Friday, August 19, 2016

MLQ Championship Preview: Pod 2

Fourteen intense teams will come together this weekend, August 20-21, for the second Major League Quidditch (MLQ) Championship. These teams were divided into four pods for pool play and we were able to talk to some of the players and coaches who will be fighting for the gold in League City, Texas. To hear more about the four Pod 2 teams read our conversations with Ghoddossy from the Austin Outlaws, Chris Barnard from Indianapolis Intensity, Lindsay Marella from the New York Titans, and Justine Taylor from Phoenix Sol as they prepare for the championship.

Spotlight on Austin Outlaws
Article by Andy Marmer, Carrie Soukup, and TJ Goaley
Interview by Danielle Lehmann


Few doubt the quidditch ability of the city of Austin. Home to three-time USQ champions University of Texas, and top community teams Lone Star Quidditch Club and Texas Cavalry, the Austin roster amazed many when it was released. Austin has been helped throughout this year by its roster’s extensive experience of playing together in past seasons. One cohesive unit has coalesced into a nearly unstoppable force on the pitch; its 9-0 record reflects this as it comes into the finals as the South Division champions. The Outlaws season was relatively uneventful. In all nine games, they only had one in-range game all season, against the League City Legends in their Game 2 matchup (120*-70). That is, unless you count the second match against the Kansas City Stampede, where the Outlaws Stephen Bell scored a second before Kansas pulled the snitch, putting them out of range before the pull

The Quidditch Post spoke with Aryan Ghoddossy, coach for the Austin Outlaws, about the upcoming MLQ Championship. 

Quidditch Post: How is your team preparing for the Championship?
Aryan Ghoddossy: We have been preparing for the championship since day one. Although you can claim that this is a team of superstars, we made it very clear since the beginning that nothing is given and they have to earn everything through hard work and practice.

QP: You’re undefeated so far to what do you credit your success?
AG: We credit our success mainly to hard work and chemistry on and off the pitch. We are an experienced team that has come into each series more prepared than the last.

Outlaws work together as one to eliminate the opposing threat on the pitch. | Photo Credit: Ginger Snaps Photography
QP: What impact did World Cup have on your team?
AG: It had a motivational impact on our team. The loss was disappointing, and many of the players on our team were either current or past members of Team USA. If anything, it drove those players to work harder.

QP: How is the chemistry on your team? How have you transitioned all of your star players to a cohesive team?
AG: The chemistry on our team is very good. All the players on our team have played with each other or against one another at some point in their quidditch career. The transition has not been hard at all. Immediately from the start all the players were excited to play with such a talented roster and the single goal of winning the championship has really brought the team together.

QP: Have you had any players on your team who surprised you?
AG: Not particularly. Coming into the season the coaching staff and even players on the team knew what every player was capable of. This is a team of veterans who know how to play quidditch and know how to play it well.

QP: What are your team’s greatest strengths?
AG: Our greatest strength is the depth in our roster and the variability that it affords us as a team. Different lines are ready for any situation thrown at us. It is a rare thing to say but each one of our lines whether it be our first or last is capable of taking on any team in the league.

QP: How have you found the quality of your opponents compared to the teams you play in USQ?
AG: The quality of our opponents has definitely improved compared to that of USQ. Just the nature of what MLQ is leads to teams pooling talent together and making games more competitive.

QP: Was it difficult selecting your roster for the tournament?
AG: It was definitely a tough decision. The depth and talent that is on this team is unseen in the history of quidditch. Players left off this roster would be stars on another team’s roster. In the end, it came down to which 21 players would give us the best chance of winning. Not the best 21 players, but the best 21 who work together and make us a better team.

The Outlaws plan to bring the best of the best and are favorites to win the series. | Photo courtesy of Kedzie Teller

QP: Is there a team you’re looking forward to facing in pool play, or hope to face in the bracket?
AG: We are excited to play all teams. There is no team we are more excited to play than the other.

QP: Is there any match you’re not playing in, but can’t wait to watch?
AG: We are excited to watch our fellow South Division teams compete in their games.

QP: What are your goals for the championship?
AG: Our goal is to win the championship. Not just win though, but win, as Brazilian soccer fans say, in a beautiful way. We want teams, players, and fans leaving the championship believing that this was the best quidditch squad ever assembled.


A perfect finish is just what most people expected from the team considered to be the favorites to take on the Boston Night Riders in the MLQ Championship finals. From the starters all the way through the bench, this team’s roster has been stacked with some of the finest talent the sport has ever seen. The Outlaws managed to outscore opponents by an impressive 81.1 points per game, while averaging 121.1 points per contest, second only to the Night Riders.

