The Eighth Man

Midwest Fantasy Recap

The orange team dominated bracket play on their way to the Midwest Fantasy title.

The orange team dominated bracket play on their way to the Midwest Fantasy title.

In the outskirts of Chicago, ten brand new teams faced off in the midst of mosquitos, rain, high humidity, and rutted fields to determine the first champions of the fantasy season. Once again, seeker play was centerstage, as Villanova’s Dan Takaki and Bowling Green’s Sam Roitblat each made vital grabs to put their teams through to the semifinals and on their way to the championship. But, in the end, a final confrontation between the two wasn’t to be, as the orange team cruised through the finals to become Midwest Fantasy Champions. But plenty went on before they hoisted the trophy, so let’s look a little closer.

Pool Play

Pool 1:

Pink Team (4-0) – Managed by me, the pink team fulfilled all expectations in pool play, winning every game. We held bludger control for most of pool play, due in large part to the newfound beating prowess of Danielle White of Michigan State University. While we had our work cut out for us playing against the likes of Chad Brown, Joe Pavlik and Tim Ohlert, we rarely lost bludger control, and it did not take us long to regain it when we did. Our heavy contributors in quaffle play were keepers David Prueter of Central Michigan University and Mac Randolph of Ball State University, and chasers Evan Adkins of BGSU and Michael Reed of Indiana – South Bend. All four possess incredible speed, with Prueter having a great eye for the field at keeper and a very impressive long shot, and the rest being the small, dodgy type of players who could all weave around and through a defense without taking a lot of hits en route to goals.

Orange Team (3-1) – Managed by Colby Soden of the University of Kansas, Orange team impressed throughout. An overlooked team heading into the tournament, Orange team stumbled out of the gates with a 50-80* loss to Pink Team, but recovered quickly and never lost again. Soden surprised me, as I hadn’t heard a ton about him before this tournament, but he is an extremely fast and agile ball carrier, and put up a lot of points on Saturday. Pavlik is a force to be reckoned with at the beater position, with a cannon arm to match his high intellect, and he contributed heavily to Orange Team’s success throughout the day. Sam “Sunshine” Roitblat continued his phenomenal World Cup form with several clutch grabs throughout the day, and only came up short once all tournament.

Maroon Team (2-2) – Managed by Daniel Shapiro of Missouri, Maroon team was expected to do fairly well. Shapiro himself is a very powerful chaser with a knack for scoring, and Matt Dwyer of Miami (OH) is an incredible distributor. These two on the same team was a scary thought coming into the tournament. Typically, Dwyer does not have as big a scoring threat as Shapiro alongside him at Miami, and so his distribution ability is overlooked, but when Dwyer is surrounded by capable scorers such as Shapiro, he really shines. Also impressing for Maroon team was Josh Ebbesmeyer, a previously unknown player out of Missouri, who scored the majority of points for Maroon Team regularly. Maroon’s beaters may have been the best in the pool, featuring Brown and Ohlert, both key players on their respective teams, who combined to bring the most physical and aggressive one-two beater punch in the tournament.

Green Team (1-3) – Managed by Isaac Mitchell of Illinois State, Green Team actually performed better than I had expected. Mitchell seemed to adopt a draft strategy of chemistry over raw talent, and chose to draft his teammates at ISU over more talented options. This strategy, while it could have been effective, needed at bit more of an influx of talent. Mitchell himself is an incredible player, and thus did the bulk of the work on this team, but he could have easily picked up some other big scoring threats in the early rounds and then picked up his ISU teammates in the later rounds, as they were very much under the radar. But they still needed two snitch grabs to beat white and then were promptly eliminated in bracket play in dominant fashion.

