Sunday, March 6, 2016

German Cup 2016 Recap

By Lisa Tietze and Nina Heise

Editors Note: Lisa Tietze is a member of Unisport-Zentrum Darmstadt Quidditch. Nina Heise is a member of the Bowticores.

In a closely-fought final ending in a score of 90*-60, newcomer Rheinos Bonn won first place against Unisport-Zentrum Darmstadt Quidditch on a snitch catch from Christian Zimpelmann in the very first minute. German Cup, which was held on 23-24 Jan., 2016, worked as a qualifier for the European Quidditch Cup 2016 (EQC), as Germany received two spots, both Bonn and Darmstadt qualified to go to Gallipoli, Italy this April. Ruhr Phoenix Bochum ranked third, Three River Dragons fourth, and the Bowticores and Tübinger Thestrale placed fifth and sixth respectively. These results show that new teams of all skill levels have found their place in the midst of veteran German teams.

Losing their first two matches against the two future finalists, the Bowticores seemed disappointed. As a merger of the Frankfurt and Freiburg teams, it was expected that the team would struggle to find a synergy in the beginning, but many hoped to see them improve after the first one or two games. However, this was not the case. The lack in synergy was spiced up with only three non-female players in their ranks, lessening their ability for substitutions and leaving the team fatigued. Furthermore, the three of them usually do not practice together, so they were not used to one anothers playing styles.

Apparently, the team was not able to fill the gaps that Bob Thines and Katja Weyhermüller left. Additionally, keeper Adrian Schleeh often passed the ball in front of the hoops, rather than going through himself to make the goal, causing them to miss out on scoring opportunities. Moreover, in the game against Ruhr Phoenix Bochum, the team lost talented beater Nina Heise to a bludger that broke her finger. This mixture definitely left the team helpless against almost all of their competitors.

However, some of the Bowticores players showed remarkable talent. As during the Grie Soß Cup last year in Frankfurt, Germany, Julius Eckhard played an outstanding game, contributing much to the teams win against Tübinger Thestrale, and was therefore voted MVP of the team. Regarding snitch control, no one knows better than Jessica Adrian how to defend a snitch in a way that manipulates their movement on the field.

Bowticore’s Jessica Adrian defends the snitch against Three River Dragons seeker Ida Meyenberg. | Photo Credit: Van Klaveren Quidditch Photography

Ultimately, the Bowticores did not qualify for bracket play. If it was just bad luck this weekend or if they need to rethink their concept of being two teams in one is hard to say. But something definitely did not go the way they wanted; nor did the audience expect this outcome at the Cup.

Rheinos Bonn
As predicted, Bonn was the surprise of the German Cup. The team around Momo Matern and Canada returnees Christian Zimpelmann and Leander Troll showed a strong and physically superior chaser game. There was no other team at the tournament which had an offensive game that was as fast as Bonn. They were able to draw the opponent's defense to one side, opening up the other side, and then make a smart pass into the open room. Moreover they mastered weave formations  causing the quaffle to cross quickly between players leading to confusion in the defensive line of their opponents. As expected, Troll powered through on offence with remarkable speed; no opponent should make the mistake of underestimating him based on his size. His team can rely on him not only for the attack but also for point chaser, where he prevented breakthrough runs by the opposing quaffle carrier. Youngster Leo Müller, who is just old enough to be allowed to play at the Cup, cleared most of the few shots his teammates allowed on the goal. Zimpelmann (later chosen as MVP) managed to surprise everyone not only as a chaser, but definitely as a seeker. Although not the strongest defensive seeker, he pulled the SWIM catch off Denis Plog (who is regarded by many as the best snitch in Europe) in the final within a ferocious first minute. 

Still lacking offensively-playing beaters in the first matches, Bonn’s beaters learned a lot during the weekend and showed much improvement up until the final. Sebastian Elster especially needs to be mentioned here, for he was so determined to do better than his opponents that he easily managed to keep at bay by the end of the Cup.

Despite being a new team, their only loss was against Darmstadt in pool play, who they later defeated in a hard-fought final. Most other teams lost high against Bonn, including third-place Bochum, who made an unfortunate snitch grab in the round-robin leading to a 80-70* situation. In the semifinal, Bonn won by a large margin, routing Bochum with a 160*-0 win.

