Friday, October 14, 2016

Turkish Quidditch: A Look Back on the Season So Far, and Looking Forward to Turkish Quidditch Cup

By Kaan Bolat, Can Kaytaz, Kamil Urgun

In contrast with most European quidditch seasons, the Turkish season runs from January to December. So while most European teams are just getting started again, Turkey is nearing the end of its season. However, there are still some very important events coming up for Turkish quidditch: the second half of the Turkish Quidditch League (TQL), with the winner being granted a spot in European Quidditch Cup (EQC) 2017, and the Turkish Quidditch Cup (TQC), which has two EQC spots up for grabs. We look back at Turkish quidditch so far this season and the teams that will face each other at TQC this weekend.

The Season So Far
By Can Kaytaz and Kaan Bolat

Turkish Quidditch League 2016
By Can Kaytaz

During the Turkish Quidditch League, each team plays two matches against each other (one match at each half of the league). A win earns the team two points while a loss means one point. The team with the most points at the end of the season gets a spot at EQC. A team’s ranking in the league affects pool draws for the Turkish Quidditch Cup. This season, there are nine teams participating for the title and Turkey’s other two EQC spots.

The first half of the Turkish Quidditch League came to an end at the beginning of the summer with the METU Unicorns leading the table, closely followed by the İTÜ Honeybees, and the ODTÜ Hippogriffs rounding out third place with one more game yet to be played. There were some really interesting and exciting games throughout the first half of the season, such as favourites METU Unicorns losing to their rivals, the ODTÜ Hippogriffs and the İTÜ Honeybees. The Honeybees managed to narrowly defeat four of the five Ankara teams on the same weekend, winning all of their games with SWIM catches. The only Ankara team that managed to defeat the Honeybees was the METU Minicorns in a surprisingly comfortable game, where the Minicorns won 190*-90. As things stand, TQL proves that the Turkish quidditch scene is highly competitive and unpredictable, and Turkish Quidditch Cup 2016 will be a highly entertaining tournament.  

Barcelona Moustaches Time III
By Kaan Bolat

Barcelona Moustaches Time (BMT) III hosted two of this year’s strongest Turkish quidditch teams: the ODTÜ Hippogriffs and the Bilkent Foxes. The Hippogriffs made an impressive stand by finishing as joint third with the Norwegian Ridgebacks, due to a serious injury of Hippogriffs keeper Yiğit Tabak in the early minutes of the third-place match. On the other hand, this year’s Turkish Quidditch Cup hosts, the Bilkent Foxes, finished BMT III in fifth place. While the tournament helped the Hippogriffs keep their physical strength and team together throughout the summer, which is hard to do for most quidditch teams, the Bilkent Foxes found a chance to improve and get closer by going to their first international tournament. These two teams trained over the summer for BMT III. Most of the teams in Turkey could not train regularly during summer since school is typically not in session. That gives an advantage to Hippogriffs and Foxes against other the other Turkish teams who they  will be facing at the Turkish Quidditch Cup.

ODTÜ Hippogriffs at Barcelona Mustaches Time III | Photo Credit: Zoomarang Photography

Intergalaktik Cup II
By Kaan Bolat

The same weekend as BMT III, Unicorns Quidditch hosted the second version of (so they say) the most fabulous international quidditch event in the universe, the Intergalaktik Cup. Due to political instability of the country, the tournament saw very low interest despite its offerings. Five teams attended the tournament: a Turkey-based merc team that included two players from Norway, the METU Unicorns, the METU Minicorns, the İTÜ Honeybees, and Uludağ Aragog’s. The METU Unicorns defeated the METU Minicorns and won the cup for the second time, while the İTÜ Honeybees came in third with a marvelous effort. Although more relaxed compared to BMT III, Intergalaktik Cup II forced the teams that attended to train over the summer. The İTÜ Honeybees, currently second in the Turkish Quidditch League, were tested for their stamina due to a lack of some key players, and the METU Minicorns once again showed how dangerous they can be. In addition, Uludağ Aragog’s players bonded during a quidditch camp a week before the tournament that the team organized, which was reflected in the team’s playing style.

