Wednesday, April 5, 2017

US Quidditch Cup 10 Preview: The Ninth Day of Kissimmee

On the ninth day of Kissimmee we have a community team looking to outplay its pot five status, a college team making its last hurrah before graduation, two first year community teams, and an established community team looking for a deep run.

Miami University (OH) Quidditch
By Nick Stackhouse
Editor’s Note: The author is the President of Miami University Quidditch

This season was a rebuilding year for Miami University Quidditch after losing 15 players to graduation, 12 of whom attended US Quidditch Cup 9. Its struggle to fill those players’ shoes is apparent in its 11-11 season record, but its losses were important opportunities for its newest members to grow. Even so, Miami has not yet rebuilt its depth from last year, so more of its experienced players have had to shoulder the burden.

Miami’s biggest strength is its quaffle game. Throughout the year, the team has relied heavily on keeper Sam Rapnicki and chaser Nick Stackhouse to carry the offense, both of whom have played important minutes for Miami and have the vast majority of the team’s goals. They are supported by rookie keeper and chaser Derek Swanson, who has a knack for scoring in tricky situations; Pete Brechting, who has strong field awareness and offensive capabilities; and rookie Ashley Stahnke. Miami’s most tenured player is chaser and seeker Gabe Boris, who the team relies on in close games. There’s less depth in Miami’s beater squad, but it is led by Connor Stonecash, who always brings intensity and control to the pitch. Stonecash is joined by beater Elena McDonald, who just returned from studying abroad; she will strengthen the team’s young beater lineup, but with only four wins and nine loses to US Quidditch Cup qualifiers, the team is unlikely to advance out of pool play and may struggle to pick up a win.

Miami University with bludger control at the Great Lakes Regional Championship. | Photo Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography
RPI Quidditch
By Mike Pascutoi

The RPI Remembralls have been a team on the ascent ever since they defeated Syracuse University in double overtime in the final qualifying game for World Cup VII in November 2013. A chaser line consisting of Mario Nasta, Sam Nielsen, Teddy Costa, and Rachel Glick led a young squad in a tiresome match to a World Cup VII berth, where they went on to achieve a 1-3 record. Since then, RPI has finished consistently better each season, finishing 3-2 at USQ World Cup 8 and earning a Sweet 16 berth on the back of a 3-1 pool play record at US Quidditch Cup 9.

The Remembralls are built similarly to defending champions Quidditch Club Boston, but notably lack size and aggression. They make up for this with a methodical triangle offense and by condensing their defense and daring opponents to drive on the relentless beater pair of Nasta and Ashtyn Coyle.  With Nasta long since moved to beater, Costa and Nielsen have developed into genuine stars on-pitch, with Costa playing a major role in two Boston Night Riders championship teams and Nielsen effortlessly switching between chasing and keeping depending on where he is needed. In what may be the final year of contention for RPI before its star players graduate, the team is likely to double down on its scouting to prep for a deep run at US Quidditch Cup 10, though it will likely come down to bracket play seeding whether RPI matches expectations as a Sweet 16 team or bows out to a larger community team in the Elite Eight.

Richmond Ravens
By Mason Davis
Editor’s Note: Mason Davis is a player for the Richmond Ravens

The Richmond Ravens are a first-year community team founded by Emily Mitchell, Ted Stanton, and Scott Lebow. Ranked 95th in the nation, they secured the ninth Mid-Atlantic bid through the tertiary bracket, after entering as the 15th seed. The Ravens are a special mix. The spectrum of their players ranges from three individuals who won the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship (MARC) in 2015 with the District of Columbia Quidditch Club, to a handful of quidditch dinosaurs who can remember making capes before World Cup III, to four players who hail from three schools you most likely haven’t heard of — Christopher Newport University (CNU), University of Mary Washington (UMW), and the College of William and Mary (WM) (CNU attended World Cup V, UMW was official in 2014-15 and is currently rebuilding, and WM has never been official) — and two gifted players who had never played quidditch before this season. They Ravens are led by players who have been there and done that, and fueled by players who hunger to prove you do not have to come from a storied quidditch university to make an impact.

