Friday, February 26, 2016

Unicorns Win Intergalaktik Cup

Unicorns Quidditch of Middle East Technical University hosted Intergalaktik Cup on Jan. 23-24 in Adana, Turkey. Two-time undefeated Turkish champions METU Unicorns and their second team METU Minicorns hosted eight other teams: six from Turkey, and one each from France and Norway. Below is a review of the teams from both Division 1 and Division 2 in order of their standings, as well as the tournament overall.

Division 1 Teams

1. METU Unicorns
By Kai Haugen Shaw

As the defending Turkish champions and a team that is eager to make its mark in Europe, there was no talk of second place; the Unicorns were there to win.

Things were looking to go the Unicorns’ way as they started off Day One with a solid 130*-10 victory over the Turkish Quidditch Cup (TQC) third place team BOUN Centaurs. However, the Unicorns’ smooth sailing stopped abruptly when they faced off against the Norwegian Ridgebacks. While it was a tough and exciting game that could have gone either way, the Ridgebacks managed to take the lead in quaffle points and catch the snitch, winning the game 120*-70.

The unfamiliar playstyle of the Ridgebacks might have caught the Unicorns by surprise, but in their next group stage games, the Unicorns showed no doubt about their knowledge of the Turkish opposition. The Unicorns beat campus rivals ODTÜ Hippogriffs 140*-30 and then in a repeat of the TQC final defeated Hacettepe Phoenix 100-70*.

Going 3-1 on the day safely secured the Unicorns a spot in the Division 1 bracket. Here they met their junior team, the METU Minicorns, in their first game. While the Minicorns made an impressive effort, the game ended as expected in a controlled 130*-30 win for the Unicorns.

After that it was on to yet another face-off against university rivals ODTÜ Hippogriffs. Again the Unicorns showed control against their Turkish opposition, and with more motivation than against their junior team, the Unicorns won the game handily, 170*-50.

This got the Unicorns all the way to the final, where they were finally given the chance to redeem their Day One loss to the Norwegian side. The loss had clearly motivated the Unicorns, and the Unicorns took control early on in this final. However, they could not quite make it out of snitch range, and when they were 30 points up the Ridgebacks made a grab to send the game into overtime. In overtime the teams were dead even in quaffle play; however, after two missed grabs against the Scandinavians, the third time was the charm as Kaan Bolat got the overtime catch to secure first place for the Unicorns.

The tournament showed that the Unicorns are still the best team in Turkey, as well as a team to look out for in the upcoming European Quidditch Cup (EQC) in April.

METU Unicorns at Intergalaktik Cup | Photo Credit: Ömer Çetin
2. Norwegian Ridgebacks
By Kaan Bolat
The Ridgebacks, Norway’s premier mercenary team, have been a staple of international quidditch since their inception over a year ago. With strong showings at Barcelona Mustaches Time 2 and Tournoi de la Violette behind them and a roster rich in talent, the Ridgebacks were one of the favourites to win the Intergalaktik Cup. A decisive victory of 160*-50 over the ODTÜ Hippogriffs and 120*-70 win against METU Unicorns qualified the undefeated Ridgebacks to Division 1 bracket play.

After defeating Rennes Marauders 160*-0 in the Division 1 quarterfinal, the Ridgebacks had a tougher time against the TQC runner ups, Hacettepe Phoenix. After many tense minutes within snitch range, the Ridgebacks’ flair and experience prevailed with a 100*-40 victory, assuring their place in the final. The final match had everything: superb beating by both teams, excellent quaffle play, an exhausting overtime, and a dramatic ending with a great catch by the Unicorns, resulting in the first and only defeat of the Ridgebacks with a score of 140^-110*.

The Norwegian Ridgebacks played a very compact and adapted game; Kai Haugen Shaw once again proved his keeping and playmaking skills, Jakob Lenz demonstrated strong chasing, Amund Kulsrud Storruste exhibited excellent athleticism in quaffle play, and Mette Sundal and Stein Elgethun displayed some merciless beating prowess. While the Unicorns provided the Ridgebacks with an important test, the Ridgebacks gained great experience, taught a lot to all the Turkish teams over the weekend, and made strong bonds of friendship.

