized Cole in a way nobody else could in their early matchup, ultimately earning him this spot over such power players as Eric King (UMD), Jonathan Milan (GMU), and Cory Apps (GMU). Chaser: Lindsay Marella,RUQ
While Marella flexed her versatility at times with a black headband on, she was a force in white. As chaser, Marella was unstoppable on the offensive wing and immovable on defense. Scoring almost at will and neutralizing her mark on nearly every possession, she earns this spot over Jenna Dragoon’s finishing touch (LHU) and Liz Ebeling’s sticky hands (UMD).
Rutgers beater Lindsay Marella | Photo Credit: Isabella GongBeater: Scott Axel, PSU
In a field of top-level beaters, there was no outplaying Axel on PSU’s way to the championship match; the best an opponent could do was to neutralize him. Axel has been talked about as the best beater in the region, and his seeker beating in close games made it clear that he belongs on this team. That is not to discount his beating against quaffle carriers, which is a large part of why PSU stayed competitive in so many games. Commanding the field with vision, quick feet, and a sniping cannon of an arm, Axel cleared the way for his physical team to run through a defense while holding opponents hostage in his own end. Where Axel really stood out above Jeremy Dehn’s fast feet (UMD), Kyle Bullins’ bullish hits (UNC), and Carlos Metz’s tactical takedowns (DCQC) was in his ability to clear away the area around a snitch runner, commandeering the snitch game while keeping himself in the quaffle game at the same time. Beater: Isabella Newton, UMD
Newton seems almost untouchable in this spot by now. She served as the unfaltering rock on defense, shutting down the middle while her partner darted around to disrupt opposing offenses in the time she bought with her positioning. On offense, she dropped timely beats and laid physical lumber to carve out lanes for her keepers to hit an open shot or to find a receiver towering at the hoops. Seeker: Michael Eccker, PSU
In brackets, PSU needed a snitch catch to win against the Philadelphia Honey Badgers (PHB), defeat UMD, and push overtime against UNC. With deceptive moves and fast hands, Eccker was an almost unstoppable force during bracket play. He caught in mere seconds against a Honey Badgers team who came hungry for a win, and after a close snitch grab attempt was called back against UMD for a shirt pull, he proceeded to work through and tire out the experienced snitch to earn an easy catch for his substitute, Josiah Hritsko. He followed this performance up with perhaps his most important of the tournament, a 20-second catch to force overtime against UNC, minimizing time for a team that can really amp it up with the snitch on pitch. Eccker put in tough work against top-level opponents with games on the line, so it is an easy choice to honor him as the All-MARC team seeker.
Penn State seeker Michael Eccker | Photo Credit: Isabella GongAll-MARC Defensive Team Keeper: JC Arencibia, RUQ
Arencibia was a monster on the field, laying out big hits everywhere on the pitch. A sometimes point chaser, the big man was best at his hoops where he could use his reach to block shots and his physical presence to stop drives, earning him this spot above Ben Mertens’ shot-blocking and slow pace (GMU), Justin Cole’s physical play (UNC), and Austin Hartman’s air presence (LHU).
Rutgers keeper JC Arencibia | Photo Credit: Isabella GongChaser: Thomas “Jaws” Jaworski, PSU
Penn State has been lauded recently for having the most physical defense in the region, and “Jaws” was the big piece leading the way up front. His quick feet kept creative attackers in front of him, while his stout presence planted hesitant passers into the dusty pasture. His play at point minimized the production of PSU’s tough opponents in the bracket, disrupting Justin Cole’s passing vision and pushing Brenden Hutton’s fiery shooting off-target. Jaworski is a major reason that PSU’s defense remained staunch throughout the weekend and propelled it to the finals.
Penn State chaser Thomas Jaworski | Photo Credit: Isabella GongChaser: Lee Hodge, UNC
Hodge was his usual self at MARC, and his usual self is really good. After watching Hodge play, it is clear that no opponent phases him, which is rightly so. His timing on hits is just right to interrupt what had seemed an easy pass or swallow up what seemed a hole in the defense just moments before. He knows how to hit a quaffle carrier in a way that stops the play dead instead of moving the quaffle to a passing option. Chaser: Liz Ebeling, Maryland Quidditch
While Marella was a strong candidate to appear on the defensive squad as well, and UVA’s Sarah Vanlandingham’s reach had distributors panicking, Ebeling takes the spot with her remarkable defensive range. Playing in Maryland’s spread zone, Ebeling seemed to get in everyone’s way with close marking. She forced turnovers all tournament with a range from hits to blocked passes, and she tipped or intercepted balls in the air. A solid tackler, she bats down poor passes and knows where every player is on the field at all times. Beater: Caitie Probst,LHU
Lock Haven made waves at MARC on the back of its defense, and Probst was the anchor in the middle. In a defense that funneled drivers into a pit, Probst prowled in the center and finished the job with accurate and timely beats, shutting down drive after drive. The reason LHU’s games were so close was its strong defensive beating. Beater: Scott Axel, PSU
Axel edged out the competition again here with his dominant beating after 18 minutes. When the snitch took the field, Axel really came out to play. It was not until DCQC spread the field with attacking weapons that Axel was neutralized, forced to focus his effort on defending a tough snitch while giving opponents time on offense. Until that point, this beater was unstoppable. He always seemed to know whether the quaffle carrier or the seeker was the greater threat in the moment and showed the speed and accuracy to adjust accordingly.
Penn State beater Scott Axel | Photo Credit: Isabella GongJacqui Ahearn, Bruce Donnelly, and Zak Hewitt contributed to reporting.