So many words have been written about the players Austin has assembled that a list is almost sufficient on its own. Ten  players on the Outlaws have been selected to represent Team USA over the years, and four more have been chosen as reserves. 

It’s not even clear where to begin when discussing this team. Stephen Bell may be the best keeper to ever play the game and has scored early and often for the Outlaws. Augustine Monroe, playing both keeper and beater, has again displayed his skills as a masterful passer this year. Meanwhile, Kody Marshall, Becca DuPont, Simon Arends, Freddy Salinas, and Martin Bermudez keep scoring. To list the amount of quaffle talent on this team would be excessive.

Photo Credit: Ginger Snaps Photography

What sets this Austin team apart from all of the others that have called that city home over the years is its beating ability. After a year out from injury, Mollie Lensing has returned to form. Meanwhile, Michael Duquette has continued to display the skills that got him selected to Team USA and impressed many in Frankfurt, Germany. Sarah Holub has continued her steady play at the position after transitioning from chaser a few years ago, and if the team ever needs even more dynamism in their beating line, Monroe is available.

The biggest question mark for Austin will be at the seeking position. However, Reed Marchman has done an excellent job holding down that spot this year, and given Bell’s skill at keeper, many often forget how talented he is with a yellow headband.

It is likely that the Outlaws’ perfect season will continue through at least the pod games of the MLQ Championship. Their opponents are Phoenix, New York, and Detroit, and none of them pose much of a threat to the Outlaws. The question is whether Austin can bring a quidditch championship back to Bat City.

Spotlight on Detroit Innovators
Article by Andy Marmer 

Detroit has managed just one win on the season, a 110*-40 victory over the Cleveland Riff, and has otherwise disappointed this season, being swept by Rochester Whiteout and Indianapolis Intensity in its first two series. However, both series do have silver linings: Detroit took Rochester to overtime in the first series and played Indianapolis in snitch range twice, including one game where the teams were level on quaffle points. With two wins last year, and a first-round elimination at the hands of the Boston Night Riders, Detroit has managed just three wins in its two seasons

The Quidditch Post chatted with Detroit chaser Chris Barnard about the upcoming MLQ Championship.

Quidditch Post:  What will it take for Detroit to win it all?
Chris Barnard: We know we are a dark horse, but if we can execute our game plan efficiently for the whole tournament, we feel that we can go toe-to-toe with anyone.

The Innovators must play beyond their best in order to gain any traction at the championships. | Photo Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography

QP: With just one win this season, how do you feel things will turn around for the championship?
CB: With a whole season of playing together, we have a little bit of chemistry. Hopefully it comes together and we make a run.

QP: How has the team been preparing for the championship?
CB: Extra practices and working on strategy.

QP: Was it difficult selecting your roster for the tournament?
CB: Honestly, no. Anyone able to make it is coming.

QP: With just one SWIM in six snitch-range games, what is the team doing to improve its seeker game?
CB: Focusing on slowing the pace and recognition of the situation in terms of score/control.

QP: Is there a team you’re looking forward to facing in pod play, or hope to face in the bracket?
CB: I would love to play the Austin Outlaws; I enjoy playing a physical type of game.

QP: Do you feel that any of your team’s players aren’t getting the credit they deserve this season?
CB: I'd say that our record results in our players not getting the props they deserve. We have a lot of talented players on this team; we've just had a problem getting everyone to events at the same time.

With just one win during this season, Detroit is not going to be a contender in League City. The team relies on Dylan Schepers and Chris Barnard for goals, and although they are talented players in their own right, it will be difficult for them to match the other quaffle players in the league, and Detroit simply does not have the lineup depth of many other MLQ teams.

One bright spot for the team has been the play of aggressive beater James Richert. Richert finished 13th in the league last year in beats and 10th in controls gained. His play has been even better this year. Yet, much like the quaffle line, Detroit’s depth at beater simply does not measure up to its rivals.

Detroit’s season has been marked by key absences with players like Team USA’s Andrew Axtell and Ashley Calhoun opting not to compete during the MLQ season and key players like Barnard, Matt Oppenlander, and Lisa Lavelanet all missing series during the season. Unfortunately, not much will change for the championship as both Schepers and Barnard will miss it.

Chaser Matt Oppenlander will play at the championship despite missing series during the season. | Photo Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography
With the drop of Rochester Whiteout, Detroit slides into the pods as a third seed; however, this is little consolation as both the New York Titans and the Austin Outlaws will inevitably prove too much for the Innovators in League City.

