Sunday, April 10, 2016

From Dodos to Durham: EQC 2016 Groups E and F

In a bit less than a week, 40 teams will descend on the small beach town of Gallipoli, Italy to compete to become the European quidditch champions. Follow the Quidditch Post’s coverage over the next few days to learn about the teams, group by group, that will be competing at European Quidditch Cup (EQC) 2016. Predictions like these would usually be posted in alphabetical order. However, we decided to switch things up this time, so for EQC 2016, we will be publishing our articles in reverse order, starting with Groups G and H and moving onto E and F.

Group E

Written by Fraser Posford (Southampton Quidditch Club), Niccolò Andrea Carissimo (Hinkypunks Bologna), Bex McLaughlin (Barcelona Eagles), and Kamil Urgun (METU Unicorns).

Group E Teams:
Deurne Dodo A (Belgium) - 14 players
Paris Frog (France) - 15 players
Brizzlebears (UK) - 21 players
Milano Meneghins (Italy) - 11 players
BOUN Centaurs (Turkey) - 16 players (according to a roster from the team)

The main talking point of Group E will be the battle for the top spot between the Deurne Dodo A and Paris Frog. The two teams faced each other at the same point in the competition last season, with the Frog claiming a narrow victory in overtime after Dodos captain Louis Lermytte had his overtime buzzer-beating snitch catch painfully disallowed. If their last encounter was anything to go by, this looks set to be one of the must-see matches on Day One of European Quidditch Cup (EQC). The calibre of the Dodos and the Frogs unfortunately leaves the Bears, Meneghins, and Centaurs destined for Division II. This is a point not lost on the Bears, who are planning a mock-funeral / beach party for their “hopes and dreams of making the upper bracket” on the Friday night of EQC.

Keeper Louis Lermytte taking on Paris Frog in their November encounter. | Photo Credit:
The Dodos will be coming into EQC with great confidence having convincingly won the Belgian Cup by beating Brussels Qwaffles 200*-0 in the final, as well as dominating the Belgian Quidditch League, having not lost a single match so far, and with a QPD almost twice as big as second place Brussels Qwaffles. Their only loss this season came from the current European champions, Paris Titans, back in November with a score of 100*-40. As a keeper and seeker, Lermytte is in top form right now, even finding success in fantasy quidditch by captaining ‘What is Quove? Baby Don’t Hurt Me’ to victory at February’s Valentine’s Cup III: The Good, The Bad and The Quovely. With Belgian internationals Seppe De Wit, Willem Ardui, Tim Van Huygevoort, and Laurent Venckeleer joining Lermytte in the quaffle player lineup, the Dodos have one of, if not the best, passing games on the continent. Defensively, the likes of Belgian internationals Faust Eeckhout, Elisabeth Reyniers, and Soraya Abbagnato provide Deurne with a reliable yet varied beater corps. There is no doubting the potential of this team to improve upon their EQC 2015 performance (exiting at the hands of the Radcliffe Chimeras in the quarterfinals). However, having been relatively untested this season and without any major victories over their European rivals to date, it remains to be seen whether the Dodos can win games when put under pressure.

A team that is no stranger to high-pressure situations is Paris Frog. Considering their depleted roster, as well as the loss of a few key players this season, it is difficult to predict how the Frog’s EQC campaign will pan out. As with pool opponents Deurne Dodo A, Frog are one of the only teams to lose to local rivals Titans Paris in snitch range this season (with a similar-sized roster to the one they are taking to EQC). However, when the two teams met again in the Coupe de France final in February, Frog were convincingly outplayed by the EQC 2015 champions and lost the match 180*-50 and their French title. With players such as powerful keeper Cédric Chillan, agile chaser Harry-Olivier Cabo, and beater siblings Amel and Abderahim Belferroum on their team, Paris Frog should be able to qualify for the upper bracket. However, considering their absentees and poor disciplinary record, Frog are likely to struggle to replicate their win over the Belgian champions. Although they may not be the force they once were, Paris Frog still have an immense fighting spirit that could give them the edge in matches and help them reach the Round of 16, or maybe even the quarterfinals.

