Saturday, February 20, 2016

Clash of the Catalans: A Preview of Catalan Cup

 Written by Bex McLaughlin (Barcelona Eagles) with additional research by Alba Arrieta (Barcelona Eagles) and Paula Sorrosal (Imperius Zaragoza)

It is not just the teams of French Quidditch vying for EQC spots this weekend; a little south of Toulouse, in Tarragona, Catalonia, the four teams of the Associació de Quidditch de Catalunya (AQC) will be battling for one of two spots to represent their NGB in the international arena. The four teams will face off in a round-robin on Sunday, concluding with a final match and then a consolation game. For a small NGB, there is a lot of potential in Catalan Quidditch, even if the growth of the sport in the region has recently stagnated.

The Barcelona Eagles
The Eagles are easily the most internationally well known of the Catalan teams: they hosted the Barcelona Moustaches Time tournament (BMT) in 2014 and 2015, their players competed at Valentine’s Cup II and III, and their players were also participating members of the EQC organising committee this year and last. Entering this tournament as the current regional champions, the Eagles look to capitalise on their third place finish at BMT in September and winning Mangamore Kopa back in October, where they beat the recently-crowned Spanish regional champions, the Madrid Wolves, in a tense overtime game.

Last season the Eagles failed to make Division I of EQC, but they are considerably stronger this year, as their nearly unchanged squad finally has the synergy to match their skill level.

“We have a lot [of] strong individuals. I consider Pau Pérez , Pau Moncusí, and Marc Vilamú some of our strongest chasers,” Captain Alba Arrieta said. “Marc ‘Big MarkusGarganté is a great communicator on pitch at keeper, and our coach, Chema Hidalgo, always keeps morale high for the team.”

With many of the Eagles’ squad having competed at European Games 2015 and keeping up a tough physical training regime, the Eagles still look like the favourite to keep their title.
Prediction: 3-0

Barcelona Eagles 3rd at BMT2.jpg
Barcelona Eagles after winning 3rd place at BMT 2015 | Photo Credit: Laura Sayalero Platero

Nightmare Grims
Fuelled by the desire to prove themselves against the Eagles, the Grims also have the advantage of playing at home and bringing the largest squad of the event.

“We’re definitely getting better,former Catalan National Team coach Adri Medina said of his team. We had a sudden improvement last year just before the Catalan Cup, and we surprised everyone. Our main strength by far is our teamwork. We don’t have outstanding individual players, so we focus on training our collective game, especially working off basketball tactics.”

The team had a respectable showing at BMT, and “[they] learned a lot from playing against the Titans and ODTÜ Hippogriffs,” said Medina.

Hopefully this flurry of participation in international quidditch, as well as Grim participation in the Catalan squad at last summer’s European Games, will have further cemented the drive of a team that continues to improve. While the Eagles vs. Grims match-up will be exciting, the game still remains the Eagles to lose; however, the Grims should defeat Imperius Zaragoza and the Wyverns to secure their EQC spot.
Prediction: 2-1

Wyverns Quidditch Team
The Eagles’ cross-town rivals have struggled with retention and will be bringing a small squad to the championship. However, there is talent within the team, most notably in the form of Eduard Vázquez Espín and Raquel Berenguer at beater and with the physical chasing of Álvaro Mateo Álvarez and agility of Gabi Benejam. However, the team is unlikely to bring the necessary skills or energy to take on the Eagles or Grims. As such, the Cup is more like a training exercise for the team to continue to develop. With Imperius also taking a limited squad, it is a safe bet that these two will face off in the consolation playoff in a battle of who can fight fatigue and remain standing.

The score line from the Wyverns attendance at Mangamore did not reflect the grit and resilience of the team who placed sixth (and last) by losing to a tiny Toulouse squad out of SWIM. This determination gives the edge to the Wyverns to secure third place.  
Prediction: 1-2

Imperius Zaragoza
With Imperius bringing the smallest squad and travelling the furthest, the team is at somewhat of a disadvantage before the competition even commences. However, the team has strong beaters in Noelia Doñate and Maria Jesus Berlin. The Catalan Cup will serve Imperius as a great training exercise, as the unfortunate fates of geography and team density in the region mean a more than two hour drive to reach their nearest competition. A lack of tournament experience does leave the team as something of an unknown entity coming into the event, but it is unlikely they will pose much of a challenge to the Grims and the Eagles, although their match against the Wyverns is up for contention. It is unlikely Imperius will be venturing to Italy in April, but they will certainly come away stronger from their experience this weekend.   
Prediction: 0-3

The Catalan Cup does hold the potential for some surprises, but realistically, its results are largely a foregone conclusion. For the Grims to unseat the Eagles as regional champions would be a major upset; the Eagles have international experience and developed cohesion on their side. Imperius vs. Wyverns could go either way and will depend on which team has the determination on the day to keep themselves from the fourth spot.

For a small NGB, the Cup should present some quality quidditch. All attending teams stand to gain something, from general competitive experience for Imperius to the last chance for the Eagles to face opponents before taking on Europe’s best in Italy if they continue to fly high.

No comments:

Post a Comment