Friday, January 22, 2016

Midwest Winter Fantasy III: Games to Watch

By Brianna Kaleel, Keller Stevens, Tyler Walker and Andy Marmer

To kick off 2016, the Midwest and Great Lakes regions are hosting the third annual Midwest Winter Fantasy in Michigan, a tournament in which over 200 brave souls will risk being covered in a blanket of snow for the sake of quidditch. This year, 10 teams were formed at the start of the draft. Who will be victorious? Who will be the first to freeze? Here are the games you should keep an eye on:

Pool 1 

Lime Green (Siwek) vs. Orange (Marvin)
In this game, the two strongest seekers in the draft, Jeffrey Siwek and Jason Bowling, will go head-to-head; their team’s beater lines will clash in what might prove to be a tough game. The late loss of beater Dan Daugherty will hurt Lime Green and may lead to its unraveling, while the Orange team has depth across lines. Jim Richert and Chad Brown would be enough for any beating line to deal with, but add in Daniel Gagne of Rochester United and the Orange teams beating becomes a true three-headed monster. Both teams beaters will have to focus heavily on keeping each other’s seekers away from the snitch. This will create absolute chaos around the snitch and could lead to a very high scoring game.

Jason Bowling normally seeks for Ball State during the USQ season. | Photo Credit: Isabella Gong Photography

Black (Walker) vs. Green (Richards)
Both teams dynamics look to rely heavily on the quaffle game. The Black team starts with Matt Oppenlander and Zach Fogel, both integral parts of the Michigan Quidditch Team’s chaser lines. Add in chaser Solomon Gominiak and keeper Taylor Felton, two top rookies this season in their respective regions, with the experience of Krystina Packard and Eric Wasser, and this team looks to be a scoring machine. The Green squad may be the only team in the pool who can keep up with the Black team’s quaffle line. Jeremy Boettner and Nathan Digmann are the main scoring threats on each of their teams, and once mixed with Zach Schepers dynamic combination of speed and size, will cause match-up problems for any team. Expect this to be a very physical game. The seeker game for each team is also very similar in structure; neither has an established seeker but each have an abundance of players who are competent at the position.

Gominiak prequeled his USQ rookie season with a summer appearance on MLQ’s Rochester Whiteout | Photo Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography

Lime Green (Siwek) vs. Pink (Harmon)
This game will feature the best female chasers in the tournament. The addition of Sara Makey either creates a female chaser line (comprised of three quarters of the Lake Effect Maelstroms offensive line) or gives this team the perfect personnel to run a double male beater set. Lime Green will need a lot of production from MLQ All-Star Sara DeLongchamp and her backups like Laura Ivy to keep the potential mismatch Pinks line can cause to a minimum.

This is not Delongchamp’s first rodeo with quidditch and she is expected to contribute heavily to the success of Lime Green in pool play. | Photo Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography

Pool 2 

White (Wier) vs. Grey (Wilber)
This will be the matchup to watch if you love defense. White’s beaters Erin Moreno and Jack Slater are enough to fluster any offense; with David Prueters fantastic shot blocking and some of the best point defenders in the region (Matt Brown and Jakob Russell), this is a defense that will require quality possession to even sniff the hoops. Grey’s David Wilber, Chris Barnard, Devon McCoy, and Kyle Judkins are all ready and willing to hit and are more than up to the challenge to keep White off the board. Beaters Becca Bennett and Jacob Dillon are two extremely underrated beaters who should thrive with the amount of physicality around them at this tournament. Expect a low scoring game with plenty of big hits and turnovers.

Erin Moreno's beating will be crucial for White. | Photo Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography

Blue (Richards) vs. Teal (Fitzgerald)
Two of the Great Lakes best keepers collide when Blue’s Matt Oates the second overall pick who helped lead Michigan to the regional championship takes on Teal’s Blake Fitzgerald of the Ball State Cardinals. While the star keepers headline the match-up, it may in fact be a clash of depth versus star power. Fitzgerald’s Teal team is highlighted by a quartet of Indianapolis Intensity in Fitzgerald, Rebecca Sampson, Alex Didat, and Matt Pesch. The team’s chemistry from experience together over the summer, in past fantasy tournaments, and during the regular season, (Fitzgerald, Sampson, and Didat all play for Ball State), should prove a huge asset in the rough and tumble world of fantasy. Blue will be dependent on its depth. While Richards made a strong early pick in Oates, his draft truly shined toward the end. Richards had a great series of picks during rounds 9-13: Brandon Kwak, Brad Whipple, Tatum English, and Elizabeth Nardi are all high-value picks at their draft position. The depth that Richards achieved with these picks gives him arguably the deepest roster in the tournament and could lead him to success, especially later in the day when depth matters the most. This will be the team’s third game of the day: will the quick chemistry of Teal prevail over the depth of Blue, or will having a stellar end of the draft be deciding for Blue?

Matt Pesch will be a key component of Teal's intense core | Photo Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography

Red (LeCompte) vs. Grey (Wilber)
LeCompte’s team, which initially boasted unparalleled versatility, has been devastated by drops. Lisa Lavelanet is a deserving first-round pick with the ability to star at both beater and chaser. While LeCompte undoubtedly imagined pairing her with Ryan Sparks in order to have two players who could play nearly any position, Sparks drop eliminates that possibility. LeCompte has seen a total of four players drop from his team twice as many as any other team and only received one replacement. Depth could certainly prove an issue for this squad as the tournament wears on. Wilber’s team especially will challenge Red. A team composed of hard-hitters, including Wilber, McCoy (making his return to the Midwest), Barnard, and Judkins will cause a depth-challenged team to find itself in trouble against this group of big hitters.

Lavelanet’s utility capability is one of the many reasons to become a fan. | Photo Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography

Let’s hope the snow doesn’t pierce our souls like it did at the Midwest Regional Championship 2015.

Jeffrey Swiek (left) and Colin Richards (right), gallop into battle at the Midwest Regional Championship. | Photo Credit: Brianna Kaleel

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