With Deurne Dodo A and Paris Frog occupying the same group, the Bristol Brizzlebears’ chances of qualifying to the upper bracket look fairly slim. Led by the enigmatic Tom Ower, they secured qualification to Europe’s premier competition thanks to an incredible comeback win over the Falmouth Falcons in double overtime before going on to claim fourth place at Southern Cup 2015 back in November. Since then, the Brizzlebears have been subjected to a lot of hype and expectation that has translated into two defeats to Leeds Griffins at both Compass Cup and the British Quidditch Cup (BQC), leading some critics to suggest that the team was underperforming. These two losses in particular may have marred what was a promising start to the season, but a return to underdog status will suit the Brizzlebears going into their debut European campaign. They are bringing an exciting 21-person roster to EQC, including an impressively deep seeker lineup in Dominic Ayre, Stephen Fung, and the newly promoted Aaron Brett-Miller (Brett-Miller caught six out of seven snitches for the Brizzlebears’ B team, the Brizzlebees, at BQC). They also have defensive stalwart keeper Josh Blannin, beater Alistair Goodwin, and chaser Charlie Brooks. If the Brizzlebears can make the most of having one of the largest rosters in the tournament and play their usual fast-paced quidditch, then they will certainly be competitive in Italy. However, their success will depend on their defensive play, which is arguably the team’s weakest aspect when Blannin is not on the pitch.

The BOUN Centaurs’ squad of 16 looks small next to the Brizzlebears’ 21 players, but there’s nothing diminutive about the team that took third place at the Turkish Quidditch Cup in October. Their performance during the whole weekend was surprisingly good, as not many people were expecting such a good result from a rather inexperienced team. Unfortunately, they could not perform as well at Intergalaktik Cup, finishing in sixth place after an overtime loss against the METU Minicorns (110*-100) in the lower bracket final. After Intergalaktik Cup, the Centaurs have played three Turkish Quidditch League matches and suffered a series of losses, losing against the Hacettepe Phoenix (100*-50), the ODTÜ Hippogriffs (140-120*), and the Bilkent Foxes (180-120*). During the Turkish Quidditch League, their roster was depleted as they played three matches in a row, and now they are bringing an even smaller roster to Gallipoli. Under these circumstances, we can say that their chance to move to the upper bracket is very low. However, they can have a deep run at Division II if they don’t become too fatigued. The Centaurs have a balanced squad. Keeper Çağatay Ural confidently leads the team’s attack and frequently makes impressive saves at the hoops, and Team Turkey veterans Ecem Satıcı and Arman Aktürk are also vital to the team, as both play chaser and beater at a high level. These three players are part of this year’s Team Turkey training squad and will probably compete in Frankfurt, Germany. Tuğçe Bağçivan and Erdi Yeşildal are extremely promising quaffle players, while İsmail Şahin and Can Kapucu bring physicality to the Centaurs’ game. It looks like the Centaurs will feel the absence of seeker and beater Tahir Demircan, though, who recently retired from quidditch. All in all, it is certain that regardless of who the Centaurs play against, they are a worthy opponent to watch out for.

BOUN Centaurs Ecem Satıcı playing chaser for Team Turkey. | Photo Credit: Nicole Stone

Another team to not underestimate is the Milano Meneghins, the oldest team in Italy. They took third place at last year’s Italian Association of Quidditch’s National Tournament, but for EQC their team will lack eight of their usual players and will use three mercs for the first time in four years. They can still count on many reliable players though, most notably Michele Clabassi, Gianluca Tenzone, Francesco Ermini, and Jacopo Radice, who have all been chosen for the first part of the selection for the Italian National team. The team has been secretive about their playstyle, and thus it is unknown what positions each person will be playing for the tournament. Clabassi is one of the most experienced players in Italy as well as the team’s founder and captain, so he will bring his skills and leadership to carry his team. The Meneghins will need to push hard to avoid a shutout in pool play as the Brizzlebears’ full 21 makes them less likely to succumb to fatigue, and the Turkish teams are known for their physicality. 

