The Eighth Man

Detroit Looks to Improve Upon ‘Nightmare’ Opener

Courtesy: Sara DeLongchamp

Courtesy: Sara DeLongchamp

After a weekend off, MLQ returns with the Detroit Innovators traveling to face off against Rochester Whiteout. Detroit has not played since its traumatic opening series a month ago against the Indianapolis Intensity, dropping all three matches. Rochester defeated Indianapolis two weeks ago two games to one, looking borderline dominant in its victories and losing a snitch-range match that could have gone either way. Detroit needs some wins this weekend to pull out of the basement of the North Division, while Rochester comes in searching for a leg up to challenge Indianapolis for the Division title.

What to Watch For
Detroit’s opening series was a bit of a nightmare, and honestly could not have gone much worse. The offense was ineffective and clearly lacked chemistry, the beaters looked rusty after a few months off from competitive play, and the bludger and quaffle games were too out of sync to be successful consistently. It was hard to see how things could have gone worse, but there were also troublingly few bright spots or hot streaks that showed this talented roster was coming together as a unit. A bad sign for this weekend’s series: Detroit will be missing half its best beater line with Ashley Calhoun not on the roster. In her stead we will see Ryan Sparks and Keira Fisher, both of whom looked rusty against Intensity. It will be up to Tad Walters and Jim Richert to step up and lead Detroit’s beater game to new heights.

Detroit’s quaffle game, on paper, should improve from its opening performance. Sarah Delongchamp and Krystina Packard are two of the better female chasers in the league and should see heavy playing time with only two female beaters on the roster (one of whom, Sparks, is expected to don both black and white headbands). Keeper Eric Wasser is also back from being absent against Indianapolis, and should help give Detroit the patience on offense that they sorely lacked. Expect to see Detroit try to come at Rochester with physical, dual-male-beater lineups that will try to score the majority of its goals from 5 feet in.

For Rochester, I do not see much need to change from the gameplan the team used against Indianapolis. The Whiteout held the beater game even against a strong Indianapolis corps—a similar performance should give them an edge over Detroit (with Calhoun absent) if the transitive property holds. Rochester’s best offensive attacks mirrored how Indianapolis frustrated the Detroit defense—patient, perimeter-oriented passes and cuts that wait for the defense to make a mistake. On defense, Rochester will definitely be undersized, but the Rochester-based USQ teams have made a living off superb tackling technique and daring larger opposition to try to drive through them. Indianapolis found last series that driving on a bludger-less Rochester defense was not an automatic goal—whether Detroit’s superior size changes that will be a key part of the weekend.

Key Players: The Schepers Brothers
Spanning all four positions, the physically imposing Zach and Dylan Schepers will be big parts of Detroit’s attempted improvement. Dylan was a rare bright spot against Indianapolis, putting up six goals in three matches on strong drives through multiple defenders. Listed as both chaser and keeper this weekend, he will have to be a leading scorer early to help open up passing lanes toward Detroit’s other options as the series goes on. Zach will likely spend most of his time at beater, though he is listead as a chaser and the only seeker on the roster. He has been an above-average option for the University of Michigan in the past, and he may be the difference between another disappointing weekend or a team on the rise.

Prediction: Rochester 3-0
Detroit’s entire game should be better than it was against Indianapolis. I do not think it is possible for a team with this much talent and desire to come out flat this weekend. The problem is, Rochester should improve from its last performance as well as its team gains more chemistry. Given that the Whiteout started at a much higher benchmark, I see it pulling off a sweep at home, but not without two snitch range games where Detroit could pull an upset.

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