Turkish Quidditch Cup 2016
By Kaan Bolat

The third national tournament in Turkey will be held at Bilkent University campus, in Ankara, on the weekend of Oct. 15-16. With only four teams in the first year and eight in the second, this time the tournament will be more breathtaking than ever with 14 teams. Turkey has brought strong physicality and good tactical play to the international arena since they first appeared: three teams from the country performed remarkably at European Quidditch Cup 2016, Team Turkey came sixth in IQA Quidditch World Cup, and now quidditch in Turkey is more competitive than ever. Below are the evaluations of each team that attended the last Turkish Quidditch Cup in alphabetical order, and the evaluation of six newly-formed teams as well as their standing chances from our perspective.

Bilkent Foxes
By Kaan Bolat

The hosts had just been founded by the time Turkish Quidditch Cup 2015  happened last October, and they chose not to attend to the tournament, so this will be the first national cup event for the Bilkent Foxes. In the league, however, the Bilkent Foxes have shown some strength by defeating Uludağ Aragog’s and the METU Minicorns, in addition to last Turkish Cup third-place finisher, the BOUN Centaurs. Currently holding fourth place in the Turkish League, the Bilkent Foxes are only one win away from being the leader.

Former captains and veteran quidditch players Ece Berkyürek and Halil Can Sezgi still seem to be the two strongest players on the team. Being able to play as both keeper and beater, Halil Can Sezgi is supported in quaffle play by fast and strong keeper Batuhan Eren, along with the support of smart beater Mustafa Kaan in bludger play.

Since the day they were formed, the Bilkent Foxes have gained the respect and love of the quidditch community both nationally and internationally with their foxy behavior, fancy jerseys, good-quality games, and charming merchandise. Will being the hosts increase their impact on the tournament, or will it result in them getting tired due to extra organizational efforts? The question will remain unanswered until the tournament weekend. No matter the result, the Foxes will bring joy, great attitude, and their foxy hospitality to the Turkish Quidditch Cup 2016.

BOUN Centaurs
By Can Kaytaz

The BOUN Centaurs came in third at the last TQC, becoming the second-seeded Turkish team at European Quidditch Cup 2016, where they took 25th place. They are currently sixth in the TQL, with wins against the METU Minicorns, Uludağ Aragog’s, and the İTÜ Honeybees.

Ecem Bedriye Satıcı playing for the BOUN Centaurs at EQC 2016 | Photo Credit: Kieran Harris, courtesy of Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography

The Centaurs game is shaped around their Team Turkey players, keeper Çağatay Ural, chasers Erdi Bilal Yeşildal and Bedriye Ecem Satıcı, as well as beater Arman Aktürk. Although these players form a strong core, they have not been able to find the support they need to take the Centaurs to the next level. Losing ex-captain Tuğçe Bağçıvan will also be a big hit for the Centaurs, especially with the gender rule change making the role of non-male players more important.

The Centaurs have improved their defensive game a lot after EQC, but they need to adapt their offense to rely on Ural less, as he is an injury-prone player and the Centaurs have been struggling heavily to find hoop-play without him. A lucky draw may take the Centaurs to the semifinals at TQC 2016, but they need to improve drastically to guarantee an EQC spot this year.

Hacettepe Phoenix
By Kamil Urgun

Phoenix was runner-up at the last TQC, and that was a surprising result. After that, Hacettepe Phoenix kept their gameplay at that level and finished TQL in fifth place, only one win behind first place; the team will be replaying one of their games and if Phoenix wins with enough QPD, they will be leading the league. Last year Phoenix qualified for EQC though financial difficulties prevented the team from attending and the BOUN Centaurs, who were the third-place team in the TQC, went instead. This year, Phoenix wants to qualify once more and make it to Belgium.

Their roster of 21 players will be an advantage; on the other hand, only 11 of them have been playing quidditch for more than a year, and the others are freshers who have been playing quidditch for less than a month. The performance of these newcomers will determine Phoenix’s spot at the end of the weekend.

Strong keeper and captain Okan Akdoğan will be leading his team with Berk Öcalan and İbrahim Cüneyt Aydın, who will be the main scoring options of Phoenix. Ecem Naz Özcan is a promising beater, and TQC is the perfect place for her to show off her talent. From our perspective, it will be really hard for Phoenix to reach the semifinals, but last year the team managed to surprise everyone, and as a team they will try to repeat it.