Spotlight on New York Titans
Article by Andy Marmer
Interview by Alberto Coronado 

The New York Titans were last year’s runner-up and took second place in the East Division with a 5-4 record for the second straight year. New York started off its season with a sweep at the hands of the Boston Night Riders with all three games out of range before churning out a 2-1 series win over the Washington Admirals – with two out of range wins and a snitch range loss. After that, New York rattled off a sweep of the Ottawa Black Bears, with only the final contest within snitch range. Despite 14 players returning from last year’s team, it’s the player who no longer plays for the team that perhaps most defines this year’s Titans. Augustine Monroe led the 2015 squad in goals, assists, shots, takeaways, and blocks, and needless to say those stats and Monroe’s talent were crucial in the team’s strong finish last year.

The New York Titans Team | Photo Credit: Loring Masters
The Quidditch Post spoke with New York Titans chaser Lindsay Marella about the upcoming MLQ Championship.

Quidditch Post: Well, to start off, would you mind telling me how you got involved with the NY Titans?
Lindsay Marella: Sure. I was ending my sophomore year at Rutgers University and saw that it was posted in some forum. I was like, that sounds like it would be fun and a total honor to play for my city with the best athletes in the area, so I tried out.

QP: With the championship coming up, what do you believe it will take for the Titans to win it all?
LM: We need everyone on our team to stay healthy throughout the tournament, for everyone to be focused on play, and to take it seriously. As long as we take it game by game and utilize our strengths, we should do well!

QP: Last year, you all had the benefit of playing with one of the best. Augustine Monroe is an impressive player, to say the least; was it difficult to replace him?
LM: I don’t think we had the mindset of replacing him. However, he was definitely missed on the squad this year. More than his play, I think we miss his experience and the coaching he gave to our players. But [Michael Parada and Kyle Jeon] have stepped up in that department for sure.

QP: How has the team been preparing for the championship?
LM: We’ve been working harder outside of practices (our personal training and fitness) and taking a more strategic approach in our training sessions when we're together, since we've already had most of the summer to build chemistry.

QP: Was it difficult selecting your roster for the championship?
LM: I'm not in a leadership position on our team, so I didn't pick the roster. I'd imagine that it was probably tough, though, to work with 30 athletes all summer and then select only a number of them to compete in the championship.

QP: Is there any team in particular the squad is looking forward to facing in this championship?
LM: I want to play teams that I've never faced before, like the Los Angeles Guardians, but I think some good matchups for us would be Indianapolis Intensity, and maybe Salt Lake City Hive and New Orleans Curse. I'm looking forward to playing anyone, but like I said, I'd like to get a variety of experience playing teams from all over instead of playing Boston and DC people for the billionth time.

QP: I've noticed you and Parada have developed a lot of chemistry over the past few seasons. Would you mind expanding on anything in particular this duo will bring to the table?
LM:  I guess we know each other's playing style pretty well, but a bunch of us have been playing together for a while, particularly the Warriors players.

Titans warming up before their match against the Night Riders. | Photo Credit: Loring Masters
QP: Do you feel that any of your teams players aren't getting the credit they deserve this season, whether it be playing time or media spotlight?
LM: I don't like revealing talented players that aren't in the spotlight. All of the Titans have been putting in work that's been aiding our success, and I know a bunch of them will get a ton of playing time and help us do well at championship!

In each of its three series this season, New York has turned in its worst performance in its final game. This could suggest that the team fatigues easily, which would be a huge problem for a longer tournament like the championship, or it could suggest that other teams more easily adjust to New York than New York does to them, which is less a problem in a tournament where repeat contests happen less often than in a regular season series. The thing about New York, though, is that the East Division has shown very little parity this season. Just three of the division’s 18 games were within snitch range, and it’s easy to think that New York has played just one team, Washington, that’s on a similar level of talent. Given its tendency to fade, and a lack of similar competition, it’s unclear just how good the Titans are.

Alex Leitch is the sort of aggressive beater that can give other teams fits. Playing last season for Indianapolis, Leitch tied for fourth in turnovers forced with two forced per game. However, beating is more than just a solo game, and the Titans have struggled to find a partner to complement Leitch, or otherwise a beater pair that can challenge some of the other top duos in the league.

Photo Credit: Loring Masters
While Leitch has provided some chaos on the beating game, New York’s offense largely revolves around a pair of Team USA players, Lindsay Marella and three-time selection Michael Parada. The two developed chemistry with the Titans last year and it has been on full display for the team this year with the two and Andrew Brekus all being crucial to the team’s offense.

It’ll be interesting to see how New York fares in Texas, as the East Division has not given a true measure of the team’s skill. An August tournament in Texas could see a group that has faded so far this year melt under the sun, or it could see a skilled team saddled by poor coaching benefit from a variety of opponents.

While an opening match against the Detroit Innovators should be manageable for the Titans, being drawn into a pod with the Austin Outlaws will likely prove too much for the defending runner-ups to manage.

