Thursday, January 21, 2016

Intergalaktik Cup Preview

By Kaan Bolat and Can Kaytaz

The first important weekend for international quidditch in 2016 will be the Intergalaktik Cup on 23-24 Jan., hosted by the METU Unicorns and held in Adana, Turkey with 10 teams divided into two groups. At the end of July 2015, the day before the European Games, the METU Unicorns started hyping their tournament and 11 teams pre-registered. Since day one, the Unicorns made an effort beyond imagination to keep the hype high; they designed a mysterious jersey for the METU Unicorns and METU Minicorns and opened up orders for this still unrevealed jersey that will remain in secrecy until the first match of the first day. The Unicorns tried to lure people into going to Adana with great and cheap package deals, and even started leaking information on the event page in addition to other promotional strategies. However, due to financial and logistical reasons, a number of teams dropped out; luckily, new teams were established in Turkey after the second Turkish Quidditch Cup (TQC). This helped to stabilize the team number at 10. As previously reported by the Quidditch Post, the tournament will be using Ethan Sturm’s proposal for the World Cup in gameplay. This report with delve into the two groups of teams in the tournament and previews of the teams attending.

Group Terra
METU Unicorns
By Can Kaytaz

Photo Credit: METU Unicorns

The Unicorns won the TQC two times in a row, and they have a 15-1 record against Turkish teams in 2015. This time around, the team will have the slight disadvantage of hosting the tournament, as the Unicorns will have a lot of responsibilities that might affect their concentration. However, the Unicorns are still the favorites to win the Intergalaktik Cup.

The Unicorns will be fielding 15 players at the tournament, with only one addition to the team since the TQC. Players of importance are star keeper Fatih Aykurt, beater mastermind Ruşen Sarı, point chaser Ahmet Can Karakadılar, and storming chaser Sıla Yüksel.

Sıla Yüksel put on a strong performance at the 2015 European Quidditch Cup (EQC) | Photo Credit: Dan Basnett

The METU Unicorns have a solid zone defence, and they have been adapting to a more pass-oriented game while still scoring from timely drives. The Unicorns’ inability to decisively catch snitches persists and might cause problems. But despite the added responsibilities of hosting a tournament, the Unicorns are still favoured to win.

Hacettepe Phoenix
By Can Kaytaz
Photo Credit: Samet Seymen

Hacettepe Phoenix taking second place at the TQC was a bit of a surprise, but the team has certainly proven people wrong before. Hacettepe Phoenix has an 8-8 record against Turkish teams in 2015.

The team lost a few players since the TQC, and the team’s former captain, Sertaç Alptekin, will not be attending the Interglaktik Cup, so the team will be relying on first-year players in its 16-player roster. Hacettepe Phoenix relies heavily on the performance of its keeper Okan Akdoğan and strong chaser Tarkan Gökkaya.

Hacettepe Phoenix usually tries for long passes behind the hoops and long shots a lot, but the team has players more than capable of making drives if left unchecked. However, the team’s defence is easy to penetrate, and its beaters get carried away from the quaffle play easily. Hacettepe Phoenix will most likely miss being a Top four team this time around, as the team has been more focused on giving new players more field time, although they have developed a habit of defying the odds.

BOUN Centaurs
By Can Kaytaz
The Centaurs are probably the team that made the most progress last season. Although they had a 5-7 record last year, most of the Centaurs’ losses were due to having a small roster for some time. The team took third place in their first showing at the TQC.

The Centaurs will be bringing 16 players to the Intergalaktik Cup, including experienced chaser Ecem Satıcı, utility player Arman Aktürk, and keeper Çağatay Ural

The BOUN Centaurs play a balanced game that tries to match their opponents at every level. In a tournament where the Centaurs’ closest opponents, the Hippogriffs and Hacettepe Phoenix, are in a weaker state, they can continue their winning trend to find themselves in the Top Three.

ODTÜ Hippogriffs
By Can Kaytaz

It was a huge shock to everyone when the Hippogriffs placed fourth at the TQC, as they were joint favorites to win. However, it now seems that the Hippogriffs are on the decline after an undefeated Turkish Quidditch League run before the TQC. In 2015, the Hippogriffs had a 10-7 run against Turkish teams when all the games are considered.