Rheinos Bonn (blue) vs. Unisport-Zentrum Darmstadt Quidditch (red). | Photo Credit: Jens Gutermuth

Rheinos Bonn left quite an impression in Germany, which they can hopefully carry into the European Quidditch Cup. The team is now more determined than ever to scream their Spartan shout at their opponents. However, the tendency toward underutilizing their non-male players might prove lethal unless Bonn is able to improve upon it by April.

Ruhr Phoenix Bochum
Ruhr Phoenix Bochum was burned in the predictions for the German Cup. However, the team was determined to come back from the ashes and rise again as the phoenix does. As not all of their players were able to make the tournament team, the teammates who did not make the cut formed quite a large crowd and cheered for them at every match. This definitely helped the players stay motivated throughout the tournament.

Ruhr Phoenix Bochum lost by a large margin against Darmstadt in the round-robin and in the semifinal against Bonn, but they showed their potential in a close match against Bonn during the round-robin, where they made an involuntary concession catch when the team thought they were in snitch range. Their third place playoff against Passau (the Three River Dragons) was in snitch range for a long time, which cannot be seen in the final score of 130*-40. But in the end, Bochum got the better of the game and was able to keep up their speed and aggressivity in order to beat Passau.

Bochums success is based on the general high level of skill of all their players. Few are outstanding, but mention-worthy are Sven Schulz, who also found his way to the national team practice, and Theresa Raulf, who displayed excellent positioning. However, not having many key players is not a disadvantage for the team; they allowed for flawless and constant subbing without a noticeable drop in skill. With a full roster, Bochum displayed a consistency in skill that no other team could match. This does not only go for their chaser line up, but also for their beaters who work well together but still focus too much on the bludger rather than quaffle game, which they sometimes ignored completely. Captain Niklas Müller himself made some really smart moves on pitch, coming high up on pitch, forcing the quaffle carrier to make an incomplete pass. Supported by David Gómez, he often was able to win back bludger control.

Bochum had no apparent star player, and what stood out the most from their matches was their flawless subbing and the remarkable consistency of their entire roster. Therefore, the best thing they could do was announce the whole team as MVP. Making third place at the Cup proved to be easier than predicted, though it left them one placement shy of qualifying for EQC. However, as Norway declined two of their spots, an additional spot was awarded to Germany, meaning that Bochum will get the chance to compete in Italy after all.

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Ruhr Phoenix Bochum (blue) vs. Three River Dragons Passau (black/green).| Photo Credit: Van Klaveren Quidditch Photography

Three River Dragons Passau
The Three River Dragons showed some excellent plays during the German Cup. One could not fail to notice that their roots go back to 2014 which is long in this new region manifesting in a sure and thoughtful playing style. Their matches against winner Bonn and third place Bochum were closely ranked, showing that they could have made it to the final. Their final match against Bochum in the third place playoff stayed in snitch range for a long time with the snitch on pitch. Having played an almost 40-minute game earlier that day against the Bowticores with Denis Plog going into five handicaps, Passau were tired out from the 20th minute on. Their opponent Bochum used the chance to get out of snitch range, which they probably would not have been able to with a different course of the day.

In their chaser line up, Tobias Mirwald is worth mentioning; the team relied on him in many attacks until he needed to go to the hospital. To the misfortune of his team, Johannes Brantl could not play after the first match, as a recent injury took a turn for the worse, forcing him to stop. Passau did not fail to integrate their female chasers such as Anna Kramlová. Captain Christian Häuser, who plays a very fast and agile offense, is key to their attack, but unfortunately lets himself be frustrated by losses, affecting his playing style a lot. For seeker Michael Meier, this tournament was probably his last tournament ever, so he gave everything he had one last time.

Three River Dragons chaser Anna Kramlová advancing the quaffle up the pitch. | Photo Credit: Van Klaveren Quidditch Photography

Passaus beater lineup consists of mainly female players who go well with the chasers, and one can see that the beaters work well together. Despite most of them being smaller than average, they play a fearless game against many bigger players. Lisa Schmerbeck, a notable Passau beater, is also a candidate with a strong claim for a spot on the German national team.

Everyone hopes to see the Dragons playing more friendly matches against other German teams, something from which both sides would benefit. On top of that, the Dragons set aside their old rivalry for the moment when they cheered for Darmstadt in the final.

Tübinger Thestrale
The youngster among the teams, Tübinger Thestrale showed great potential during the German Cup. Georgina Siriwardena led her team through the tournament in a remarkably positive manner. Her constant good mood transferred to all of the players and left them celebrating every match despite their losses. Every goal was celebrated, and when they caught the snitch in the game against Bochum, one could have thought they had just won the final.