White Team (0-4) – Managed by Andrew Copeland of Saluki Quidditch, White Team was almost doomed from the start. Copeland had to fill in at the last minute as a GM when a previous GM dropped out, and thus did not have nearly enough time to prepare his draft plan. In spite of this, White Team performed admirably, and suffered a heartbreaking loss to Green Team in OT which ultimately cost them a shot at the brackets. Hai Nguyen of Kansas was the undisputed playmaker of this team, and he scored the large majority of their goals in every game with breathtaking speed, which seems to be Kansas’ trademark. White Team also had a secondary threat in keeper Tyler Rafferty of MSU, who, at 6-foot-8 is a powerful figure who is hard to bring down or shoot around. But Rafferty has a tendency to hold the ball too long and gets wrapped up too easily, which hurt his team in the end.

Pool 2:

Navy Team (4-0) – Managed by Alex Scheer out of Toledo, Navy Team was undoubtedly the most talented overall team at this tournament. Daniel Daugherty needs no introduction by now, and neither should Lawrence Lazewski, formerly of MSU and Team USA, both of whom played very well in pool play for the Navy Team. Adding to this stacked roster were beaters John Stephens and Miranda Sanderlin of Purdue, who, while not being one of the most well-known beater pairs, are certainly one of the most aggressive, and can wreak havoc on most opposition. Adding to their beater game was Stephanie Raudenbush, who is one of the best female beaters the Midwest has to offer. Additionally, Scheer himself is a very good chaser who is often overlooked due to the low level of his team. At this tournament though, Scheer was able to shine as defenses couldn’t focus too much on him, lest Daugherty and Lazewski run wild on them. Rounding out Navy team was seeker Jack Norgren, who started for MSU over Jacob Heppe for good reason. Clearly, nobody was surprised to see Navy Team easily handle their pool and come away with the No. 1 overall seed.

Purple Team (3-1) – Managed by Will Hack, the former coach for MSU, Purple Team was always a formidable force throughout the day. At first glance, it appeared that the Purple Team didn’t have a huge scoring threat, but Kevin Fenell of MSU delivered. Fenell is a powerful chaser with a good eye for the field who can score in the clutch when his team needs it most. The secret to Purple Team’s arsenal though, was Tyler Macy of Ball State and Team USA. Macy, who I have doubted in the past, put on a fantastic showing at this tournament, and caught me twice in a very short time span in two different games. I had never been very impressed with Macy before, but I most certainly am now. The quickness he exhibited in his two grabs against me was insane. He made quick moves before I had even recognized that he was a threat, and gave Purple Team two clutch victories because of this. Other than that, Purple Team was filled with role players who, while not spectacular, were all capable, which led to a very successful tournament for the team.

Teal Team (2-2) – Managed by Matt Eveland of Ohio State University, the Teal Team was considered heavy underdogs coming into this tournament. Their top player was Jeremy Boettner of OSU, who, while a considerable scoring threat with incredible catching and an ever-improving long shot, is best known for his ability to bring down even the biggest and sturdiest of chasers. Boettner did not disappoint for the Teal Team, ans was their leading scorer in most games. Additionally, Graham Giles from Toledo, who is a great point defender in his own right, helped to solidify the Teal defense into one of the most formidable of the tournament. However, Eveland himself made the biggest difference, and likely made the snitch grab of the tournament: a twisting, arm-breaking grab while his back was forcibly turned to the snitch and he was able to reach around, behind himself and the snitch, against his momentum, to seal a victory over Gray Team.

Gray Team (1-3) – Managed by Ian Hoopingarner, the current coach of MSU, the Gray Team was always one to watch out for, but disappointed heavily in pool play. Led by the pairing of Hoopingarner and Connor Drake of Kansas and Team USA, the Gray Team had incredibly speed and chemistry down the line. However, in pool play, the lack of depth hit Gray Team hard, as one of their three female players was only able to attend for bracket play. This, I believe, contributed heavily to Gray Team’s losses in pool play and their strategy of slowing the game down to an almost unbearable level. Gray Team did possess some size with David Wilber of CMU, who is a big hitter and a nearly unstoppable chaser. Wilber provided some variation to the speed of Drake and Hoopingarner. Gray Team’s real ringer, however, was Villanova seeker Dan Takaki. Takaki is an incredible seeker, who, as I said in my last article, has been living in the shadow of Billy Greco. Takaki should not be overlooked though, as he is every bit as capable as his Team USA counterpart.