The Hippogriffs are going through a restructuring, as they’ve changed their coach and are trying to integrate new players into their pre-existing, tightly knit team. The Hippogriffs will be missing a few important players at the Intergalaktik Cup, including their hot-headed keeper Mehmet Ali Açıkbaş. The Hippogriffs will field 14 players, including their star beater Ekin Berkyürek and experienced chaser Mert Bekar.

The Hippogriffs play revolves around their beaters, and they usually score after beaters clear a path for their chasers. The performance of their talented players who lack competitive experience will be a key factor to determine where the Hippogriffs will finish in the tournament, which will potentially be in the Top Three.

OTDU Hippogriffs and Norwegian Ridgebacks after playing at Barcelona Moustache Times 2 (BMT 2). | Photo Credit: Laura Sayalero Platero

Norwegian Ridgebacks
By Kaan Bolat

The Ridgebacks keep showing up at special events like Tournoi de la Violette and BMT 2 since their establishment in the fall of 2014. Norwegian quidditch – as with all quidditch in Europe – has grown enormously within the last year, and Team Norway has shown their potential by placing third at the European Games last summer.

Combined with veterans such as Spiderman-like keeper Kai Haugen Shaw and beater and Captain Amund Kulsrud Storruste, physically destructive chaser Jakob Lenz will be carrying the strong squad of 15 Norwegians during the weekend. However, the team may feel the absence of key players like Jørgen Helgeland Stenløkk and Lisa Tietze.

Kai Haugen Shaw played in Norgesmesterskap i Rumpeldunk 2016 last year in Norway. | Photo Credit: CF Salicath

The Norwegian and Turkish quidditch communities are not unfamiliar with each other; the METU Dragons watched and learned from the Ridgebacks during Tournoi de la Violette, the Unicorns have observed both NTNUI Rumpeldunk and UiO Quidditch during EQC 2015, and Team Turkey matched up against Team Norway at the European Games. Both countries love each other’s playing style, and they enjoy playing against each other. The Ridgebacks will significantly contribute to the competition this weekend, and they will probably see some action, possibly including the Division 1 Final.

Group Luna
IŞIK Death Eaters
By Kaan Bolat

Having shown strong physicality in the TQC, the Death Eaters – formerly the Deluminators were proud to exceed expectations by the end of their first tournament. The Death Eaters won over the İTÜ Honeybees and Uludağ Aragog’s in the group stage of the TQC, while losing a close match to the ODTÜ Hippogriffs on Day Two. The Death Eaters have improved noticeably since the TQC and are now preparing to form a second team.

The Death Eaters are bringing a full squad of 21 to the Intergalaktik Cup, most of whom played at the TQC, and they are sure to give one or two good games for spectators to watch. Ambitious and aggressive chaser Murat Ekşioğlu and intelligent beater Emre Yılmaz are expected to carry their team as they did during the TQC.

Despite having good physicality and solid gameplay, the Death Eaters suffered a lot from not having read the rulebook during the TQC. The question of whether this is still a downside for the team will remain unanswered until the tournament.

METU Minicorns
By Kaan Bolat

Established just three weeks before the second TQC, the METU Minicorns showed  great potential during their first tournament; even though they did not win any games, they did not let their opponents crush them easily as expected in the group stage, and on the second day they gave what they had to their parent team, the METU Unicorns.

Since then, the Minicorns have improved significantly and showed this by recently beating the second TQC runner-up, Hacettepe Phoenix. The Minicorns will be bringing 15 players to the tournament, many of which played at the TQC, along with some newcomers. Daredevil beater Umut Yeşilkaya and promising keeper Alper Urgun, as well as strong chasers like Ali Deniz Uçar and Emin Ün will carry their team through Intergalaktik Cup.

The Minicorns will be following in the footsteps of their parent team, the METU Unicorns, in terms of gameplay; they will be led by the Unicorns coach, Kaan Bolat.

Uludağ Aragog’s
By Kaan Bolat

Despite being founded in the late spring of 2015, this Bursa team played its first matches during the TQC. The Aragog’s suffered from fatigue at that tournament, having only brought nine players, and the team’s lack of  gameplay experience left it placing eighth. 

However, the team may as well make up for the TQC at Intergalaktik Cup; just like all the Turkish teams, the Aragog’s have grown exponentially and seem to be bringing a physically solid squad of 16 players to the tournament. Devoted captain and persistent chaser Gülin Sedenay Saylam and her keeper lieutenant Talha Yapar will try to lead their team to Division 1 on the first day of the tournament.