Unfortunately, the matches against the Dodos and the Frogs are almost foregone conclusions, assuming all goes to plan for the French and the Belgians. Realistically, this is a competition for third place for the British, Turkish, and Italian teams. The Brizzlebears can be relied upon to bring their A game and could make a good run into the lower bracket. The Centaurs will gain a lot from the experience to see more play styles outside the Turkish League, and the Meneghins have something of a home-field advantage. The real question is, how far the Frogs can hop into the upper bracket? Which team, if any, will force the Dodos’ dreams of glory into extinction? 

Written by Matt O’Connor (St. Andrews Snidgets), Chula Bruggeling (Wageningen Werewolves), Niccolò Andrea Carissimo (Hinkypunks Bologna), Kai Haugen Shaw (OSI Vikings), and Fraser Posford (Southampton Quidditch Club) 

Group F

Group F Teams:
Durham University Quidditch Club (UK) - 16 players
Brussels Qwaffles (Belgium) - 15 players
Wageningen Werewolves (Netherlands) - 12 players
Lunatica Quidditch Club (Italy) - 19 players
Nantes Quidditch (France) - 11 players

With the top two spots in Group E all but set, Group F looks set to be all about the scramble for the second qualifying spot for Division I behind Durham; a potential 4-way battle between the Brussels Qwaffles, Nantes Quidditch, Wageningen Werewolves, and local team Lunatica Quidditch Club.

Durham continue to move from strength to strength, and come into European Quidditch Cup off the back of a somewhat unexpected third place finish at the British Quidditch Cup. Their slowball style stymied the Nottingham Nightmares and allowed Durham to snatch an overtime victory to absolve their defeat in the final of the UK’s Northern Cup in November. If Durham can execute their controversial style effectively, they can top this pool. However, Durham struggled in their match with the Radcliffe Chimeras at BQC and could face difficulty against the more defensively adept teams, or those with hyper-aggressive beaters. This is also a Durham roster missing a few familiar faces, most notably captain and TeamUK chaser Jackie Woodburn. Without Woodburn, Marcus Buechel takes the captain’s armband with what could be a step into the unknown for them. The key players for Durham will likely be former Team UK training squad member Jim Marschalek on quaffle as well as beaters Amy Chan and Zack Hodari, who were in fine form at BQC. Beater and chaser James McGurk is skilled on both sides of the game and could also make an impact. With Durham’s slowball offence, their games could be tight, and if this is the case, the seeking skills of Jonathan Rees may be required, although this could have a knock-on effect on the rest of their game.

Jonathan Rees catches to win against defending champions Southampton Quidditch Club Firsts at BQC 2016 | Photo Credit: Ajantha Abey Photography
The Brussels Qwaffles are a well-established team, and many of their players are well-known around Europe. This will be the team’s third European Championship; Brussels hosted the 2014 edition. At EQC 2015, the Qwaffles progressed to Division I only to lose 180*-20 to NTNUI Rumpeldunk in the first round of bracket play. This season, the Qwaffles ranked second in the Belgian Quidditch Cup and and are presently in the same position in the Belgian Quidditch League (BQL). With a roster that’s on the small side — although not at all unusual at this tournament — they might be having a more difficult time than usual. However, they will have six players from the Belgian national team, the Belgian Gryffins, in their ranks, including chaser co-captains Lana Naudts and Chayenne Van Meel, and chaser Jorge Diaz.  Also from the national squad is beater and coach Tanghi Burlion, infamous around Europe as the snitch who feeds seekers waffles before the game. Fellow beater, snitch, and Belgian Gryffin Damien Leclaire will also be making the trip. The final Gryffin playing for the Qwaffles is chaser Nathan Wilputte, the only player on the Gryffins’ roster selected for a third successive year. Rounding out the group of well-known players on the Qwaffles roster is IQA Referee Development Team Coordinator Cory Faniel who has spent most of his time the past few years in the UK and only recently came back to Belgium.