3. ODTÜ Hippogriffs
By Kaan Bolat
After shocking everyone by performing below expectations and placing fourth at TQC, the Hippogriffs went all the way to Adana for one thing: to reclaim their position in Turkish quidditch with a strong appearance at the tournament.

Day One started with a huge win of 210*-80 against Hacettepe Phoenix, to whom they had lost during the group stage at TQC. However, the Hippogriffs’ fast start was stopped by a rough intervention by the Norwegian Ridgebacks. Despite showing tremendous effort, the Hippogriffs lost against the finalists with a score of 160*-50. This, combined with a tough 140*-30 loss against METU Unicorns, resulted in the Hippogriffs placing third in their group at the end of Day One, despite a SWIM win of 100*-80 against BOUN Centaurs.

While the Hippogriffs started Day One by putting an end to the undefeated strike of Bilkent Foxes, facing the Unicorns in the semifinals once again resulted in a loss, this time with a score of 170*-50. The battle for third place against Hacettepe Phoenix was a clear win for the Hippogriffs; they ended the match and the tournament with a score of 170*-80, showing everyone that they are still one of the strongest teams in Turkey.

As usual, the ODTÜ Hippogriffs gameplay depended mostly on their beaters. While the veteran captain and strong beater Ekin Berkyürek led his chasers by clearing the way, Anıl Aydın has been a valuable partner in beating. Yiğit Tabak carried his team in the quaffle game and showed great potential as keeper, as did his strong teammate Mert Bekar. Despite putting on an impressive play in both chasing and beating, Turkey’s first established team suffered from the absence of their asset, flash keeper Mehmet Ali Açıkbaş. All things considered, the team made a strong appearance in the Intergalaktik Cup and returned home with the bronze medal.

4. Hacettepe Phoenix
By Can Kaytaz
TQC runners-up Hacettepe Phoenix made a last-minute decision to join the Intergalaktik Cup after persuading their freshers. Phoenix fielded a less experienced squad than the one they brought to TQC; they have lost their talented keeper Yiğit Tabak to the Hippogriffs, former captain Sertaç Alptekin left the team, and captain Oğuzhan Aydın could not make it to Adana.

Phoenix had a disastrous Day One, losing all their games. The Hippogriffs managed to comfortably defeat the Hacettepe side 210*-80. The Centaurs had a tough game against the Phoenix, but they managed to win heroically, 120*^-110. Phoenix made a cold catch against the Unicorns, mirroring the TQC final as the game ended 100-70*. The Phoenix’s day ended with another big defeat at the hands of the Norwegian Ridgebacks, 180*-90.

Day Two started slowly for the Phoenix side as their first opponents, Uludağ Aragog’s, withdrew from the tournament, giving Phoenix their first win of the day. They managed to pull one back against the Centaurs in the quarterfinals as Phoenix won 140-100* in overtime.

Phoenix played their best match against the Ridgebacks in the semifinal, where they managed to keep the Norwegians in snitch range for quite some time, only to eventually lose 100*-40. Another heavy loss at the hands of the Hippogriffs170*-80meant Hacettepe Phoenix finished Intergalaktik Cup in fourth place.

Hacettepe Phoenix at Intergalaktik Cup | Photo Credit: Unicorns Quidditch Facebook
Division 2 Teams

5. METU Minicorns
By Kaan Bolat

The Minicorns had one aim at Intergalaktik Cup: prove their talent after a seventh place finish at TQC in October. Despite losing every game they played until two weeks before Intergalaktik Cup, on Day One the Minicorns lost only to the Bilkent Foxes and stayed within snitch range. This was certainly an impressive showing for the METU B team, as the Bilkent Foxes were one of two undefeated teams of the day. The Minicorns did not have any trouble with the strong beating of Rennes Marauders and the physicality of Işık Death Eaters. The Aragogs chose to forfeit the last game of the day, qualifying the Minicorns to Division 1.

