Thursday, November 3, 2016

Danube Cup Recap: The Wiener Does Take It All

General information by Emina Botic Analysis by Martin Hofbauer

The first international quidditch tournament in Austria, the Danube Cup: The Wiener takes it all, took place on the weekend of Oct. 8 and 9 in Vienna.  Eight teams competed in the tournament: the host teams (Danube Direwolves and Vienna Vanguards), four teams from Germany, one team from Slovenia, and one from Slovakia.

Three River Dragons, Broom Breakers Quidditch, and Aemona Argonauts came with their regular players, while other teams merced together. Slovak teams Cassovia Crows and Pressburg Phantoms, German teams Augsburg Owls and Münchner Wolpertinger Quidditch, as well as the Frankfurt Mainticores and Portkeys Bremen Quidditch formed mercenary teams.

The tournament format featured two groups with four teams each. Pool play took place on Saturday. The Crowtoms (Cassovia Crows and Pressburg Phantoms), Aemona Argonauts, Porticores (Frankfurt Mainticores and Portkeys Bremen), and Vienna Vanguards played in Pool A, while Three River Dragons, Broom Breakers, Owltinger (Augsburg Owls and Munich Wolpertinger), and Danube Direwolves competed in Pool B.

Aemona Argonauts
The Aemona Argonauts displayed what they have been showing us ever since they played their first games against the Vanguards and Phantoms in the spring of 2016. The Argonauts came with a roster quite similar to Team Slovenia at World Cup, and this showed in their gameplay. They played their game heavily relying on their beater play, with Borut Bezgovšek dominating. In quaffle play, John Seem (of OSI Quidditch but who played for the Argonauts in the Danube Cup), and Jernej Valič stood out on offence, while keeper Timotej Soklič backed the team in defence. Also part of this lineup was Team World seeker Verena Deutsch, who caught the winning snitch catch against eventual champions the Vienna Vanguards.

Aemona Argonauts | Photo Credit: Danube Direwolves

The Argonauts had a strong start on the first day, winning 160-120*against the Crowtoms, then taking a surprising 80*-70 victory over the eventual tournament winners, Vienna Vanguards, with a snitch catch by Deutsch. Surprisingly after this win, the Argonauts lost 90*-50 against the Porticores, which meant they came second in their group, seeding them against Owltinger.

The Argonauts started the second day with a comfortable 110-40* victory over  Owltinger, but their small roster began to hinder them in their second game against Three River Dragons. Despite this, the Argonauts kept the game in SWIM range the whole time, but eventually lost 140*-80. In the third-place game against Broom Breakers, the Argonauts showed their skill both in their agility and ability to learn quickly. This, combined with their experience, led to a  270*-100 victory.

Augsburg Owls and Munich Wolpertinger
Owltinger, the joint team of the Augsburg Owls and Munich Wolpertinger, went into the tournament as arguably one of the weaker team, and this unfortunately proved to be true. There were two main reasons for this. First, they came with the smallest roster in the tournament. This forced them to slow down the pace of their game and even forfeit their last match against the Direwolves. Secondly, the team lacked experience. They had a few strong individuals, mostly in their quaffle game, but they lacked synergy and communication between their beaters and quaffle players.

Owltinger started the first day off with a 170*-30 loss to the Direwolves. In a very one-sided game against eventual finalists Three River Dragons, Owltinger lost 190*-10. They finished Day One with a 150*-60 loss against Broom Breakers, and ended up last in their group.

In their first game on Sunday, Owltinger lost 110-40* to the Argonauts. In the lower bracket, they met the Porticores, which ended with another loss, this time with their closest game of the whole tournament with a final score of 130*-40. Sadly, they were forced to forfeit their last game due to injuries and finished in eight place.

Brooms Breakers
The Broom Breakers from Feuerbach, Germany, were one of the newest teams at the tournament, but they were out to surprise. With their very defensive beater play and unbelievably agile and fast male quaffle players, most of their goals were scored with fast breaks. They also impressed with the almost perfect positioning of their female quaffle players, which opened a lot of passing option for drivers if needed. The Broom Breakers went far in the tournament, and could have gone even further if it had not been for injuries and a lack of cooperation between their beater and quaffle players.

The Broom Breakers started the tournament with a loss to Three River Dragons in a relatively close game with a final score of 150*-60, but they quickly shook off any sense of defeat to show their potential in their game against the Direwolves, and won 180*-90. In their last game, their play was heavily influenced by a lack of male players due to injuries, but they managed to win 150*-60 against Owltinger. The Broom Breakers finished the first day in second place in their group, seeding them against the Crowtoms.