Red Team (0-4) – Managed by Samy Mousa of the Crimson Warhawks, the Red Team was the surprise of the tournament, and not in a good way. The Red Team, which was projected by most to be a final four contender, did not win a single game in their pool. Mousa also decided to play the chemistry angle, taking five of his first six picks from Ball State. And, similarly to the Green Team, this strategy did not pay off.  However, in the case of the Red Team, it appeared that their main issue was their lack of a seeker, as Mousa did not draft one at all. Red Team’s chasers were amazing. Devon McCoy of Ball State is a game-changing chaser with great aggression and an eye for the goal. Griffen Engel is an up-and-coming chaser for MSU, and can do it all. Engel has great hands, speed, defensive ability, and a decent shot, which was made very apparent by his play in this tournament. Engel was almost certainly Red Team’s most reliable player. Red Team was able to compete, but in the end, you need a seeker to win games, and that’s where Red Team fell short.

Pool Play Key Points

As was, for the most part, expected, Pink and Navy Teams ended up winning their pools without any losses. Looking at the makeup of these two teams, there are no real surprises here, as they were widely considered to be the most talented teams in the tournament. Pink Team owed its success to a very balanced game. Our beaters held control for most of all our games, and our chasers were never outscored. Our only weak point seemed to be seeking, as we had to rotate in chasers at the seeker position since White was forced to play beater nearly full-time due to a drop out. We still made three of five grabs in pool play, so it was not a glaring problem.

Navy Team succeeded largely through their star-studded attack, and was only kept within snitch range by the Red Team. Navy Team truly appeared unstoppable through pool play.

Red Team was the biggest surprise of pool play, going 0-4. Their woes are directly related to their not having a seeker. Red Team was 0-3 on SWIM (snitch when it matters) opportunities, even though they were the only team with the firepower to hang with Navy Team within their pool. It really was a shame to see the Red Team, which was loaded with talent, go down so early and so hard in this tournament. This should serve as a cautionary tale for future drafters though. In a fantasy tournament, you cannot expect to have your chasers put every game away. You absolutely need a good seeker.

Bracket Play – Quarterfinals

Navy vs. Maroon (150*^-110) — Navy Team first showed signs of weakness in this game. I was unable to watch as I was playing myself at the time, but Navy had to catch a snitch to send the game into overtime at 100-100. This was the first time Navy had been out-chased all day. In overtime, Navy was able to pull out the victory on a second snitch grab, but against a team who had barely made it into the brackets – albeit, still a very talented team – needing two snitches to advance is never a good sign.

Pink vs. Gray (80-90*) – This was a very intense, back-and-forth game, which at first showed Pink Team struggling to put up points. After the game settled down, we were able to start to pull ahead, but just as we were about to pull out of snitch range on a fast break while up 20, the snitch returned and was promptly caught by Takaki. This is the first chance I had to see the Gray Team’s strategy of slowing things down to conserve energy since they were down a lot of subs. It seemed to be very effective, and their slow approach allowed them to hang in snitch range for a very long time, as well as gave Hoopingarner and Drake a chance to save their speed for use in the half field, which they utilized incredibly effectively in give-and-go sets throughout bracket play.

Orange vs. Teal (140^-100*) –  Again, I’m sad to say that I missed the majority of this game due to commitments elsewhere, but I did see Roitblat make the grab which sealed the game in overtime, adding to his long list of clutch snatches in the past few months. Teal Team impressed in getting this game to OT, as I thought they were heavily outmatched at both the beater and chaser positions.

