Friday, August 19, 2016

MLQ Championship Preview: Pod 3

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 managers and players who will be fighting for the gold in League City, Texas. To know more about these three Pod 3 contenders, watch our conversation with players from the Boston team and read more about Kansas City with manager Mikayla Hoffman and San Francisco with manager Natalie Stottler.

Spotlight on the Boston Night Riders
Article by Andy Marmer
Interview by Alberto Coronado

Last year’s champions went undefeated and largely unchallenged this season. Now with a perfect 22-0 in the franchise’s history, the Boston Night Riders have yet to play a snitch range game this season. Boston faced its biggest challenge yet in its last series against the Washington Admirals; of course, “challenge” is relative, with Boston earning a 3-0 victory (160*-70, 180*-60, 120*-50). The team won almost all of its other games by at least 100 points.

Boston Night Riders after winning the MLQ Championship last summer. | Photo Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography

The Quidditch Post interviewed beater Leeanne Dillmann, chaser Teddy Costa, and keeper Jayke Archibald about the upcoming MLQ Championship.

It’s really no wonder why this team is undefeated. With an all-world collection of chasers, beaters, and seekers, plus many players from USQ champions QC Boston, the defending champion lacks any obvious flaws. At beater, Max Havlin leads the team. Last season, Havlin led the league in beats, no-bludger situations forced, and turnovers forced, and he has not slowed down this year. Havlin’s “understudy” Mario Nasta is also a tremendous beater. Last season playing with the New York Titans, Nasta finished third in beats. Lulu Xu has anchored the Boston defense, and her steady bludger play allows Havlin and Nasta to go on their forays deep into opposing territory, creating offense for the chasers. Of course, the addition of Nasta comes with a tradeoff as David Fox, a crucial cog in last year’s team, has joined the Titans.

While Boston’s beater line has gotten well-deserved attention in the past, Jayke Archibald and Tyler Trudeau are goal machines, and both of these players as well as Team USA standouts Julia Baer and Harry Greenhouse have keyed an explosive offense that thrives in the fast break chaos created by the team’s beaters.

Night Riders Harry Greenhouse is an talented utility player with the strength to truck almost any sized opponent. | Photo Credit: Ben Holland Photography

Although Boston has yet to play a snitch-range game this season, few doubt the seeking abilities of Greenhouse and Trudeau. It’s tough to find a weakness in Boston’s play, and with a perfect 22-0 record in the franchise’s history, the team has to be one of the favorites heading to League City.

Boston’s stars get all of the fanfare, deservedly, but the Night Riders talent is so deep that many of their players would undoubtedly be stars if they were fortunate enough to live in another city. Chasers Teddy Costa and Sam Nielsen have been crucial to the emergence of a top team in the RPI Remembralls during the USQ season. While Costa lacks size, his positioning and footwork may be second to none.

Keeper David Stack and chaser Devon Ramsey have been central to the ascendance of Tufts University into the Boston elite during the regular season. Although Stack is not rostered for this weekend, he possesses the ability to score from practically anywhere, and Ramsey has an innate ability to find pockets of space to occupy.

Finally, veteran beater Leeanne Dillmann has been a crucial cog in successful teams with Emerson College Quidditch and the New York Titans last year. Behind Xu, Dillmann provides a stabilizing influence and the ability to quench opposing attacks.

Night Riders Leeanne Dillmann steps up to regain bludger control. | Photo Credit: Ben Holland Photography

The sheer level of talent Boston possesses makes it one of the clear favorites in League City. Boston was drawn into a pod with the Kansas City Stampede and San Francisco Argonauts, and while those two teams have their strengths, neither should provide much of a challenge to the Night Riders.

Spotlight on Kansas City Stampede
Article by Andy Marmer and TJ Goaley
Interview by Alberto Coronado

With a 5-4 record, Kansas City Stampede took second place in the newly-formed South Division. After opening the season on the receiving end of an Austin Outlaws sweep, Kansas City rebounded to take two out of three games from the League City Legends and sweep the New Orleans Curse. Four of Kansas City’s five wins have come in snitch range, with the lone exception being against New Orleans. The team has lost just once in a SWIM situation, and that was to League City.

The Quidditch Post interviewed Mikayla Hoffman, the manager for Kansas City Stampede, about the upcoming MLQ Championship.

