The Eighth Man

Admirals Aim to Upset Titans

The MLQ season hits full swing this weekend, and the odds-on favorites to hoist the trophy in August open their season by traveling to the nation’s capital for the latest chapter in a long quidditch rivalry between the cities of New York and Washington. Anything but a sweep will be seen as a disappointment for the Titans, but the Admirals will be playing at home, with the hopes of the entire Mid-Atlantic behind them. After watching Indianapolis Intensity prove the critics wrong last weekend, we have to imagine that Washington would like nothing more than to do the same. But do they have what it takes to pull it off?

Opening Thoughts
Last weekend, we saw a team with a lot of pre-built chemistry dominate. In this matchup, both sides will be working to mesh together players from a large number of different USQ season squads. The Titans are built on a base of New York’s community team, The Warriors, but some of their most important contributors, including Texas Cavalry’s Augustine Monroe and Emerson College’s Leeanne Dillmann, play the majority of their quidditch in different cities or regions. Meanwhile, the Admirals are going to be heavily reliant on a small core of University of North Carolina players, perhaps most notably Max Miceli. However, the team will also need major contributions from other key players, including University of Maryland graduates Ricky Nelson and James Hicks.

This will be a match that hinges on dictating the pace and style of the game. UNC players may be use to a “7 seconds or less” offense, but beating the Titans at that game may be a tall task. Instead, look for Washington to take long possessions, run the clock and try to force over extensions from New York. Both Hicks and Beto Natera have experience with teams that like to slow things down, and I’d be shocked if they didn’t at least try the tactic to gauge its efficacy.

The pressure entering the game rests on the shoulders of the Titans like the world rests on those of Atlas. Washington could drop three games tomorrow and still proceed with a successful season, but as the standard bearers of the league, New York has to get a smooth sweep to start things off, especially with the Admirals down one of the stars of their beater game in Kyle Bullins. Even a 2-1 victory would be seen as a failure.

Matchup to Watch: Augustine Monroe vs. Washington Point Defenders
The Admirals’ defense is already going to be stretched thin from the difficulties of the beater matchup it will find itself in and the inexperience they have playing with each other. But if the team’s point defenders cannot find a way to keep Monroe in front of them, it will likely be one too many things for them to deal with. With Monroe getting into the lane at will, it will force the Washington beaters to step to him, opening up cutting lanes around the hoops for a group of very talented wing chasers led by Michael Parada and Tim Keaney. And you can guarantee that Monroe, arguably the best drive-and-dish player in the game, will take advantage. The Admirals’ point defenders do not even need to consistently bring him to ground, but just keeping him at the top of the zone, rather than driving through it, will go a long way in giving the team some hope.

Key Player: Ricky Nelson, Beater, Washington Admirals
If Washington is going to have any hope in this series, Nelson is going to need to stand on his head in the bludger game. With Bullins out for the weekend, there is a complete dearth of talent at the position behind him, and with the potential the Titans can bring in the quaffle game, anything less than a push in the bludger game will leave the Admirals’ chasers out to dry.

Even with Kyle Jeon left off the roster for New York this weekend, achieving parity will be difficult for Nelson, who will still be going up against Dylan Meehan and Mario Nasta, who are not only immensely talented, but who can also spell each other, keeping New York’s beater lines fresh throughout the series. Nelson, meanwhile, will not only have to play at an incredibly high level, but do so while conserving energy to make it through three whole games. Anything less could mean an easy sweep for the Titans.

New York Wins If:
The team can achieve parity or better in the beater game; keep the pace of the match high; and get its offense clicking right from the get go. From top to bottom, the Titans have the stronger roster, and there is no one area where you can count the Admirals as having an advantage. So, to get the win, New York really just needs to not beat itself and prevent Washington from getting the strategic edge.

Washington Wins If:
The team gets complete control of the pace, milks the clock, Nelson dominates the bludger game and Miceli hits a few mid-range shots to keep the game in range. And even then, the squad will need a snitch grab in a seeker game it is not expected to be favored in. Simply put, a lot is going to need to go right for the Admirals to steal even one game.

Final Prediction: New York, 3-0
The league favorites get their season started on the right foot without too much trouble, while Washington learns some valuable lessons going forward into friendlier matchups.

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