Purple vs. Green (150*-10) – This wasn’t much of a game to see, as Purple Team dominated a wholly outmatched Green side from start to finish. Seeing Purple advance wasn’t a shock to anybody, but the dominating fashion in which they did it was. Green Team had no answers, and it showed. This was especially impressive since Daugherty was already suffering from a torn meniscus that was hampering him to quite a degree.

Semi-Finals

Gray vs. Purple (140-130*) – This was one of the most intense games of the tournament, and one of the most heartbreaking. This is the first game where the Drake-Hoopingarner show really came to light. The magnificence of the passing between these two made them seem as if they were veterans who had been playing together for years. Each possesses great speed, and the Purple defense simply couldn’t keep up. Fennell for Purple did all he could to stop the bleeding, and answered many goals from the Gray side, but in the end, it wasn’t enough. Purple Team soon found themselves out of snitch range and defending the snitch. As they worked to claw their way back into the game, a Purple seeker mistook the score for a tie game and made a snatch on an unaware snitch. The look on his face as it went from ecstasy to confusion to heartbreak was agonizing to watch. Despite the unfortunate conclusion, Gray Team did more than enough to earn a spot in the finals.

Navy vs. Orange (90-160*) – Again, Navy found themselves on the losing end of the quaffle game, this time by a considerable margin. As this game was happening, I was involved in snitch refereeing the other semifinal, so I only caught the very tail end of this game. It appeared that Orange had been dominating throughout though.

Finals

Orange vs. Gray (130-100*) – Gray Team again applied their tactic of stalling, which had kept them in games and more before the finals. However, Orange Team, with a much deeper bench, was able to take it to Gray Team, and while Gray Team stuck with them for a while, eventually fatigue caught up with their players, and they slipped further and further out of snitch range. The game was never in doubt while the snitch was present, and eventually Gray Team succumbed to the ever increasing deficit and impending darkness and suicide snatched, giving Orange Team the championship.

Questions Answered

Q: What happened to the Navy Team?

I can see two reasons for the collapse of the Navy Team in bracket play:

1)      Daugherty and Lazewski, when confronted with a team they couldn’t walk over, got frustrated. Both of these players are incredible, and can each take over a game with seeming ease. However, when frustrated, each also has a tendency to start taking ill-advised, long shots, which can cause their offenses to stall. It was seen by Lazewski against Kansas at World Cup, and by Daugherty against both OSU at Midwest Regionals and against MSU at Glass City. It could have easily contributed to the stalling of Navy’s offense. Daugherty’s injury didn’t help either.

2)      Navy Team had a lot of stars, but not a lot of depth. This was a very hot, very humid day, and these players were asked to play 6 full-length games. Fatigue was a problem for a lot of teams, and Navy’s bench was among the weakest at the tournament. Scheer was great at drafting the stars, and made the best late round picks of the tournament, but he also made the worst filler picks, and it ended up hurting his team.

Q: What accounted for Gray Team’s run in brackets?

Pretty simple, they conserved their energy, used their speed in half-pitch, and gained a much needed female sub. Gray team had been playing with only 2 females total due to dropouts, but a late arrival allowed them to have a sub in bracket play, which helped a ton. More importantly, Hoopingarner’s strategy to slow things down to conserve energy , spread the defense, and use their speed to exploit the gaps, allowed the Gray Team to only spend energy when they needed to, and at the same time allowed the chemistry between Hoopingarner and Drake to reach its full potential.

Q: Why did Pink Team fail?

I don’t think we did. We went undefeated in our pool (including a victory over the champions), and were up 20, about to be up 30, on the runner-ups in bracket play when a quick snitch grab knocked us out. We had the depth to make a deep run and stay fresh, with scoring threats all over. Our team was very adaptable, as a result of having many great quidditch minds who had been in charge of teams in the past, and we had just begun to reach our full potential at the end of pool play/start of bracket play.

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