Friday, April 1, 2016

2016 Canada Nationals Preview Part 2

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 second in the series is Pool Two, which includes the following teams: UOttawa Gee-Gees, Valhalla Quidditch, Carleton University Quidditch, Calgary Mudbloods, and Royal City Quidditch.

UOttawa Gee-Gees

Chaser Steven Kimball running the quaffle to the hoops. | Photo Credit: Ben Holland Photography
Mathew: The Gee-Gees have a lot of depth and experience, as most of the players learned to play when Canada and the United States played under the IQA. As a result, the Gee-Gees have played together for a while, and have great chemistry. Their beater game is aggressive and works well with the rest of the team, and they are well versed in seeker beating.

Cody: The Gee-Gees are amazing. I have nothing else to say.

Mathew: I expect the Gee-Gees to be one of the possible winners of Nationals.

Valhalla Quidditch

Keeper Hugh Podmore looking for a way past UdeM.| Photo Credit: Ben Holland Photography
Mathew: Valhalla seems to keep collecting veteran quidditch players as they come home from university.

Cody: Valhalla is a force to be reckoned with. What started as a random group of athletes with no chemistry two years ago has evolved into a truly strong team. Valhalla benefits from being the sole community team in the east, and is thus a likely team option for any graduates who are either coming home to the Greater Toronto Area or moving here for work. The team sports a strong chaser line with specific chasers available to fill any role required. Valhalla plays an aggressive, fast-paced game featuring beautiful passes and long shots from the likes of keeper Ittaana Krow. Its seeker game is always incredibly strong, featuring Cory Smithson as main and Devin Dutt as his substitute. Unfortunately, Valhalla’s beater squad is lacking in comparison to its dominant quaffle-play. New additions Tyson Worrall and Nina Patti are an excellent pair, but once they sub off, Valhalla’s beater play goes noticeably down. Utility players Dutt and Smithson are also great beaters, but are often needed in other positions. Regardless, the coming seasons can only see Valhalla getting better, and it would be no surprise to me if this team took Nationals in a year or two.

Mathew: I do not think Valhalla will win this year, but will throw a wrench in pool play.

Cody: Yeah, for this year’s Nationals, I expect this team to place fourth at best, seventh at worst. The team could definitely upset another team’s prospects at the championship, though.

Carleton University Quidditch

Chaser Kristina Bromley running right past the Ryerson chaser | Photo Credit: Ben Holland Photography
Mathew: Carleton was a great team, but a lot of its players have graduated and moved on, or stopped playing completely. The team gained Adam Robillard for the regional championship, but from what I’ve heard, Adam won’t be playing for Carleton for Nationals.

Jamie: It’s interesting...I think Carleton is still a really good team. It probably has one of the best chasers in Matt Bourassa, even though he’s beating part time now. Also, Carleton played all season without Robillard until regionals, so losing him sucks, but it still has a really good team going to Nationals. If Colin Wallace goes back to beating, the team will be good. At the end of the day, Carleton still has one of the best, if not the best, seekers in Alex Naftel. He’s one of the most clutch; I’ve seen him catch snitches faster than most people everyone gives credit to. Carleton is one of those teams that will blow out bad teams, but have a difficult time hanging with the top teams. If you let it get in range, it will beat you.

Mathew: Jamie mentioned Colin Wallace. He’s one of the best beaters in the East…

Jamie: ...the best.

Mathew: I disagree, thank you [laughter]. If he ever decides to come back to beating, it will be a huge boost to Carleton.

Jamie: Carleton also has a lot of good players, but it lost a lot of people this season. As a result, the people who didn’t get a chance to play have had a chance to get better. It still has enough good players, like Bourassa and Wallace, who won’t let the team be bad.

Serena: So do you think Carleton’s strength lies in its seeking game?

Jamie: Oh, definitely. Carleton isn’t a team that will create many scoring opportunities, but it will keep the game close and scoring low.

Mathew: I think if its beaters can create lanes, its chasers will get through and be fine. Carleton’s chasers are big and will drive through the other team easily. Another thing about Carleton is that it has a very experienced chaser line in Cait Woolner, Kristina Bromley, and Zoe Mastellotto. Carleton has been around for a while and knows what to do to put itself in a good position. I think its downfall will be its beating.

Jamie: In terms of as a team that is going to Nationals with the goal of winning, its offence’s ability isn’t as strong as other top teams. Its strength is in its beating and seeking. It probably can’t get buckets, but its strategy is to keep the score low and win it off the grab, which it notably did against a favoured McGill squad at Regionals.

Serena: Trap it up until snitch is on pitch.

Jamie: It is a strategy. I don’t like it; I have been scarred too many times in the past. I like to be up 100 points before the snitch comes on. But it works for Carleton.