On the second day, Broom Breakers started with their third victory in a row in a close game against the Crowtoms, with the quickest snitch catch of the tournament and a score of 70*-50. They played against the Vanguards in the semifinal, and lost 150*-30, sending them to the third-place playoff against the Argonauts. In this game, they were overwhelmed by the Argonauts’ physicality, resulting in a 270*-100 loss and a fourth-place finish in the tournament.

Danube Direwolves
One of the two host teams came under the leadership of one of Austria’s national team keepers, Georg Aigner. The Direwolves played a very defensive beater game with both of their beaters staying close to their hoops for most of the game. In quaffle play, the Direwolves relied on quick drives from their keepers and big players to force their way through.

Danube Direwolves brooms up against Augsburg Owls and Munich Wolpertinger | Photo Credit: Danube Direwolves

The Direwolves started the tournament with a game against Owltinger, taking their deserved victory with a final score of 170*-30. In their second game, they were overwhelmed by Broom Breakers’ speed and the loss of Aigner due to injury. This led to a 180*-90 loss for the Direwolves. In the last game of the day, the Direwolves faced Three River Dragons. Despite the fact that their opponents were more experienced, they did not panic and managed to bring the game to overtime. The Direwolves ended up losing 160^-130*.

They placed third in Group B, which meant playing against their co-hosts, the Vienna Vanguards, on the second day – a game which they lost 120-50*. In the lower bracket, the Direwolves played the Crowtoms in a very even match, though they eventually lost  60*-20. This brought them to seventh-place game, which sadly was not played as Owltinger were forced to forfeit. This secured the Direwolves seventh place.

Bremen Portkeys and Frankfurt Mainticores
Another mercenary team at the tournament, the Porticores, brought an experienced roster. They played a very physical game, both in the bludger and quaffle game. Their most notable quaffle players were Felix Goldau and Thorsten Ostermeier, as well as South Korea and Team World chaser Patricia Heise, while Nina Heise was their standout beater. Unfortunately, it took the team some time to find out how to work together which cost them a few wins, but they improved drastically on the second day.

Their first game on Day One was against host team Vienna Vanguards, in which the Porticores lost 120-60* after a strong game. In their second game, the Porticores played an even game against the Crowtoms, losing by a snitch catch 110*-90. However, they shook those two losses off with a surprising victory against the Argonauts, 90*-50. This win granted them third place in Group A and seeded them against Three River Dragons.

The Porticores put on a great fight in their first game of Day Two, but lost 160*-70 to the eventual finalists. In their lower bracket game, they managed to beat Owltinger 130*-40. This victory resulted in a rematch with the Crowtoms. The Porticores took their revenge in an unbelievably even game that ended in overtime with a final score of 110^-90* to the Porticores, resulting in an overall fifth place for the merc team.

Pressburg Phantoms and Cassovia Crows
The only Slovak team at the tournament came with a very similar roster to that of Team Slovakia at the World Cup 2016. This meant that the Slovaks brought a more experienced team than they ever have before, which resulted in them playing very even games against all teams they played. The biggest flaws of this team were the lack of experienced beaters (they relied mostly on Hana Vrbovská to do most of the job) and the team’s inexperience with quaffle and beater play after the snitch was released. In the quaffle game, they relied on the brute force of Martin Cerebro Čurnek to force his way through their opponents, and the quick passing and driving of Martin Mudrík, Miroslav and Ondrej Sova, with the support of Jana Krajčovičová. They also did well in seeker play, catching four out of seven snitches during the weekend.

The Crowtoms started their first international tournament with a game against a team from another Slavic country, the Argonauts. After an even game where they managed to keep their opponent in SWIM-range for the whole seeker floor, the Crowtoms lost with a final score of 160-120*. In their second game against the Porticores, they played another very even game and got their first international victory, winning 110*-90. In their final game against one of the two host teams, the Vienna Vanguards, the Crowtoms managed to surprise by leading throughout the whole seeker floor. However, they were not able to maintain this lead and suffered injuries, resulting in a 220*-80 loss. This meant fourth place in Group A for the Crowtoms.

In the first game of Day Two, the Crowtoms lost 70*-50 after an unbelievably quick snitch catch by the Broom Breakers’ seeker. In the lower bracket, the Crowtoms faced the second host team, the Direwolves, winning this game 60*-20. In the fifth-place game, they played the Porticores again. After another even game with Martin “Hofi” Hofbauer catching the snitch and taking the game into overtime, they lost 110^-90*, which resulted in an overall sixth place for the Crowtoms.