From the well-established NGB of Belgium to a much newer one in the Netherlands comes the Werewolves. Quidditch in the Netherlands is only in its second season, and these Dutch representatives are bringing a squad of 12 players to Italy. These 12, however, are quite used to working with both each other and with this roster size at tournaments, which might work in their favor. The Werewolves earned their EQC bid at Benelux Cup (BNLC) where they managed to finish first among the Dutch teams in their group. Players to watch on this team include fierce beater and primary seeker Linda Hooijschuur, chaser duo Juliane Schillinger (coach) and Nick van Klaveren, and offensive beaters Marit Epskamp and Robert van de Ven. Out of those five, Hooijschuur, Van Klaveren, Epskamp and Van de Ven are also on the Dutch national team, along with keeper Willem-Jan Kok and chasers Clio Plowman (captain) and Cassandra Vogel. Schillinger instead chose once again to try out for the German national team, her home country. While the official roster is not yet released, she was on the roster for European Games, so word is her chances are high to return to the team. Another player to keep an eye out for this tournament will be freshman Twan Elting, one of the Werewolves fastest chasers, who made a very successful debut as a seeker at BNLC and managed to catch the snitch the very first official game he played as a seeker. Despite including seven, possibly eight, players picked for their respective national teams, the relatively small size of the team is likely to give them trouble, especially as they go further into the tournament.

Juliane Schillinger playing against the North Sea Nargles at Benelux Cup | Photo Credit: GC Bruggeling

Making their fourth EQC appearance as one of the six competing French teams is Nantes Quidditch. Nantes failed to qualify for Division I at EQC 2015, but instead enjoyed a long run in Division II, losing to eventual winners Leicester Thestrals in the semifinals. They then beat home team Oxford Quidlings for third place. Repeating or improving on last year’s performance will be difficult for Nantes with a roster of only 11 players who will likely be exhausted from the Italian heat. Captained by chaser Maëva Lucas, Nantes are not in their best form having underperformed at the Coupe de France in February after losing to Toulouse 80*-70 (despite defeating the same opposition in group play the day before), finishing in seventh place overall. 

The small roster is not in Nantes’ favour but on an individual level, it will be an opportunity for players such as keeper Fabien Bouchet to gain significant game time on Europe’s elite stage. Bouchet is the only Nantes player on the 40-person squad for the French national team and, aided by teammates Camille Vallois and Benjamin Le Pogam (two players who made the initial 60-person list), he will be looking to impress the French selectors prior to World Cup 2016 in July. Nantes look destined for Division II once more; however, they could shock unsuspecting teams such as the also depleted Brussels Qwaffles if they manage to put in a good team performance.

From the west of Europe we then move on to Italian team Lunatica Quidditch Club, who took second place in last year’s Italian National Tournament and is probably one of the best hopes of the Italian contingent. Their roster suffered many changes from last year’s, but their new players are promising and ready to take part, even if it will be the first official tournament for some of them.

Andrea Miglietta, the founder of Lunatica, is a great player who will try to carry his team to victory with his skills and notably his versatility, covering almost every role available. Marco Anglano is the main beater of the squad, and he will be a stable threat for every opponent due to his precision and strategy. Lunatica’s roster has five players who have been chosen for the first part of the selection of the Italian National Team, including the two previously mentioned members, who will surely be able to surprise the teams that haven’t seen them play yet. The whole team is a mix of small/agile players and big/strong ones, allowing them to adapt themselves to difficult situations. With a deep bench of 19 players, and being the closest you get to a host team, they should be well rested and have a good chance at proceeding to the upper bracket. They fell just short of this goal last year, taking third place in their group after losing to UiO (now OSI Vikings) and Nottingham Nightmares. However, this year their chances are looking better. They will likely not be able to beat Durham, but as the other teams in the group have small rosters, they should be able to get an assist by the Italian sun as the others will be at risk of fatigue.

Group F will be an interesting group to follow as most fixtures are wide open. Durham seems destined for Division I, being both the first seeded and one of the larger teams in this group. Predicting the second team to proceed to the upper bracket is more difficult. The Qwaffles are the second seeded team and will be bringing some familiar names and national team players with them, but they will be bringing a team that’s on the smaller side. Lunatica, on the other hand, has the home advantage and will have almost an entire 21-person roster, which is bound to be an advantage. Meanwhile, it’s difficult to compare the Werewolves and Nantes. The Werewolves might not have had a high result at the previous EQC, but they have shown a strong and steady improvement during this past season, ending with their performance at BNLC. Nantes performed well at the previous EQC, but they haven’t had the greatest success at the recent French national championship. The order of the last four places are anyone's guess, and if you like close games, this is the group to watch.

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