Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Gee-Gees Capture Eastern Regionals

By Mathew McVeigh

On Feb. 27-28, 14 teams from Eastern Canada faced off at the Soccerplexe Catalogna in Montréal, Québec. In what has been one of the best years for all-around competitive play in the region, there were more than a few favourites heading into the weekend. Ultimately, a winner was crowned when the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees completed a flawless six-game run, defeating the hometown Université de Montréal (UdeM) in Sunday’s final. Pulling their sixth consecutive snitch of the weekend, the Gee-Gees were victorious with a score of 120*-40.

The University of Ottawa Gee-Gees after pulling the final snitch. | Photo Credit: Ben Holland Photography
The Gee-Gees entered the tournament seeded first overall. Although it had played about half as many official matches as the other top teams prior to the weekend, the club managed to keep momentum through its tournament run. Led by captain Michael Howard, the Gee-Gees play a fast chaser game combined with an aggressive beating style. Boasting a deep roster, the team has unmatched chemistry. It is often immaterial whether the Gee-Gees lead with their first line or their third every piece moves together with one goal. Tying together the team’s play is a rotation of highly experienced beaters, who are particularly rehearsed in seeker beating. Throughout the weekend, the Gee-Gees strategy was uncontested. Short of a few difficult injuries, the team was seamless in its games and often won with margins of 100 or more points. The Gee-Gees’ adaptability shone through even in bleaker moments, including a two-player penalty during their contest against McGill University Quidditch Team. Despite the disadvantage, the team successfully killed the time, giving up no points while outmanned.

UdeM running off of brooms up | Photo Credit: Ben Holland Photography
The runners-up of the weekend, the Université de Montréal, had a far stronger performance over the weekend than the score of Sunday’s final might suggest. The team combines dynamic beater play with an extremely fast chaser line-up to devastating effect. Fan favourites, known best perhaps for their rallying cheer of “John Cena!”, UdeM made short work on Saturday of both University of Toronto Quidditch and Queen’s University Quidditch. The team’s only hiccup came at the end of pool play, when it fell to an underrated Guelph University Quidditch squad by a snitch catch. UdeM proved equal to this challenge, however, defeating Guelph later in semifinals

When the UdeM and Gee-Gees match for the title began, the hometown team was able to score a quick brooms-up goal with its fast chaser line led by Félix Tremblay. Soon, however, the Gee-Gees replied, and more. The main difference between the two squads laid in beating, with UdeM unable to retain bludger control to its own detriment. As time went on, the Montréal team was ultimately overwhelmed by the aggressive Gee-Gees strategy.

Finishing the tournament in third place was McGill University, another hometown team. McGill entered the weekend as defending champion of the Eastern regional title. The team had a moderately strong showing, making short work of both Ottawa Maple Rush and Ryerson University Quidditch. However, the team took a surprising loss in its last game of pool play, falling 90*-50 to historic rivals Carleton University Quidditch. Carleton made a strong strategic choice for the match, moving veteran chaser Adam Robillard to the offensive line from his new preferred position of beater. The impact to Carleton’s driving quaffle game was effective, creating a tense battle against McGill’s more fluid style of play. Ultimately, Carleton seeker Alex Naftel pulled the winning snitch, sending McGill down to a heavier day of bracket play. 

McGill’s seeking woes were not over. The team faced Valhalla Quidditch, Eastern Canada’s only community team, in the quarterfinals. While ultimately winning this match by over 100 points, McGill’s cautious seeking combined with Valhalla seeker Cory Smithson’s defensive seeking led to an exhausting game overall. Lacking energy for another fight, the team fell easily to a hungry Gee-Gees team in the semifinals, losing with a score of 190*-30. The consolation final saw McGill triumph over Guelph 90-50*.

UdeM seeker Guillaume Wolfe battling the snitch. | Photo Credit: Ben Holland Photography
Finishing fourth overall, the University of Guelph had a fairly impressive tournament run, surprising many. The first glimpse into the team’s tenacity came with its defeat of the heavily-favoured UdeM squad on Day One. Continuing the pattern of upsets, Guelph defeated Carleton University in bracket play to move on to the semifinals. Throughout the weekend, Guelph demonstrated a strong physical style, led by keepers Denver Staines and Bradley Connolly. However, the team’s reliance on its stars proved costly in both its rematch against UdeM and its defeat by McGill in the consolation final. Nevertheless, this was certainly an excellent finish for Guelph, whose opponents will be unlikely to underestimate the team again.

Tying for fifth place at the tournament were the University of Waterloo Ridgebacks and Queen’s University. The Ridgebacks played a wild card role in Eastern Canada throughout the 2015-16 season, handing the Gee-Gees their only loss at the Great Balls of Fire tournament in Nov. 2015. While the team does lack depth overall, the skills of its stars combined with excellent chemistry and a haphazard, unreadable style renders the Ridgebacks a force to be reckoned with. The team is anchored by the Fehrman brothers John at chaser, and Mark at beater. Both are heavily physical players, working in tandem to cause both defensive chaos and prime offensive opportunities. The Ridgebacks also have a strong beater in Katie Brown, whose adaptability and smart positioning are assets to the team’s defensive play.

Ridgebacks’ chaser Isaiah Magtanong | Photo Credit: Ben Holland Photography
Finishing even with the Waterloo Ridgebacks was Queen’s Quidditch Club. A fifth-place showing was positive for the team, as it entered the tournament seeded ninth. Suffering from frequent player turnover, including the loss of captain Andrew Kusters to Valhalla, Queens is undergoing what seems to be structural change. The team’s trademark physical style has slowly been growing more technical, with on-pitch leadership coming from keeper Kyle Ross and jack-of-all-trades Lyden Evers. The team also gained former McGill beater captain Emilie Farrell this season, and, with some fine tuning, can be expected to continue improving this season.

Rounding out the top eight from the weekend were community team Valhalla and Carleton University. Valhalla has been quietly growing into a dangerously experienced force. This season, the team gained two veteran beaters: Nina Patti from McGill and Tyson Worrall from Carleton. The improvement they brought to Valhalla’s beater line was clear, as the new additions held a tight defence. With the defensive play secure, Valhalla will need to focus on offensive play to pull further ahead in the season’s remainder. 

Carleton University is going through a rebuilding period. Despite this, the team was able to put on a good show at this year’s regional championship with an underdog win against the favourited McGill. This year, Carleton has run a slower but larger chaser line with its always-dependable female chasers. Their size and passing makes them an efficient offensive unit. Despite this, the team has suffered challenges on defense and will need to improve control from the back moving forward.

Cory Smithson | Photo Credit: Ben Holland Photography

The final rankings from the Eastern Regional Championship are as follows:
1. University of Ottawa Gee-Gees
2. Université de Montréal
3. McGill University
4. University of Guelph
T-5. University of Waterloo Ridgebacks, Queen’s University
T-7. Valhalla Quidditch, Carleton University
T-9. Canada’s Finest Quidditch Club (CFQC), University of Toronto Centaurs Quidditch
11. Royal City
12. Ottawa Maple Rush
13. UTSC Quidditch
14. Ryerson University

Thirteen Eastern teams will next face two Western challengers at the Canadian National Championship, to be held on April 2-3, 2016 in Kingston, Ontario.

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