Thursday, March 31, 2016

2016 Canada Nationals Preview Part 1

For our preview of the Quidditch Canada National Championships held in Kingston, Ontario on April 2 and 3, Quidditch Post has put together a roundtable discussion of all three pools. Participants: Serena Cheong (Simon Fraser University), Jamie Lafrance (unaffiliated), Alex Lamoureux (Calgary Mudbloods), Mathew Mcveigh (UOttawa Gee-Gees), Cody Mulholland (UTSC), Austin Wallace (UBC), and Misha Whittingham (UVic)

The first in the series is Pool One, which includes the following teams: McGill University Quidditch, University of Waterloo Ridgebacks, Queen’s University Quidditch, York University Aurors, and University of Toronto Quidditch.

McGill Quidditch

McGill’s keeper Patrick Wang running up pitch with the quaffle. | Photo Credit: Ben Holland Photography
Mathew: Basically, McGill likes to run and pass, and do handoffs. It is not afraid to give hits when it wants to, and it has lost a lot of good people, including keeper Patrick Wang, who is busy with medical school. It also lost a lot of its female beaters, who led its beater line when it won the Eastern Regional Championship last year and in previous years. 

Strengths for McGill are going to be its big, fast, and tall chaser corps, communication, and passing. On the beating side, its beaters tend to stay in one spot and make long beats, which often proves effective because of their strong positioning and accurate arms. McGill’s strong seeker play and seeker beating makes it effective at closing out games, and its chasers are strong enough to hold their own when the beaters turn to snitch play. 

Jamie: I think McGill’s quaffle play is probably the second- or third-best behind the Gee-Gees and the University of Waterloo. Robyn Fortune of McGill and Michelle Ferguson of the Alberta Clippers are probably the two best female chasers I have ever seen, at least in Canada. Robyn, being in charge of that team, has made them a really good team. The chasers do not panic, even when they are down or against a really good defence. 

Mathew: I always thought McGill had the most consistent female chasers and beaters. The way this team gets bludger superiority back is that it goes up with its chasers, and while your beaters are focused on the quaffle play, a McGill beater gets up in your face. All of a sudden, McGill’s beaters steal your bludger. They have that down to a science. And, McGill’s players are all on the bigger side, too, so it is hard not to fall down when they tackle you.

When McGill was a championship team, no matter who it threw on the field, it forced the same pressure because of its depth. Now, McGill is in a rebuilding season and the team is trying to get its new players up to that same level again. Despite this, it is still one of the best teams. 

Serena: Do you think McGill has a chance at the championship?

Mathew: I do. McGill is a very adaptable team that you will not want to mess with.

Jamie: I think it is the No. 2 team to win the championship. 

Waterloo Ridgebacks

Alexander Scherger trying for a two-handed goal. | Photo Credit: Ben Holland Photography

Mathew: Waterloo is my favourite wild card team. I would say John and Mark Fehrman are the main core for that team. Mark Fehrman is a solid beater who I think will continue to improve. John is a machine at center chaser; he sees a lane, drives though, and scores. Waterloo has keepers and seekers who are tall, allowing them to cover a lot of space.

Cody: They have also got Jonathan Golla; he is massive and just dunks hoops all day long.

Mathew: Jonathan Golla was one of the keepers I was thinking about when I said they had tall keepers. Waterloo is a wild card team with a lot of talented players who do not seem to have a specific system, which challenges many top teams. I think Waterloo is in a great position because there is not any expectation that it will win, but it still has the ability to surprise everyone and win. 

Cody: Waterloo is definitely the team with the most potential, and can and probably will upset other teams like it did to North Star Quidditch last season.

Mathew: The key for Waterloo is for the team to depend on its beaters and seekers. If it is in range of winning, it has a great chance at pulling the snitch before its opponents. I expect some surprises.

Cody: Waterloo will have a strong performance at Nationals. If any team is going to come from behind and take the championship from the Gee-Gees or McGill, it’s Waterloo. 

Mathew: That’s fair; if one of the top teams is having a bad day, I can see Waterloo pulling an upset.