Three River Dragons Passau
As one of the most experienced teams at the tournament, Passau did not show as much as expected, especially in their Day One matches. Their well-rounded gameplay was not working as well as it usually does, and they got carded very often. After an unsatisfactory first day, they managed to wake up and show what they are capable of on the second day. They managed to balance quick chasers capable of driving the quaffle and the stronger ones able to hold their opponents in defence, with incredible beater play helping both in defence and offense. Their aggressive seeking remains one of Passau’s strong suits. Overall they did very well, but luck was not on their side.

Three River Dragons Passau | Photo Credit: Danube Direwolves

On Day One, their first game was against the Broom Breakers. They played well and led their team to victory with a final score of 150*-60. In their second game, they took on the team with the smallest roster in the tournament, winning 190*-10 against Owltinger. And that is when the surprise came. In their third game against the Direwolves, they surprised everyone and were not able to get out of SWIM range; they even needed overtime after the Direwolves caught the snitch in regulation time. In overtime, they managed to catch the snitch and win 160^-130*, placing them in first place of Group B.

Three River Dragons were much stronger on the second day, starting off with a 160*-70 win against the Porticores, which led them into the semifinal to play the Argonauts. With their engine heated, they played a very long game, where both sides had problems catching the snitch. Despite the Argonauts’ defensive seeking, Three River Dragons managed to catch the snitch, winning 140*-80 and leading them into the final. There they faced one of the host teams, a team with which they are very familiar, the Vienna Vanguards. In a nerve-wracking final, they were a little stronger than the Vanguards in both quaffle and beater game. However, this did not stop the Vanguards from catching the snitch and leading the game into overtime, where exhaustion kicked in for Three River Dragons, resulting in a 150*^-100 loss in overtime and placing them second in the tournament.

Vienna Vanguards
The host team was one of the favourites of the tournament, having enough experience and a large roster. In beater play, Markus Tünte and Lena Mandahus shone with their skill and tactics. Their quaffle play was strong with power player Matthias Gruber, fast breaker Simon Heher, and well-positioned Andrea Wöger. The team was led by keeper and captain Dominik Hiesl and newly-elected Quidditch Austria President Anna Koivu guiding them from the sidelines. The Vanguards were strong throughout the tournament, only losing one game in SWIM range thanks to their incredible seeker, Osman Akkaya, and wholeheartedly deserved to win the Cup.

The Vanguards kicked off the first day with a 120-60* win over the Porticores. In their second game against the Argonauts they struggled a little, and lost 80*-70 on snitch catch. This did not bring them down, though, and in the next game against the Crowtoms they came back even stronger with the highest quaffle point differential (QPD) of the day, winning the game 220*-80. This victory brought the Vanguards to the first place in Group A and seeded them against their co-hosts.

Their first game on the second day against the other Viennese team showed the difference in experience among the two teams, and resulted in the Vanguards winning 120-50*. In the semifinal, they faced the Broom Breakers and won quite easily with a final score of 150*-30, despite their opponent’s defensive bludger play. The final was a face-off between the team’s old rivals and friends Three River Dragons. In a SWIM-range game, Vanguards seeker Akkaya showed his skills after catching the snitch while the score was 100-70, sending the final into overtime. Akkaya caught the snitch two minutes into overtime, winning the Cup for his team with an final score of 150*^-100.

Vienna Vanguards | Photo Credit: Danube Direwolves

Considering the variety of different skill levels, all teams put in their best performance. More experienced teams such as Three River Dragons, the Vanguards, and the Argonauts showed some quality games full of cleverly-devised tactics, fast breakthroughs, impressive beater skills, and beautiful snitch catches.

However, not only experienced teams showed the best of themselves. The Broom Breakers, who have only been part of the quidditch community for less than a year, showed huge improvement with their agile and fast chaser line up and will soon be a force to be reckoned with. The Direwolves have huge potential in their physical chaser line up but they lack of necessary tactics and experience to fully utilise them.  Over the weekend one could see that the three combined teams came together as a cohesive unit. Despite uncoordinated play stemming from roster issues, many of the Slovakian national team players were present and showed what they picked up from World Cup. For the Porticores, the effect the Manticores had on the less-experienced Portkeys could be seen when they won against the Argonauts, robbing them of the top spot in Group A. Owltinger’s already small roster suffered from unlucky injuries, leading to their gameplay slowing down even more due to a lack of subs.

Overall, the first tournament in Austria was a huge success and ran as smoothly as possible. Quidditch Austria is already planning Danube Cup 2.0, hoping to boost the image of quidditch and increase their number of teams through events like this.

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