The Eighth Man

Champagne Cup: The Ender the World Preview

Champagne Cup 2 grew greatly in size from the first iteration, which was themed on Legends of the Hidden Temple and won by a stacked Purple Parrots squad. Credit: Chris Cabeza

Champagne Cup 2 grew greatly in size from the first iteration, which was themed on Legends of the Hidden Temple and won by a stacked Purple Parrots squad. Credit: Chris Cabeza

The Second Annual Champagne Cup is centered around an atmosphere of good fun, meeting new people, Wiggin out, and playing quidditch. Teams are selected through a randomized process, like Valentines, unlike other summer tournaments where general managers have Bean able to compete to build the most dangerous teams. That said, there is still a title to compete for and rosters to analyze, and we have every intention of doing so. Here’s our best prediction for how this one will play out at the Ender the day – which teams will thrive, and which will Peter out.

 

 

Pool 1 (Phoenix Army, Tiger Army, Rabbit Army, Dragon Army)

 

Dragon Army

Dragon Army is, for a number of reasons, my top team in pool 1. They have what I would deem to be far and away the best defense in the tournament, starting with a deep beater line utilizing Hofstra’s Alex Leitch and Kansas’ Samy Mousa, two incredibly experienced and aggressive beaters, and continuing through a very deep, physical and defensively-minded chaser line. The chaser line is of particular note because Dragon Army has five RIT quaffle players for some inbuilt synergy, as well as defensive power house and Penn State star Jason Rosenberg. Add in the keeper line of Jeff Sherman and Aaron Pinzer, and you have a defense which will be very hard to penetrate. On the offensive side of the game, the chaser depth and synergy are going to be a powerful force with any number of scoring threats. The one potential soft spot in the Dragon’s armor is their seeking game, with relative new comer Aref Afshar in charge. Afshar certainly seems to possess the raw athleticism to succeed, but whether or not he converts this into pulls is the real question. At the same time, in a strange quirk of fate, the most experienced and dangerous seekers are largely concentrated in Pool 2, causing me to be quite confident in predicting that Dragon Army will take Pool 1.

 

Phoenix Army

Phoenix Army is likely to present a high octane offense centered on Michael “Yada” Parada, formerly of Penn State, and Mo Haggag, a Badassilisk with a very impressive soccer background, two of the stronger offensive players in the tournament. With the addition of a beater line built on new Capitalists teammates Amanda Dallas and Robby May, Phoenix presents a solid defensive base. The addition of Michael Bufardeci presents a defense which will be very capable of stifling passing lanes, particularly given that the team possesses a number of excellent utility players in May and Kyle Sanson, who can switch as necessary to help the team adapt to changing strategies. This team may not have quite the same depth Dragon enjoys, but it is a well balanced and adaptable team. Seeking options include Sanson and Parada, which makes this team one of the strongest seeking teams in Pool 1, and consequently allows them to edge out Tiger for the second spot in the pool in my estimations.

 

Tiger Army

Tiger Army has a nice balance of speed and power in its quaffle players, particularly in its keeper. Even with the late loss of Jamie LeFrance, RPI’s Max Curran will cut through traffic and utilize his excellent arm for shots and passes to make plays. The team also has another excellent play maker in Macaulay’s Alex Linde, whose experience and precise passing will allow him to cause quite a bit of damage, as long as his teammates maintain good position and run effective routes on offense. I would also look for Hannah DeBaets to step up for this team on offense and make some plays. As far as beaters go, Tiger has a veteran and intimidating beater pair in Rochester’s Harry Clarke and Tufts’ Michael Sanders. However, Harry’s endurance isn’t the best, and I’m not sure how strong the beating depth will be for this team. Beyond this, the team’s seeker, Casey Sabal, is recovering from an injury. If she’s healthy she can be a huge benefit as a chaser as well as seeking, but if she isn’t up to her normal game, Tiger will struggle in the snitch game, particularly with no clear backup for Casey. Linde may find himself seeking quite a bit.

 

Rabbit Army

Rabbit Army doesn’t quite have the same offensive strength as Phoenix or Tiger, but they may find their salvation in their beaters. University of Maryland’s Ricky Nelson is a veteran beater, and could easily prove to be a major asset for his team, particularly if he works well with one of the other beaters, such as Rebecca Alley from University of Ottawa. They also have very solid beater depth with experienced beaters Michael Mason of the Badassilisks and Matthew Zeltzer of Vassar able to step up. On defense, this team will need chasers Tom Skudlarek of RIT and Hofstra’s Tim Keaney to step up and make some hits for them, as this team struggles a bit with size and aggression. On offense, this team may surprise others with their speed, so if they can get a decent passing game going they could prove a threat to both Tiger and Pheonix, and could easily finish well above my prediction for them. Finally, for seeking, the team has veteran Matthew Zeltzer in the wings, who could easily step up and make clutch pulls for the Rabbit Army.