Quidditch Post: With the championship coming up, what will it take for Kansas City to win it all?
Mikayla Hoffman: I think it will take a lot of passion from the team. When the energy is high, the players come together in a really amazing way, and when that happens, I’d warn everyone to look out. I’ve seen it happen in practice and on pitch, and that’s exactly what we need to go far this weekend.

QP: The team is on a four-game winning streak what has allowed you to run off such recent success?
MH: It took a lot of practice and that first game series against the Outlaws for the team to really gel together, but now that these players know each other’s personalities and playing styles, it can be hard to beat. The series against New Orleans really showed the difference in what some time and a lot of hard work can make in comparison with our first series against Austin.

QP: How has the team been preparing for the championship?
MH: We have held two practices per week all summer with players driving in from hours and hours away. The dedication to coming to practice has been an enormous part of preparation. Coach Austin Pitts goes over game film and gives notes to players who want them, [and] the players from Mizzou have had separate practices. There’s been a lot of hard work put in for the culmination of this season.

Stampede coach Austin Pitts also doubles as a beater for the team. | Photo Credit: Ginger Snaps Photography
QP: Was it difficult selecting your roster for the tournament?
MH: A lot of the deciding for this roster was about who could make it. It’s hard for a lot of players to get the means to travel, especially when most of our players start classes immediately after returning from championship weekend. Those who didn’t have other things in the way were prioritized on the roster!

QP: What sort of challenges have you faced as a first-year MLQ team?
MH: With no precedent set for hosting game series and field usage, we’ve had a couple hiccups as far as having to switch locations for practices and game series. Outside of the technicalities, the hardest part was getting players who have rarely or never played together make it work on the pitch to get those five victories we saw in the regular season.

QP: Is there a team you’re looking forward to facing in pod play, or hope to face in the bracket?
MH: It’s exciting to be in a pod with the Boston Night Riders and San Francisco Argonauts. It’s just the three teams in our pod, and I’m excited to see this team face the playing styles of other regions together. If we overcome the Argonauts in the first game, playing the Night Riders would be a ride I wouldn’t want to miss.

QP: Do you feel that any of your team’s players aren’t getting the credit they deserve this season?
MH: This sport is co-ed and that’s something that really makes it special; even so, female players get overlooked a lot. Our female beaters have a lot of talent! Hanna Rankin is a beast at catching bludgers, Rachel England has an arm on her that could take someone’s head off, and Taylor Korte is one of the most field-aware female beaters I have seen in the Midwest. I can’t wait to see these women take on new teams.


Beater David Becker might be the best player you’ve never heard of. A force on both the offensive and defensive end, Becker notched an impressive average of 24.11 beats per game throughout the season.

Beater David Becker | Photo Credit: Ginger Snaps Photography
Kansas City’s offense is led by a three-headed monster of Adam Heald (19 goals, six assists), Hayden Applebee (13 goals, five assists), and Hai Nguyen (nine goals, three assists), each of whom bring something different to the table. Heald is a comfortable driver who can finish at the hoops and dish with the best of them; Applebee is built like a tank and is the sort of player you do not want to be caught in front of; and Nguyen is a speedy player who can make even the best defenders miss.

The Stampede has shown that, given the chance, it has the potential to win close games. However, to advance out of its pod, the Stampede will have to overcome the defending champion, the Boston Night Riders. If the Kansas City players can slow the pace and manage the time well, they could potentially set themselves up to steal a game from Boston. Kansas also will be set up against a team with which it is well-matched. The athleticism of both San Francisco and Kansas City are fairly balanced, and that contest could be anyone’s game. However, seeing that San Francisco’s only wins came against Phoenix Sol, and the Argonauts were 0-3 in SWIM, the Stampede should be able to advance far enough to fall to Boston.

Spotlight on San Francisco Argonauts
By Elizabeth Barcelos

While the Salt Lake City Hive drew from a few USQ programs with great chemistry and the Los Angeles Guardians had their pick of the Southern California’s finest, the San Francisco Argonauts wound up skimming the cream off the top of Northern California’s many, many teams, while also adding some outsiders from SoCal and the Northeast. The beginning of San Francisco’s season would determine its end; with Los Angeles strongly favored to win the division and Phoenix Sol spending the season coping with roster troubles, the winner of the West’s inaugural MLQ matchup would determine second and third place. Two SWIM losses led to an eventual sweep, and San Francisco’s third-place finish was all but assured. Sure enough, the team finished with a 3-6 record after sweeping Phoenix and being swept by Los Angeles.