The Richmond Ravens just barely qualified for USQ Cup 10 through the tertiary bracket. | Photo Credit: Flax Photography
The Ravens could easily go 0-4 in their pool. However, it’s also possible for them to go 2-2 and make bracket play. Statistically, they’re terrible. With a record of 7-17, two out-of-range-wins, and 14 out-of-range-losses, the numbers speak volumes. Don’t get lost in all the noise. If you look more deeply at their seeker statistics, a very different narrative appears. The Ravens are 13 for 26 in snitch catches, with a SWIM record of 7-2. At MARC, the Ravens four-person seeker corps, led by Dan Waddell, each caught at least one of five snitches to win four games. Led by Alex Krall and Lydia Fisher-Lasky, both long-time players who began at Virginia Commonwealth University, their snitch beating comes second only to their seekers. If the Ravens make it to Day Two, two snitch catches will be the reason.

BosNYan Bearsharks
By Mike Pascutoi

A combination of recently graduated players with a sizable portion of Quidditch Club Boston’s US Quidditch Cup 9 roster, the BosNYan Bearsharks are here with the singular goal of bringing the fun back to quidditch. The capable in-game leadership of Leanne Dillmann and Kyle Jeon notwithstanding, BosNYan has spent the year bringing a more relaxed vibe to tournaments, allowing all members of its roster to play sizable minutes while also engaging in lighthearted antics off-pitch.  

Although formed for a more light-hearted purpose, BosNYan is still a threat on-pitch. Boasting a starting line that is arguably one of the top five in the country, beaters Jeon and Dillmann are among the best in the game. Jeon and Dillmann are masters of controlling the pace of a game from the beater position, with Jeon’s former New York University teammates Stanford Zhou, Leslie Hargett, and Dylan Meehan complementing Jeon with their ability to position themselves perfectly to throw opposing defenses off-balance. Out of Boston comes a majority of the team’s quaffle players, able to switch between finesse-passing and drive-heavy play based on the opportunities created by their beaters. Star keeper Tyler Trudeau is incredibly hard to take down offensively, and his defensive presence at the hoops heavily limits scoring opportunities for drive-heavy opponents. A chaser rotation of David Fox, Dom Bailey, Julia Baer, Carli Haggerty, Zach Gindes, and the recently unretired Jake Hines should induce matchup nightmares on their US Quidditch Cup 10 opponents. BosNYan enters US Quidditch Cup 10 having lost only to Rochester United, Quidditch Club Boston, and Boston University Quidditch.  A pool play matchup with Bowling Green State University will be an indicator of whether BosNYan is ready to fully compete on the national stage, and a win will solidify the Bearsharks as a contender. The Bearsharks will likely bow out with a snitch-range loss to an eventual finalist; whether it is in the Round of 16 or semifinals is solely based on Day Two bracket placement and the momentum they are able to build during pool play.

District of Columbia Quidditch Club (DCQC)
By Mason Davis

Little introduction should be necessary for DCQC. Last year, it was the Mid-Atlantic Regional champs, and at US Quidditch Cup 9 the team made it to the Round of 16 before falling to Boise State. This year has not been quite as successful for DCQC despite returning much of that team, five of its eight new additions having played for MLQ’s Washington Admirals, and the much-talked-about addition of Team USA’s Bernardo Berges. The players of DCQC  find themselves overlooked due to a lack of dominant wins against top teams and an early exit from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship due to a poor Day One performance, which resulted in it facing Maryland Quidditch in the quarterfinals and losing on a snitch catch.

DCQC chaser Bernardo Berges at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship. | Photo Credit: Flax Photography
DCQC’s strength is its chasing game. Names such as Bernardo Berges, Erin Mallory, and Steve Minnich grace the team’s chaser lines. DCQC’s weakness may be its beater game, which, while filled with veterans such as Katryna Fernandez-Hicks, Diana Martin, and Robby May, generally lacks the athleticism and energy associated with elite teams; the exception is Zach Grigorian, whose hyper-aggressive beating style can be unpredictable and leave defending beaters uncoordinated. Of course, no analysis of DCQC would be complete without mention of Darren Creary. The 6’7” seeker will attend US Quidditch Cup 10 and is one of the best seekers in the on-pitch era. Last year, DCQC played five SWIM games at US Quidditch Cup 9, going 4-1, including a win over Texas Cavalry before eventually losing to Boise State in the Round of 16. With Creary on the roster, the only way to beat DCQC is by being out of range. The best way to do this is to lengthen the game. Twelve out of 35 of the team’s games have gone longer than 23 minutes, hence activating snitch handicap. Of those games, it is 8-4. However, against teams that have qualified for USQ 10, it is 1-4. Again, Creary could solve this, but if he does not due to an opponent’s dominant beater game or a tired seeker, history says DCQC is in trouble. DCQC will likely advance to bracket play and could win a game or two at that stage.

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