The Eighth Man

Separation Weekend

Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang

In the third week of the MLQ season, the four teams yet to play will square off in what should be two tightly-contested series where dual-male beating may steal the show.

In each series, the division’s 2016 fourth seed will look to improve upon those standings due, primarily, to the fact that this rendition of MLQ will only permit the top three in each division to attend the 2017 MLQ Championship.

South Division
League City Legends (2016: 4-5, 3rd) at New Orleans Curse (2016: 0-9, 4th)
June 17, 12 pm EDT
All-Time Series: League City 3-0

Coming out of the 2016 regular season, the bottom of the South shined at MLQ Championship. The League City Legends and New Orleans Curse were able to push the top seed in their bracket in multiple games, and League City advanced to the Final Four to lose to the Austin Outlaws. The 2017 Kansas City Stampede sits with zero wins and three losses so far, but they’ve already played Austin, the favorite to win the division. Unlike Austin v. Kansas City, this weekend’s series between the Legends and Curse is crucial to win for both squads.

Each team is headlined by top-tier beating and quality chasing. The difference will come down to the third line of beaters as each look to take an early lead in one of the toughest divisions. For New Orleans that is likely to be Michael Sanders who made his return to quidditch with The Warriors this past USQ season. Sanders allows New Orleans to run a traditional beating set while still permitting Tad Walters and Russell Bryan Cascio to stay in the quaffle game. While neither are the most imposing chasers, they play smart and can play off-ball or as ball carriers.

League City, on the other end of the field, will need solid play from Sam Houston State University beater Baldemer Nunez. The top of their rotation is solid with Michael Duquette and Coach Zachary Pickett. It will be up to Nunez to compete with the likes of Sanders, Josh Mansfield and Kody LaBauve. If he cannot, League City always has the option to sub in Lone Star beaters Sam Reagan and Josh Carroll.

Both teams have the ability to run dual-male beating, and each roster alludes to that happening this weekend with five non-male chasers a piece. This series will no doubt be a competitive one with solid strategy changes in between games. It may ultimately come down to which team switches to the dual-male set first. Necessity will dictate that choice and will result in an advantage to the opposing team in quaffle play. The move to switch first will be dictated by the play of Beth Peavler and Brittany Laurenteach talented beaters in their own right.

Expect the series to go 2-1, with League City coming out on top. If Curse wants to take any more games, it will come from great play from first-year MLQ chaser Tevin Foster from Gainesville Siege and keeper Nicholas Gobert of Tulane University. Foster already has experience against the South’s players. His USQ squad, Gainesville Siege, travelled to New Orleans early in the USQ season and ended in the finals against Texas Tech at Consolation Cup ll. Gobert, on the other hand, has shown great flashes during his time with Tulanehe has the chops to be a top ball handler in this league.

With so many new pieces on both teams, it will be interesting to see how the players mesh together this early in the season and how the rosters are managed between games.

North Division
Detroit Innovators (2016: 1-8, 4th) at Rochester Whiteout (2016: 7-2, 2nd)
June 18, 6:30 pm EDT
All-Time Series: Rochester 5-1

This series has been extremely close over the past two seasons despite the record leaning toward Rochester Whiteout. In six games, the Detroit Innovators have only been outscored by 160 quaffle points, but only have one win. A differential of 2.6 goals per game makes sense when four of the six games have been in range. In the East, matches between 2016’s second and fourth seeds are not as hotly contested series: New York holds a 360 quaffle point differential with only one more win in their two Ottawa Black Bears series.

Based on the 21-player rosters submitted for this weekend, this series will not be highlighted by physical chasing like in years past. Both teams have taken noticeable hits to their roster from previous years, but each seems to have a plan in place to cover them up. For Whiteout, it is male beaters, and for Detroit, it is size in the quaffle game.

The loss of Kyle Savarese and the lack of Josh Kramer this weekend means Daniel Gagne and Patrick Callanan will likely take over. In years past, Whiteout has switched to a dual-male beating set with snitch on pitch or when it was otherwise required. This year they seem less equipped to run it and are facing a Detroit team that is able play two male beaters or the entire series when it is needed. This means that Whiteout beaters Lisle Coleman and Sara Smacher are the key to winning the series.

Detroit has brought the means to run an effective dual male throughout the entire series, though they lack the size to match a strong Whiteout quaffle line without overextending their beaters. Without keeper Chris Barnard, scoring will be a challenge for the Innovators even on no-bludger situations. There are not many ball handlers in the league who can consistently get around point chaser Solomon Gominiak and there are fewer on this Detroit roster. They will have to rely on effective passing to move around the bigger Rochester. Luckily, with solid chasers around the hoops like Mae Overholt, Sarah Walsh and Katelyn Feley, ball carriers like Tawfik Abbas and Alex Mitchell will have reliable passing options.

This will be a very different game than either team is used to in this match-up. If Detroit is able to keep the score down, they have a chance to push Rochester to snitch range. However,  Detroit is still lacking a bonafide seeker while Whiteout added Valhalla’s Jonathan Golla along with Cody Keefer.

Inevitably, without the physicality to match Rochester, this series will be more lopsided than in years past as Whiteout sweeps to start the season and sit at 3-0 with Indianapolis Intensity atop the North division.

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