The team’s gameplay is still a bit unknown, and it seems hard for the Aragog’s to qualify to Division 1, but they will definitely give us good games to watch during Division 2 match-ups on Day Two.

Bilkent Foxes
By Kamil Urgun

The Bilkent Foxes are a new face in Turkish quidditch. The team was founded this past summer, and have been training regularly under the captainship of Halil Can Sezgi and Ece Berkyürek. The Foxes could not make it to the TQC, which makes Intergalaktik Cup their first tournament. However, the Foxes have managed to win against the ODTÜ Hippogriffs and METU Minicorns 150*-140 in double overtime and 180*-150 in overtime, respectively.

Halil Can Sezgi played with Hacettepe Phoenix before captaining the Foxes | Photo Credit: Hacettepe Phoenix

These results prove that the Foxes will not leave the pitch without giving a mighty challenge to their opponents and they are a team to watch out for. The Bilkent team will bring a full roster of 21 players to the tournament so that the team can play their usual fast game without getting exhausted. With the exception of the team’s captains, who are former Phoenix players, no one on the team has played in a tournament before, so the large squad will be a huge advantage for them against more experienced opponents.

The Foxes’ gameplay depends on fast breaks and direct drives supported with passes around the hoops. As a talented beater and experienced keeper, Halil Can Sezgi is one of the key players on this the team. Team Turkey’s Ece Berkyürek and chaser Batuhan Eren are expected to contribute on offense.

The Foxes may be expected to advance to Division 1 but it will be hard for them to reach the semifinals.

ICR Marauders
By Niccolò Andrea Carissimo

The Marauders are one of only two non-Turkish team signed up for  the tournament, and they will use the Intergalaktik Cup as preparation for the French Cup, which will be their main objective this year. While the team is not too well known in the European quidditch scene, this is not the first foreign tournament the Marauders will have participated in, as they placed third at the North Cup in Belgium in 2015.

This university team looks promising, but the team will have to deal with a few difficulties: since the Marauders have only six players attending, they will be lent the support of four Turkish mercenary players. Thus, the team’s first match will be a warm up for their following games and a test, as they will have to create good synergy and communication within the team.

The captain, Evan Lebastard, will rely on the defensive skills of his team, and he says that the speed of the team’s chasers will probably make the difference during the matches. An honorable mention goes to chaser Lydia Calder, who previously played for Southampton Quidditch Club 1 (SQC 1) and was a member of Team UK  at European Games 2015. It will be interesting to see how her experience will help bolster the team for the Turkish competition it will meet in Adana.

Eye on Turkey
By Kai Haugen Shaw

Turkish quidditch originally caught everyone by surprise when the METU Dragons, a METU mercenary team, managed to place third at Tournoi de la Violette in Jan. 2014. People were expecting an inexperienced team with players struggling to keep up with the gameplay of established European teams, but what teams met was one of the toughest physical teams in Europe combined with great tactical knowledge of the game and superb beating. 

But since then, Turkish quidditch has underwhelmed. The METU Unicorns failed to make it to the winners bracket of EQC 2015. Although this was mainly due to the fact that the Unicorns were in the Pool of Death with SQC 1 and Titans Paris, they also failed to win the final of the losers bracket, where they were the favorites. Similarly the Turkish national team failed to make it past the quarterfinals of the European Games this summer, and Turkey faced a crushing defeat against Belgium, which Turkey expected to be on par with. The ODTÜ Hippogriffs also did not manage to create a big name for themselves at BMT2, finishing in sixth place, which – to be fair was a respectable placement due to the high level of the teams attending the tournament. However, the Hippogriffs did beat the eventual champions the Mighty and Amazing Quercs in pool play. 

But remember – all these teams were playing with a handicap, as they were not able to bring their full squads, much due to the high travel costs Turkish players faced. Therefore, this tournament will be the first opportunity for Turkish quidditch teams to play against European competition on their home court with their complete rosters. Therefore, it is a shame that we will not be able to see these Turkish teams play the highly anticipated games against Titans Paris and the Quercs, who originally intended to participate. It will still be a fascinating experience for the teams who have braved the journey all the way out to Adana to see the true force behind Turkish quidditch and the blooming powerhouse that is to be expected at IQA World Cup 2016.

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