Spotlight on Phoenix Sol
Article by Andy Marmer
Interview by Sofia de la Vega

In its first year of existence, the Phoenix Sol struggled to make summer quidditch work in Arizona. The team forfeited its two scheduled road series to the Los Angeles Guardians and Salt Lake City Hive, respectively. Before either forfeit, Phoenix was swept at home by the San Francisco Argonauts in three out-of-range games.

Sol after the only series it played this season. | Photo courtesy of Belmina Mehmedagić
The Quidditch Post spoke with Justine Taylor, assistant coach of the Phoenix Sol, about the upcoming MLQ Championship. 

Quidditch Post: Sol started out the season with a less-than-satisfying series of tryouts. What other challenges have you faced this season that have resulted in two series being forfeited?
Justine Taylor: The roster challenges have been the biggest factors in our two forfeits. I think there were three main factors that contributed to our inability to retain players. The first was the fact that a lot of Arizona State University players reside outside of Arizona during the summer months; that means that we could only really draw from the Flagstaff and Tucson teams, both of which are about two hours away from Phoenix. The second factor was the heat; even when we could hold the occasional practice, performance wasn't going to be up to par because it was so disgustingly hot. I challenge you to stay in Phoenix for a week in the middle of July and go for a run outside. Only don't really do that. Because you'll die. Lastly, and the most resounding reason I heard after surveying a lot of the players that dropped, was the cost. A lot of people didn't realize initially how expensive it would be, especially when you factor in a four-hour round trip of gas just for practice for the Flagstaff and Tucson players, not even including the series.

QP: Sol has taken a lot of heat for forfeiting those two series; has that affected the team’s attitude coming into the championship?
JT: Not at all. We're still coming with the intention to play our hearts out on the field. I think we all understand that the circumstances that led to our forfeits of the Los Angeles and Salt Lake City series were beyond any of our control.

QP: I’ve heard Phoenix can reach 115 degrees Fahrenheit during the summer, making it hard to hold practice. How has the team been preparing for the championship?
JT: There were weekends when we couldn't hold practices because the threat of heat waves could potentially be fatal. So a lot of our season's training has circulated around individual growth: putting in a lot of off-the-field work, improving cardiovascular fitness and strength, and such.

QP: The team has faced numerous obstacles throughout the season. How has it been developing your team that may differ from the other teams you’ll be facing this weekend?
JT: Because we have such a small roster, we've had to cater most of our training around that, slowing down our play and conserving energy since we simply don't have the subs to do otherwise. While other teams may have a lot of depth to work with, we have one line of players and have to make do with that.

QP: Has travel impacted the roster for the championship?
JT: Travel has certainly been a big issue with the team this season. That being said though, when we determined who would actually be able to make championship weekend, our manager basically told the seven of us, “Look, you're not going to have any subs; it's going to be a hard and brutal weekend. Is everyone sure they want to invest their time and money into this?” And there wasn't a single person out of those seven who vetoed the idea. Every single one of us were willing to give it our best shot. Despite all the ~heat~ we've been getting, I think that says something about the kind of players we are.

QP: Coming into your pod as a Pot 4 team, it’s going to be rough with such a small roster. What are your hopes for the tournament? Are there any teams you look forward to playing?
JT: Realistically, I'm not expecting Sol can go for gold even if we fight hard. But I would like to show people that Sol isn't as much of a joke as they think; this team is composed of some talented individuals with a lot of heart. I'm really excited to play the Austin Outlaws, and I’m grateful that our first game is against some of the most talented and well-seasoned players in the league, because regardless of the outcome, it'll be a learning experience.

QP: Do you feel that any of your team’s players aren’t getting the credit they deserve this season?
JT: Brentlee Cass pretty much singlehandedly carried our team during the San Fran series. Belmina Mehmedagić also had some really solid finishes and proved that she is more than capable of rising to the challenge of playing entire games without a sub. Jarrod Bailey didn't get the opportunity to attend the San Fran series, but he is one of our most instrumental off-ball chasers and will definitely be a huge part of whatever we bring to the field this weekend.

Sol chaser Belmina Mehmedagić posing with Justine Taylor. | Photo courtesy of Belmina Mehmedagić
Phoenix simply lacks the numbers and talent to do real damage in Texas. 

Team USA alternate Justine Taylor is a star and capable of carrying a team; she just simply does not have the support on this roster to lead Phoenix anywhere. 

The Sol will also face two problems that many of its rivals will not: a limited roster and a lack of chemistry. Phoenix has had issues fielding a team all year, which means its players simply have not had the time to acclimate to one another. Furthermore, lack of numbers and the horrid Phoenix summer have been an impediment to the team practicing much. The team will be traveling to League City with a single-digit number of players, including its own manager, and although it has had a few committed players, the team’s numbers are not enough for the caliber of competition it will face.

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