Argonauts ready for the brooms up. | Photo Credit: Seabass Photography

The Quidditch Post chatted with San Francisco Argonauts manager Natalie Stottler regarding her team’s season and preparation for the MLQ Championships.

Quidditch Post: With the championship coming up, what will it take for the Argonauts to win it all?
Natalie Stottler: I think we’re definitely coming into this as an underdog. We’d absolutely need standout performances from our entire beater line to give us a chance at winning, and we’d also need to make quick snitch catches, which is something we’ve struggled with so far this season.

QP: With players from so many different teams, how have you merged all of these players into one unit?
NS: Besides having people from different teams, we also have people living up to a four-hour drive away from each other. This has honestly been more of a challenge than players hailing from different teams. We’ve definitely had to get creative with this; at this point, we have two different corps with fairly different offensive styles. This can be an advantage, as we can switch between the two styles very quickly.

QP: How has the team been preparing for the championship?
NS: We’ve continued to build upon what we’ve been doing most of the season. We’ve had some very tough games in our division, and we’ve been working off of what went well and what went poorly in these games to continue to improve our playing.

QP: Was it difficult selecting your roster for the tournament?
NS: No.

While the Argonauts have struggled to pull wins this season, the players gracing their roster are by no means lacking in talent. | Photo Credit: Seabass Photography

QP: At 0-3 in SWIM, what do you need to improve to win in these situations?
NS: Improving our 1-on-1 snitch game is essential. Dan Howland is also a beast.

QP: Is there a team you’re looking forward to facing in pool play, or hope to face in the bracket?
NS: We’re really looking forward to (hopefully) facing the Boston Night Riders. Their beater line is legendary, and I think there’s a lot we can learn from them.

QP: Do you feel that any of your team’s players aren’t getting the credit they deserve this season?
NS: We’re not a team of stars; I don’t think there were many immediately recognizable names on our roster. If you look at the individual stats for this team, we don’t have standouts in the way some teams do; I think the team functions best when they come together in this way.

In their two home series, the Argonauts started strong before taking a serious step back in their third match. It seemed more mental than anything resembling physical exhaustion. In their series against Los Angeles, the Argonauts’ third game took a “we’re losing, so we might as well try something different” approach. In their Salt Lake series, San Francisco took two SWIM losses before getting swept in a third game that they just didn’t seem to have the heart to finish. For the Championship in League City, they will only have one chance at each team they face, and that may be a good thing; their strongest performances against Los Angeles (130-60*) and Salt Lake (130*-120) were in the first game in each series.

When analyzing the Argonauts, you are looking at a tale of two teams; the roster and coaching staff that San Francisco had at the beginning of its season in its Salt Lake series is not quite the same team that faced Los Angeles. After losing their coach and well-known players like Dan Marovich, Chewy Shaw, and Caylen McDonald after the Salt Lake series, manager Natalie Stottler and assistant coach Sarah Staatz – both beaters – have had to shoulder coaching duties as well as the task of bringing together MLQ’s most diverse team in regards to their regular USQ season squads.

However, that’s not to say that San Francisco does not have the potential to surprise teams in League City. Silicon Valley Skrewts teammates Andrew Covel and Sam Harris play a beautiful passing game, while the California Dobbys’ Sean Booker brings a dauntless physicality.

Argonauts Sean Booker gave it his all through three matches in the series against the Guardians. | Photo Credit: Seabass Photography

The Argonauts beating corps features two figures who have long dominated Bay Area quidditch: David Saltzman and Willis Miles. Saltzman seems to be everywhere on the pitch at once, while Miles has an accurately powerful cannon of an arm. They’re also supported by NYU’s Stanford Zhou and Corey Collier from McGill University, who bring a new look to NorCal. San Jose State University’s Anna Huang and Elsa Lem quietly formed the backbone of their USQ team’s defense before blossoming this summer in MLQ. Both pair well with any of the Argonauts’ other beaters, though Huang excels at mid- and long-range beats while Lem plays a more Saltzman-like game of trying to be everywhere she needs to be.

When the Argonauts have bludger control, keep cool, and slow down the pace of the game, they play the game that suits their roster best. But if they can’t keep control and try to score on fast breaks and thoughtless drives, they’ll only find fool’s gold in League City.

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