 

 

 

Pool 2 (Leopard, Salamander, Griffin, Rat)

 

Leopard Army         

Leopard Army is a very well balanced team that is dangerous in every position. The team’s originally bright prospects have dimmed a bit since the teams were made with the loss of veteran utility player Patrick Callanan and an injury to Junhune Nam, but the team is still quite solid. After a bit of a hiatus from the quidditch world, I fully expect Heather Knoch to make her presence known on the field as a beater. With a decent partner she should easily be to control the defensive half of the field. On offense, chasers Ethan Sturm and myself have already demonstrated that they can do some damage together. Throw in Nam’s explosive drives, and Adam Robillard’s propensity for running through defensive lines, and you see the core of a powerful offensive engine. The defense looks similarly sturdy, with a number of players able to take point depending on the opposition. Against quicker opponents, I’ll step up and lock the ball carrier down, while Junghune and Robillard take care of larger threats. I also expect Robillard will be a key player for this team, particularly with the loss of Callanan. Robillard will likely be slipping into the keeper line, as well as playing as a backup seeker for the team. This team’s weak spot is definitely in seeking, in a pool which holds the most dangerous seekers in the tournament. However, this team is likely to try to repeat Blue’s success at Canada Fantasy in simply charging out of snitch range, and if the snitch does matter, their beaters will make a successful snatch a nightmare for the opposing seekers regardless of their skill.

 

Griffin Army

Griffin army’s greatest strength lies in their depth. They have an incredibly solid beater line with RIT’s Skylar Crossman, Macaulay’s Jenna Jankowski and Shenuque Tissera and Rochester’s Anna Parker all ready to step up. Throw into the mix a chaser line including Geneseo graduate Josh Stone and New York City based Walter Makarucha and Rowan Baluta, and you begin to see the problem this teams poses for their opponents. Now add keeper Dan Hanson from the Lost Boys, and Geneseo seeker Joey O’Connor and you see what a dangerous and balanced a team this is. While they may not have many huge names, all of their players are solid – there are no real weak links. In a long day in which many teams rely on their A-line to generate points, Griffin will be firing on all cylinders all game, every game. I expect this team to hold bludger control against every team in their pool except Leopard, who they will likely trade with depending on which beaters Leopard has in. On defense, the three chasers specifically listed have all proven well able to make hits, and will provide a solid point defense as well as good man to man coverage. On offense, Ryan Smythe is likely to step up with his blazing speed to wreak havoc during transitions. In a slower offense Josh, Dan or Walter can all easily bring the ball up and either drive or pass depending on the defense. This team is going to be dangerous, particularly in playoffs when other teams are beginning to be worn down.

 

Rat Army

Rat Army has likely the best seeker in the tournament in Macaulay’s Andrew Zagelbaum, and paired with a relatively high powered offense headlined by Tufts’ Howie Levine, Rochester’s Michael Pascutoi and RIT’s Kyle Savarese, this team can do quite a bit of damage. Given these three players as well as their other chasers Rat Army’s offense is likely to be characterized by incredibly quick counters on transitions as well as precise passing more than a driving offense, although Rat’s chasers are very capable of driving if necessary to punish teams who over commit to defending against the passing option. Offensively Rat has excellent chaser depth with no real weak links. Their one biggest problem may be that most of their chasers fall into the small and fast play style, and keeper Nick Murray may well be there one true big man to make hits on defense. Though watch out for Josh Miller, the freshest face off the Merchant Marine Academy pipeline that seems to produce nothing but solid quiddich players. Rat’s biggest struggle may come in beating, particularly given the beater depth and power enjoyed by some of the other teams in this pool.

 

Salamander Army

Salamander Army’s greatest relative strength likely lies in its seeking, with Rochester’s Justin Kieber-King, Syracuse’s Joey DiStefano and NYU’s Dante Close all able to step up and make a pull. Unfortunately, in this pool that advantage isn’t as significant as it might otherwise be. With seeking losing its relative edge, this team will need to rely on the explosive speed and strong arm of Hofstra keeper Taylor Crawford, as well as the sheer unstoppable juggernauting capacities of SUNY Geneseo’s Joe Monoeneko, as well as RIT’s Rob Clifford to get an offense rolling. Monoeneko and Clifford can both bring up the ball and force the opposing defense to collapse on them to some degree, if the defense lacks discipline, allowing their many speed chasers such as Macaulay’s Indiana Kuffer and Close to get open for a pass. At the same time, I suspect this team will have trouble maintaining bludger control, despite having veteran Badassilisks beater Kerri Donnelly anchoring their line. One of the keys for this team will be determining the most effective use for Keiber-King during the seeker floor, as his versatility may give them an opportunity to shore up a weakness in beating, or dramatically increase their offensive capacities as a chaser or keeper.

 

Final Prediction
Griffin Army over Dragon Army on a snitch snatch.

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