İTÜ Honeybees
By Can Kaytaz

The İTÜ Honeybees are one of the oldest teams in Turkey. They took third place in the first TQC and qualified for EQC, but dropped out at the last minute. The Honeybees placed fifth at last years TQC and got an EQC spot again after a couple of dropouts, and this time they managed to participate and impress by finishing 13th. The Honeybees improved their form in TQL as well, defeating the METU Unicorns, the Hacettepe Phoenix, and the ODTÜ Hippogriffs in close games and are currently in second place. The Honeybees also attended Intergalaktik Cup II, where they finished third in an unimpressive display.

İTÜ Honeybees at EQC 2016 | Photo Credit: Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography

The Honeybees game is centered around a passing game led by keepers Arif Gülbiter and Fuat Cemiloğlu and chasers Olgaç Can Öztürk and Umut Müezzinoğlu, while beaters Ali Gülüm and Cemre Avcı back their game up. The Honeybees are lacking quality in their non-male players; while they can get the job done, none of their non-male players add depth to their squad, which limits the Honeybees tactically.

Despite their inconsistent form, the Honeybees will be looking to get an EQC spot. The Honeybees may be lacking great beaters but they can play patiently, forcing mistakes and finding scoring opportunities against stronger opponents. They are a strong candidate to play in the final of TQC 2016 if they can keep their composure all weekend.

METU Minicorns
By Kaan Bolat

The B team of the fabulous Unicorns Quidditch family has only increased the flamboyance and color of quidditch in Turkey since it was first formed a year ago. Although the Minicorns’ current place at seventh does not reflect their impact on the league, they did a pretty amazing job by defeating İTÜ Honeybees and making a mess in all predictions as well as standings in the current Turkish League. Having defeated Uludağ Aragog’s and having lost in a pretty close game to the BOUN Centaurs, the METU Minicorns offer great potential to bring surprise wins against strong teams.

METU Minicorns mostly follow their older sibling’s strong zonal defence, and they increase their field awareness game by game. New captain METU Unicorn Fatih Koşar, next to their current shining captain Emre Sönmez, will help them put forward a strong defensive game. Kemal Yılmaz and Alper Urgun will no doubt contribute with their speed and agility to the team’s offensive strength. Veteran beater Ruşen Sarı will lead star partner Ece Akansel in the beater game, and Berke Gökçeoğlu will back up the bludger play with his aggressive beating. With these players combined with the possible extra contribution coming from the freshers, the Minicorns may cause an unexpected loss to even the most challenging team.

The B team of Unicorns Quidditch has improved a lot since their last Turkish Quidditch Cup experience, where they came in seventh out of eight teams. Nonetheless, they offer a great joy both on and off the pitch, and it is not impossible for us to see them play in the semifinals with a little bit of luck and extra effort this year.

METU Unicorns
By Can Kaytaz

The METU Unicorns have enjoyed a great deal of success ever since they were first formed. The Unicorns were the first to win the TQC undefeated; they were the first Turkish team to participate in the EQC, where they finished 18th in 2015; and they were the first to organize and win the two only international tournaments in Turkey (Intergalaktik Cup I and II). They managed to defend their TQC title last year, again undefeated, and went on to finish the EQC in joint third place with the Nottingham Nightmares, narrowly missing the final with a SWIM loss to former Deurne Dodo A, the current Antwerp Quidditch Club. The Unicorns have been a bit shaky in the TQL with losses against the İTÜ Honeybees and rivals the ODTÜ Hippogriffs, yet they placed first after the first half of the season.

The METU Unicorns are a team filled with talent and experience, with three players from the EQC 2016 all-star squad. Keeper Fatih Aykurt, who was recently crowned captain, is the biggest threat in the offense with explosive drives and accurate passes. Point chaser Ahmet Can Karakadılar is the defensive anchor of the Unicorns who also compliments Aykurt nicely on offense. Veteran chasers Can Kaytaz and Kaan Bolat add depth to the squad. The Unicorns have some of the best female talent in Turkey, led by strong chaser and captain Sıla Yüksel. The Unicorns have a small beater pool, but all of their beaters are impactful. Umut Yeşilkaya, Kamil Urgun, and Ali Deniz Uçar are among the best beaters in Europe and will be an integral part of every potential Unicorn success.