On the first match of Day Two, the Minicorns gave joyful resistance to their elders METU Unicorns and went on to the Division 2 quarterfinals to defeat the Foxes, who had beaten them the day before, with tremendous play and a score of 150-60*. As Aragog’s forfeited, the Minicorns directly qualified for the Division 2 final and surprised everyone by defeating TQC third-placers BOUN Centaurs in overtime with a score of 110*-100.

Strong defender and great scorer Ali Deniz Uçar carried the team in both offense and defense, along with smart keeper Alper Urgun and excellent beaters Umut Yeşilkaya and Sedef Ece Akansel. Emin Ün caught almost all the snitches while he played, including the one that took the Division 2 final to overtime and enabled the Minicorns victory. The Minicorns surely proved their point in this tournament and showed everyone that they are going to be one of the strongest teams Turkish Quidditch will see in the upcoming years.

6. BOUN Centaurs
By Kaan Bolat
BOUN Centaurs have increased their renown dramatically after placing third and surprising everyone at TQC, and they went to Intergalaktik with the same purpose: to make an impression and show their style at the international arena.
Day One started with a 130*-10 defeat against the Unicorns and ended with a victory against the TQC runners-up Hacettepe Phoenix in double overtime with a score of 120*^-110. Despite putting forth a great effort, the Centaurs lost against ODTÜ Hippogriffs in snitch range and could not do much against the Norwegian Ridgebacks, and they chose to lose on a concession catch.

On Day Two the Centaurs once again faced Hacettepe Phoenix, who directly qualified from playoffs due to the Aragog’s forfeit, only to lose this time with a concession catch. As a result, the Centarus moved on to the Division 2 quarterfinals to defeat the Işık Death Eaters without much effort and faced the Minicorns in the final. However, despite playing their best and doing everything right, they lost against the Minicorns and came in sixth place.

Captain Arman Aktürk, who also played beater for Team Turkey, was unfortunately not able to contribute a lot to his team due to an injury, though he was there for them during the whole tournament. Strong beating and quality seeking from Tahir Demircan, combined with the impressive beating and chasing skills of coach Ecem Bedriye Satıcı, helped both keepers Melih Yaşa and Çağatay Ural while Tuğçe Bağçivan carried her team through the tournament and in the final. The Centaurs may not have gotten the results they expected from this tournament, but that is not because they were not good enough; the Centaurs have shown that they will always be a promising team and a threat to all others in Turkey.

7. Rennes Marauders
By Kaan Bolat
The Marauders were only able to bring five people to the tournament, and they took four mercenary players from the METU Unicorns. Despite this, the team’s effort was amazing and they played some great matches.

Despite losing against the METU Minicorns in their first match of the tournament, the Marauders performed very well for a newly-formed team in which people were not used to playing with each other. The Marauders then won two games in snitch range and lost against the undefeated Bilkent Foxes.The second day started with a tough match against the Norwegian Ridgebacks in which they were unable to score and as a result ended up in the Division 2 quarterfinal to face the BOUN Centaurs. While the wise beating of Evan Lebastard and Louise Chauvel, point chasing of Mustafa Can Ergün, and strong quaffle play of Lydia Calder was enough for the Marauders to qualify for Division 1, they were eliminated from the tournament on the second day in 170*-40 loss to the Centaurs.

Despite everything, the French team with Turkish mercenaries brought great joy to the tournament and gained everyone’s respect as well as their love. They became sibling teams with the Minicorns and Calder was chosen as one of the two Most Fabulous Players of the tournament for her effort and smiles.

8. Bilkent Foxes
By Kaan Bolat
The newest team in the Turkish Quidditch arena, Bilkent Foxes have most certainly conquered everyone’s heart not only with their Foxy jerses, Foxy bennies, and Foxy behavior, but also with their surprisingly smart and sophisticated play. They most certainly showed signs of conquering the international arena during the whole tournament.

The Foxes went undefeated on Day One, only struggling against the Minicorns, who they eventually defeated 70*-50 with a SWIM situation. While the Death Eaters chose to cold catch and lose with a score of 120-110* against them, the Foxes did not really have a hard time defeating the Marauders and the Aragog’s. As a result, they qualified to Division 1 as top team of Group Luna.

