The Eighth Man

Teams to Watch from the MQC

Emerson’s David Fox forces his way through the Boston University defense in the semifinals of the Massachusetts Quidditch Conference tournament on Oct. 14. Credit: Emily Oliver

Over the course of the 2011-2012 season, Boston University and Emerson College seemed to have forced a class system on New England – with them seated firmly on top. Emerson closed out the year by besting Harvard and Tufts for the Massachusetts Quidditch Conference (MQC) title before winning the IQA Champions Series a week later. Meanwhile, Boston University bounced back from a Sweet 16 loss to Middlebury at World Cup V – a game they once led 30-0 – to reestablish themselves as a top side.

 

But parity returned to the Bay State in a big way at the MQC’s opening tournament of the season. Tufts started the day by holding Emerson’s offense down long enough to tie the game at 50 with a snitch grab, before winning it less than a minute into overtime. Harvard went toe-to-toe with Boston University in a high-scoring affair, but an accidental suicide snitch catch had them come up 10 points short.

 

In the semifinals, things only got wilder. Harvard and Tufts – who have now won three apiece in their last six matches – were all tied up at 50 when a snitch grab sent Harvard to the finals. Emerson was able to do the same to Boston University before smashing through Harvard in the finals, 110-40.

 

While there were undoubtedly other takeaways from the tournament – Boston Riot, Emerson’s second team, was leading Harvard before losing on a snitch grab, while UMass Amherst was much better than its 1-3 record suggests – Emerson, Harvard, Boston University and Tufts seem like the teams ready to make waves with Northeast Regionals right around the corner. With that in mind, this article will focus on what we’ve learned about each after their first tournament of the new season.

 

 

Emerson College

Isn’t it amazing how the rich only seem to get richer? Questions abounded after the departure of captain Max Blaushild, who split time at keeper with force of nature David Fox. Emerson has long been heavily reliant on its keepers, both offensively and defensively, so it was a welcome surprise when freshman Victor Viega, a 6-foot-1 ex-varsity defensive tackle, wandered onto their team in September. Viega provides even more physicality than Blaushild, and while his talents remain a bit raw, his growth ceiling is high.

 

Emerson also has one of the strongest bludger games in the region, centered around Mara Shuster-Lefkowitz. While she may have developed a bad reputation for her antics and occasionally dirty play, she also happens to be one of the strongest and smartest beaters around. She constantly communicates with her partner, no matter which male beater is paired up with her. Against Harvard in the finals, Emerson didn’t lose bludger control for the entirety of the game, allowing them to dominate play. If she can keep her temper down, Shuster-Lefkowitz is capable of that type of performance anytime she steps out on the field.

 

Of course, every team has its weaknesses, and Emerson’s are its offense. With captain Benny Nadeau out with a concussion, the team lacks chasers that can take on and beat a physical defender. Their keepers are capable of barreling through a bludgerless defense, but Fox rarely goes end-to-end for the entirety of a game. Scoring just five goals in 20 minutes against Tufts was what put them in danger of upset, and it’s something they need to improve on going forward.

 

 

 

Harvard’s offense runs through chaser Andrew Murray (right). Credit: Emily Oliver

Harvard College

Harvard’s success on the quidditch pitch begins and ends with co-captain, and chaser, Andrew Murray. Murray is not the tallest or biggest player on the pitch, but he can throw his body around with the best of them. He’s also quick enough to beat defenders around the edge and accurate enough to score from just about anywhere in the offensive half of the field. CJ Curtis does a good Murray impression, but the two are at their best when on the pitch together, picking apart an opponent’s defense with perimeter passing and strong shooting.

 

Unfortunately, the team’s chaser line has to do a lot of work to compensate for a below-average beater line that was exposed by Emerson in the championship game. Their beaters are talented at protecting a bludger advantage, playing very conservatively near their hoops and relying on the physicality of their chasers to keep the opposition away, but they can have trouble getting bludger control back.

 

The Horntails style of play leaves them in a precarious situation. Their ability to snipe goals and play physical chaser defense allows them to keep games close against even the best teams, but an inability to dominate bludger possession or charge through their opponents leaves them susceptible to upset.

 

 

Boston University

Despite the loss of Team USA chaser Kedzie Teller, as well as multiple other key players from a strong graduating class, the Terriers looked as sharp as ever at the MQC tournament. Co-captain  Max Havlin contends that his team focuses on defense in practice and lets the rest come naturally. If he is to be believed, then Boston University has some incredible natural chemistry offensively.

 

As in the past, the squad has retained its pass-first style of play. Boston University has depth, athleticism and conditioning, and always seems prepared to come out on the fast break. Havlin and his co-captain, Joe Barkus, both lead by example in this regard, and the rest of the team — including Blake Parson, Jon Goc and Emery Mokler — are all just as capable of being interchangeable parts of the BU attack.

 

Defensively, the Terriers are still anchored by Brendan Stack. They also have plenty of experience on the beater lines, with co-captains Katrina Bossotti, Stephen Houseman and Chris Schretzenmayer, and a talented seeking core headed by snitch extraordinaire John Blackler.

 

Their only potential shortcoming is that they do everything well, but nothing great. After a spring semester in which they didn’t play many games, if they can get back in the swing of things, they’ll be contenders throughout the year.

 

 

Tufts University

After a disappointing season in which the Tufflepuffs looked like merely a shell of their former selves, they appear ready to return to the upper tier of competitive quidditch this year. A lack of physicality haunted them at World Cup V, but with the continued development of captain Rajah Reid, who was injured early in the Cup, and the addition this past spring of keeper Jared Nash, this team is once again capable of tackling with the best of them.

 

But the biggest change between the current Tufts roster and any they’ve had in the past is the introduction of first-year beater Nick Ryder. Ryder is the type of athletic, aggressive beater the Tufflepuffs have often lacked in the past, leading to a dearth of bludger control. He also doubles as a seeker, and made the overtime grab to upset Emerson within a minute of play resuming in his first experience as a competitive seeker. You can only imagine that he’ll improve with time, becoming a serious boon for his team.

 

Many of Tufts’ issues from past years remain. Their scoring is still subpar, barely producing enough to tie Emerson in regulation and not doing enough to pull away from Harvard, and they still have some trouble taking advantage of bludger dominance. But they are definitely an experienced team with all signs pointing towards an improvement in their form.

 

Note: This article originally incorrectly identified Brendan Stack as the youngest Stack. It has since been corrected.

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