Thestrale chaser Georgina Siriwardena against Rheinos chaser Leander Troll. | Photo Credit: Van Klaveren Quidditch Photography

Being an inexperienced team did not only bear a tactical and playing disadvantage, but it also resulted in the team unknowingly breaking many rules, which interfered with game flow. Many passes-after-beat led to turnovers and therefore made them lose the ball after just establishing a good position in their opponents half.

The team’s offense strongly depended on their two keepers, David Groon and Nicolas Oberhauser, who managed to drive deeply into their opponents half but let themselves be pushed to the sides of the pitch, giving them a bad pass distributing position. Losing their strongest player Daniel Schmucker just before the Cup also left a gap. Schmucker is an experienced handball player and could organize the team on pitch like no one else in the team. Although Siriwardena has a good eye for seeing the gap in the opponents defense and had nice positioning around the hoops, she did not receive the ball as much as she should have due to turnovers or badly aimed passes; the same goes for Sarah Dühnen.

The beating game bore a real surprise with fast, agile, and daring beaters such as Eelco Empting, Samuel Maier, and Frank Hirsch. While Thestrale was still overrun in defense, this was mainly because of the lack of tournament experience and insufficient communication between chasers and beaters. 

Tübinger Thestrale took home much from the experience of participating at the German Cup, and they were the team that showed the most overall improvement during the course of the two days. Therefore, one can expect much from Tübinger Thestrale in the future.

Unisport-Zentrum Darmstadt Quidditch
As a surprise to many, Darmstadt, previously undefeated by any other German team, ended the tournament only in second place after having been ranked as the clear favourite. However, the fact that they eventually lost the final, and on a 20-second snitch catch for that matter, should not take away from their extraordinary performance all weekend.

Once again, Darmstadt was by far the best organised team on pitch both on offence and defence. Beaters and chasers were well coordinated, and very rarely did a player seem out of place. Having comfortably beaten Bonn in the round-robin games on Day One, the lack of cohesion was what lost Darmstadt the final in the end. One can only assume that the pressure had become too high by the time the last and most important game arrived, and the first minutes of the final were almost chaotic compared to the team’s usual standard. Quickly, Bonn assumed a 30-point lead. The fact that Darmstadt still managed to eventually even the score shows great spirit. 

Darmstadt seemingly needed some time to get into play and found safety and comfort when chaser Tim Simmert entered the pitch and scored three goals. Unfortunate for chaser and seeker Alex Heinrich, was the extremely speedy snitch catch from Bonn’s Zimpelmann although deserved by Bonn, it was very unlucky for Darmstadt. Having managed to catch Plog without a handicap against a defensive seeker before, the team had trusted Heinrich, putting a lot of pressure on him in the final SWIM situation. 

Despite the final result, Darmstadt offers a great quaffle player lineup with fast keeper Simon Burgis, who can almost blindly pass the quaffle to teammate Phillip Wetterich. Captain Nadine Cyrannek is an outstanding female chaser and is irreplaceable when it comes to smoothing the way for the quaffle carrier. On defense, Darmstadt was able to count on Lucio Dolz and Philipp Dahlhaus, accompanied by exchange student Brian Stephenson (Virginia Tech). They were able to have an easy go over Bochum, playing them 190*-50.

Darmstadt Keeper Simon Burgis carried his team throughout the tournament. | Photo Credit: Jens Gutermuth

The standout player in a generally good beater line up was Lisa Tietze, having returned from Norway (NTNUI Rumpeldunk) with the tactical astuteness and determination that was needed in the increasingly competitive German quidditch scene. She was accompanied by former Norway teammate Martin Kleine, who made almost impossible last minute beats over the whole tournament, getting the heel of Bonn’s troll from over half the pitch right before he was able to score. Additionally, Steffen Wirsching and Sabrina Hönig showed again why Darmstadt is rumoured to currently have the most stable beater lineup in Germany.

Finishing second left Darmstadt in the good position of knowing what to work on and improve until EQC, for which they were able to qualify. Additionally, they found their match in the German quidditch scene, and they are looking forward to playing a friendly match against Bonn to prove that the outcome of the final was due to their own failure and not based on the other teams superior play.

For a full list of games and scores, check out the article, “Bonn Wins the German Cup 2016!” from Deutscher Quidditchbund.

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