Queen’s Quidditch Club

Queen’s keeper Nick Rupar trying to stop a UofT chaser. | Photo Credit: Ben Holland Photography

Cody: Queen’s is a pretty good team and always has been. It plays an aggressive game, which can get a little dirty, playing around the gray area of the rules; but, in general, if a referee calls Queen’s out on a foul play, the team will accept it and correct it. Queen’s also plays a nice passing game: its players are particularly accurate in their long passes. But it has lost one of its main seekers and a decent chaser in Ian Ip this year. However, Lynden Evers is a good seeker, too; he pulls the snitch at clutch moments, such as in Queen’s double overtime game vs. Valhalla.

Mathew: Queens is a team that’s been around for three to four years now. It’s a traditionally physical team, with big and athletic players that love to hit. I think the biggest loss for Queen’s was Andrew Kusters to Valhalla Quidditch; Kusters was 2014 Team Canada’s all-star keeper. Queen’s low point is, again, its beaters. Some teams out east still play conservatively beater-wise, and Queens is one of them. The beaters will come up only when they need to on offence. Queens is more of a hand-offs, short pass team; it is more likely to try to run through you than around you. If it has bludger supremacy, expect Queen’s to have one on-the-point chaser and one just behind. I think Queen’s weakness is definitely seeking; it is probably what is going to kill it. 

Misha: So they’re not a team of Matt Cookes?

Mathew: Queen’s is more of a team of Chris Neils; if you could teach Chris Neil to score for his team, that is what Queens would be. As for its Nationals run: I do not expect Queen’s to win, but I do expect it to mess up someone’s day. Maybe a middle-of-the-pack ranking.

York University Aurors

York chaser running up pitch. | Photo Credit: Ben Holland Photography

Mathew: York has not been a strong team, and I think thats because of its recruiting. Particularly, I think it is still attached to the Harry Potter aspect of the game; the team is still part of the university's Harry Potter Club. However, I am excited because York will have a lot of mercenaries for this tournament, such as Laura Lepine, who played for McGill last season.

Cody: York has the Greater Toronto Area curse: not being able to show up for Regionals and barely getting enough players to show for Nationals, and that’s only with the help of a few players from Kingston. York’s biggest hit this year has been the loss of its captain and keeper, Adam Palmer, a former Team Canada player. York can still hold its own in the lower tiers, though, and with the addition of those Kingston players, it may be able to get a couple games under its belt. What I love about York is its dedication to playing quidditch to have fun. It competes to win for sure, but it plays the sport with the mentality that a lot of other teams have lost over the years, for better or worse.

Mathew: I still think York will have a difficult time, but I think some of its mercs will allow the team to be more competitive. 

Cody: Oh yeah, York has some difficult games ahead and probably will not make it to bracket play, but those merc players could change things. 

University of Toronto Centaurs

Harrison Wade fighting to keep the quaffle. | Photo Credit: Ben Holland Photography

Cody: The University of Toronto Centaurs are slowly evolving out of their one-woman team of beater-captain Sarah Basciano. While she is still their main force to be reckoned with she can hold a solid defense even with no bludger supremacy the team’s other players are stepping up to the plate. The chasers are a solid offensive presence in the lower tiers of the tournament, displaying nice, quick, short passes, but will need to step it up if Toronto wishes to contend with higher-ranking teams. Hannah Mazurek is a beater to watch out for in coming seasons. It is obvious that Basciano has been training her, as Mazurek plays a very similar style and was quite effective at holding defense when Basciano was on the bench. 

Serena: Toronto lost Cole Li to University of British Columbia, right?

Mathew: And it lost Matt Korda

Cody: Yeah, Toronto lost both of them, and a few other veterans. The team this year is largely new players.

Mathew: I also think Sarah Basciano is Toronto’s best beater, but the problem is that when the Centaurs go up against top teams, they do not have enough depth. When it comes to recruiting, they have to compete with Valhalla. 

Cody: My thoughts exactly. The large majority of players on this team are new to quidditch this year, but if their regionals performance was any indicator of their future, they definitely have the potential to move up in the rankings. It will be interesting to see how they have taken what they learned from Regionals to improve their game at Nationals.

Keep an eye out for the second part of our Nationals roundtable, in which we preview Pool 2 teams.

Editor's note: A previous version of this article stated that Patrick Wang's last name was Qi Noix.

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