TQC fourth placers and first quidditch team of Turkey, ODTÜ Hippogriffs, were the team that put an end to the Foxes’ adventure in Division 1 in the quarterfinals, with a score of 140*-60 on Day Two. Facing strong resistance from METU Minicorns in the Division 2 semifinals, the Foxes were not able to stand against them, eventually losing the game and saying goodbye to the tournament.

Captains Ece Berkyürek and Halil Can Sezgi did an amazing job by preparing their team for the tournament in a very short period of time, carrying and leading them throughout the tournament. Fast beaters Buğra Felekoğlu and Mustafa Kaan helped their captains, while the quick runs of Batuhan Eren provided the extra scores. The Foxes appear to have a great potential with both their understanding of the game and fair play. They seem to be a very promising team for both Turkish and European Quidditch with their Foxy attitude towards the community and the sport.

Bilkent Foxes at Intergalaktik Cup | Photo Credit: Ömer Çetin
9. FMV Işık Death Eaters
By Kamil Urgun
Işık Death Eaters made an impressive entrance to Turkish quidditch with their physical quaffle game at TQC. Unfortunately, they could not bring such gameplay to the Intergalaktik Cup, and this resulted in their ineffectiveness. They had a 0-5 record at the end of the tournament and finished in ninth place. They lost against Aragog’s 140-160* in overtime and 60*-40 against the Marauders with a SWIM catch, and they chose to concession catch in two close games against the Foxes and Minicorns on Day One and the Centaurs on Day Two.

The Death Eaters’ gameplay mostly depended on direct drives to the hoops. Their keeper Çağatay Bostancı was the key player on the team, but his effort was not enough. In addition, the team suffered from lack of knowledge of the rules; they made many basic mistakes resulting in cards, which did not help them during the tournament. The Death Eaters displayed some great passing from to time, but often they suffered from a lack of synergy, especially between their bludger and quaffle play. Feeling the absence of their promising beater Emre Yılmaz during the tournament, the Işık Death Eaters did not perform very well. They proved that they have talented players, though they failed to play as a team. Even though it seems like they do not have much to offer, once they gain more experience and study the rulebook thoroughly, they may be a team to watch out for.

10. Uludağ Aragog’s
By Kaan Bolat
One of the relatively new teams in Turkey, Uludağ Aragog’s suffered from a lack of players and lack of proper knowledge of the rules, and eventually decided to forfeit the tournament.

Bringing a squad of 16, the Aragog’s’ performance was highly anticipated by other Turkish teams. However, even though they had a SWIM win against the Death Eaters on Day One, lost against the Marauders with an overtime snitch catch, and gave a good effort against the Foxes, they decided not to play against the Minicorns and chose to forfeit another tournament at the end of Day One. Their explanation was that a lot of their experienced players were injured, while the rest of the team lost interest in the tournament.

Aragog’s’ playing style still remains unknown. Captain Gülin Sedenay Saylam is a fast and smart chaser, but there have not been enough matches to observe and understand the team’s playstyle fully. Turkish Quidditch will have to wait a little bit more to see the true strength of Uludağ Aragog’s and hope for them not to face such unfortunate injuries next time.

By Kai Haugen Shaw

While the tournament did not get as many teams from abroad as hoped, the quality and athleticism of the teams in attendance still made it a high-caliber European tournament.

Getting the chance to play against international players and different playing styles was not only a great learning opportunity for teams that can’t travel as often, but also an opportunity for the teams going to EQC to test the waters. Based on the results from the tournament, Turkey is more than ready to take on Europe, and we should not be surprised to see a Turkish team taking a medal.

As for the World Cup this summer, I would say that Turkey’s chances are good. During the tournament Turkish teams tended to rely heavily on a few key players, and there was a big spread of very talented players on every team, which makes the potential for a great national team. The tournament left me convinced that Turkey will be a nation to look out for at World Cup...I mean, the US might not have to worry, but Canada, heed my warning!

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