The METU Unicorns have been playing an effective zonal defense game where they look to gain the quaffle with a heavy press to hit their opponents on quick counters. The Unicorns are also capable of playing a decent passing game to open up tight defenses. They have been a dominant force in Turkish quidditch and despite two unexpected losses this season, they are the TQC favourites once again.

The METU Unicorns celebrating their joint third place at EQC 2016 with the Nottingham Nightmares | Photo Credit: Helen Freeman

ODTÜ Hippogriffs A
By Kamil Urgun

The Hippogriffs were the first Turkish quidditch team, founded in April 2014. Since that day, they have continued to be one of the strongest teams of the country. They finished second at the first TQC and fourth at the second TQC. Between these two events, they placed first at the first TQL and now they are in third place at the end of the first half of this season’s TQL with one missing match. The Hippogriffs have shown what they are capable of many times in Turkey, and their BMT performances revealed that they are playing quidditch at an international level. They have not attended EQC yet; they had to reject their bid two times in a row for various reasons, and now they want to go to Belgium, for which TQC is a chance to get their spot once more.  

The Hippogriffs are one of the most experienced Turkish quidditch teams. Their quaffle game will depend on Mehmet Ali Açıkbaş, Gökay Bilici, and Sertaç Alptekin. While Alptekin and Bilici will bring their strength to quaffle play, Açıkbaş will use his speed to score. Team Turkey veteran Öykü Çetin is always a threat to teams who give her a chance to get a pass behind the hoops. Former captain Ekin Berkyürek and captain Anıl Aydın are used to playing together and are known for their ability to hold bludger control over their opponents. Elif Gökçe İlhan is also a strong beater on the female side.

The team is playing a game dependent on their compact defence and fast breaks, catching almost all teams unbalanced. Against a balanced defence they try to open their quaffle carriers way with beaters or passes behind the hoops. They are no doubt strong candidates for the final of this third version of Turkish Quidditch Cup and will most likely get one of Turkey’s three EQC spots.     

Uludağ Aragog’s
By Kamil Urgun

The Aragog’s were the very first team based in Bursa and are currently the only team not based in Ankara or İstanbul. They finished the last TQC in eighth place and the first Intergalaktik Cup in 10th place. Last summer they held a quidditch camp just before Intergalaktik II, and they returned to Bursa with lots of experience. They are currently at eighth place in the TQL with seven losses.

The Aragog’s quaffle play is led by keeper Başar Karamuk, who is also the top scorer in the TQL with 33 hoops in seven matches. Gülin Sedenay Saylam and Göksenin Ülker are both experienced chasers supporting Karamuk at offense. However, if the team wants to get a spot in EQC, the players have to learn how play as a team, and it looks like the Aragog’s need more time for that.

The Aragog’s players give all their effort during a match, even when they are behind with a huge gap. Because of that, it is always fun to watch them. There will be six new teams competing at TQC, and these teams will give us some close match-ups; with their experience, the Aragog’s are likely to win. However, when it comes to top places, we will probably not see the Aragog’s beyond the quarterfinal.

The Newest Teams of Turkish Quidditch
By Kaan Bolat

Over the past three weeks, six new teams have entered the Turkish quidditch arena, including the ODTÜ Hippogriffs B and C teams, BOUN Centaurs B team, and the İTÜ Honeybees’ B team, the Bumblebees. Gazi University formed their first team, the Black Bears. Additionally, Hacettepe University has their new team Shades Quidditch. All of the players come from a physical education and sports background. Even though some of these teams were observed during non competitive exhibition matches, the performances of these teams are a bit unknown.

Shades Quidditch has played their friendly neighbour Hacettepe Phoenix and surprisingly won with a SWIM catch. The Gazi Black Bears have practiced with both Unicorns Quidditch teams several times and have shown their physical potential. The Honeybees and Centaurs have been practicing together with their A and B teams and promise good potential for the future. The ODTÜ Hippogriffs’ B and C teams, on the other hand, have yet to be seen in action.

All in all, the newly-entering teams have brought thrills to the Turkish quidditch arena, along with the proof of the beauty of this sport. All the new teams have been receiving help in their early steps, and quidditch keeps growing exponentially in the country, just as it is in the world. Regardless of their standing, all these teams will have contributed to the sport at the end of Turkish Quidditch Cup 2016.

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