Matthew: I suspect Carleton won’t be a fast team, not necessarily slow ball it, but it definitely won’t be going fast down the field...

Jamie: If Carleton wants to win, it will slowball it; it just plays into its hand. I think Carleton knows that; it’s pretty smart. It has athletic people but it does not have the level that some of the other top teams have. Slowballing works out well too when you have a bunch of big guys.

Mathew: I think for slowballing, you need to have good beaters, and that’s what Carleton is lacking. It doesn’t have good defence. It’s going to slowball, but be broken up by the Gee-Gee or Valhalla beaters, and the chasers on those teams will tackle and try to steal the ball.

Calgary Mudbloods

Chaser Michael Wanless blocking an  Alberta Clipper  . | Photo Credit: Lara Hiles
Serena: So, the Calgary Mudbloods. Alex, you want to do a introduction on the Mudbloods?

Alex: The Mudbloods are a very physical team. Our coach, Karissa Nyman, encourages us to always hit people. We have a defence that’s basically structured to lay out the quaffle carrier and so we deliver a lot of hits to that extent. In terms of beating, it’s a pretty conservative strategy overall. We tend to keep one beater pretty far back on defence, and on offence, we’ll typically do one beater or no beaters supporting the chaser unless we’re running set plays. Our chasers have some hero-balling tendencies, but also do some passing plays. One of our strengths is getting fast turnovers, because we have some pretty quick players. Michael Wanless is one in particular; he can pick up the quaffle and then take it to the other hoops and score in a very short period of time.

Mathew: You guys play very differently from the Clippers?

Alex: Yeah, we do. I say our beater strategy has kind of evolved in parallel from theirs, because a lot of our players used to be Clippers. But, with our chaser strategy, we wanted to do something different.

Mathew: Do you guys play zone or man defence?

Alex: What we do is basically zone defence, although we tend to want to have one person covered per zone. That means there’s a lot of shuffling around if there’s an empty zone or overloaded zone, but it’s fundamentally about the point chaser engaging the quaffle carrier, and we’ll do that very aggressively. If the other team is advancing very slowly with the quaffle, then we’ll send a beater and a chaser up to their keeper line to confront them as soon as they take the ball out. We’ve scored some goals that way.

Misha: You guys really like to use the back of the hoops, too.

Alex: Yeah, we like to shoot with rebounding opportunities, so we’ll take a shot with someone behind the hoops.

Mathew: And how’s your seeking strategy and your chaser depth?  

Alex: So, first, in terms of seeking, I’d say that’s a weakness for us because we don’t have dedicated seekers. We have a lot of chasers who are able to seek, but no dedicated seekers. In terms of non-male chasers, the Mudbloods have a ton of strength there. All of us are fast and able to take people down.

Mathew: What are the keys for the Mudbloods to do well at Nationals?

Alex: The key for the Mudbloods, I think, is going to be exploiting opportunities, because we have a style that’s about creating them. It’s one of our main goalscoring plays to be able to get the quaffle, and then Wanless or Hasan Ahmad will be streaking toward the hoops and be able to take an easy shot. That’s one of our strengths, so we’ll have to find opportunities at Nationals.

Misha: You’re going to have to really close up defensively and wait for these opportunities to show up if you want to survive Nationals.

Mathew: I’m kind of curious; you guys are a hitting team, and most teams in the east like to hit. I’m just wondering if you guys will get frustrated at all. I think your beaters will have to mix it up if they want to survive in the east.

Misha: There’s only one team with even remotely aggressive beating out west and that’s…

Alex: ...SFU.

Mathew: Alex, I know you’ll be a bit biased, but where do you think Calgary will rank? Will you put it with the teams like McGill, Valhalla, and GeeGees, or will you put it on a lower tier?

Alex: Honestly, I think we’re looking at a lower tier at this tournament. Part of it is that not all of our team is able to make it, and that we have a couple of injuries that are going to be big problems. Normally, we have four male beaters, but two of us have concussions. Beating is going to be a challenge if either or both of us can’t make it to Nationals.

Royal City Quidditch

Owen Meier grappling for the quaffle.| Photo Credit: Ben Holland Photography
Serena: Royal’s a new team, isn’t it?

Mathew: It’s Guelph's B-team.

Cody: It’s new this year...bottom tier.

Mathew: The situation with Royal City is interesting; Guelph had an issue with the gender rule right before regionals, so Royal City actually has a few Guelph players that switched teams. It’s definitely one of the weaker B teams.

Cody: From what I saw from watching its games, Royal City plays a slower, more physical game, with bulky players from all genders. Minimal passing, more only when necessary. The players prefer to hero-ball it or run down lanes when open. I’d personally love to play Royal City, as I feel a team with good beaters and agile chasers could play well against this team.

The last installment of our National roundtable will be out soon; you can refresh your memory by reading about Pool 1 again.

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