The Boys and Girls of Summer: Hannah Monty

Credit: Badal Chandra

Credit: Badal Chandra

To say Hannah Monty broke into the quidditch world this summer would be incorrect. But she undoubtedly burst onto the American scene in a big way. And while her rise to prominence on the American stage may have surprised some, for Australians that have watched her for years, the performance was no coincidence.

Monty started her quidditch career with the University of West Sydney (UWS) Thestrals at the end of 2011, participating in the Australian national tournament, QUAFL Cup. The Thestrals placed second, losing to the University of New South Wales Snapes on a Plane in the final.

Quickly rising to prominence, Monty began the 2012 season as coach and captain of UWS. Bringing her background in ultimate frisbee, netball, soccer, basketball and Australian rules football, Monty is a threat on and off the ball, with her skill overcoming her lack of physical size. With her skill and athleticism, she is a difficult mark for male and female opposition alike.

Monty’s first step toward international fame was her placement on the Global Games Australian selection committee. Being selected for said squad was the second. As starting female chaser for the Drop Bears, she needed to impress if she hoped to make a name for her country in the sport, and she did so in a big way.

Going into West Fantasy, many questioned whether the Australian team could compete with the Americans in regards to physicality, and Monty answered them all definitively in the affirmative. She was prolific on offensive, racking up goals and regularly bringing down players much bigger than her. She even produced a highlight reel moment, outrunning the Lost Boys’ Jeff Lin on a breakaway.

Her speed gave her a huge advantage over the other female chasers in the tournament, allowing her to run circles around players twice her size. But more than anything, her positioning around the hoop area and her awareness on the ball were her key qualities. Being able to get to the ball quickly and turn dead plays into points made her an extremely valuable and scrappy asset.

Her great play continued at Global Games, where she was one of the lead point scorers for the Drop Bears. Her physicality and speed, especially against less-experienced countries, created matchup nightmares for the opposition, and her overall performance proved that West Fantasy was no fluke.

As displayed during her trip through North America, Monty is a true competitor. There is no challenge she will back down from, and that makes her a scary competitor on the pitch. Any loose ball she sees as hers for the taking. She is the type of player that will take advantage of every mistake and force you to make them.

It seems the next step for Monty at this point is to lead UWS to a national Australian championship, a championship they have never actually held. With her skill, talent and leadership, there is no question that the Thestrals are going to be a dangerous team all season long.

Will They or Won’t They: Central Michigan University

In addition to our preseason rankings, The Eighth Man staff will be releasing a series of articles focusing on the top 20 teams, counting down from 20 to one. Each article will be written by two members of the staff, one who believes the team will live up to or exceed expectations and one who thinks they will come up short. 


A REPEAT PERFORMANCE
By Daniel Daugherty

In its two years of existence, Central Michigan University (CMU) has yet to feel the sting of losing key pieces. In fact, they have experienced the opposite—their best have only gotten better.  This year, however, this steadily improving team will lose a slew of stars. How they handle these losses will prove to be a pivotal point in their program’s growth. Losses aside, I believe there are plenty of reasons to expect them to overcome adversity and be a top 20 team in the USQ.

The gap left behind by the loss ofthe team’s beating core—Team USA’s Ashley Calhoun, Andrew Derry and Tom O’Neil—will be difficult to fill. Returning beaters will be tasked with the job of stepping into some huge shoes while also teaching and molding first-year players. For that role, look no further than Becca Bennett. Bennett was Calhoun’s back up this past year and, therefore, flew under the radar receiving little to no recognition. Expect that to change this year. She gained valuable experience working with Calhoun and has gained plenty of knowledge and experience to go along with her raw talent. Nobody is walking through the door and replacing Calhoun from the start, but Bennett is the closest they are going to get.

In addition to the losses at beater, CMU will also be bidding adieu to seeker Jeff Fisher.Usually teams look at their departing players as a loss of experience and talent. With CMU, however, this “loss” could allow for the richer talent to step into the game. Fisher got the job done occasionally and they will definitely miss his experience, but other seekers outplayed him when they were given the chance. Booth is one of those seekers and now, without the feeling of owing Fisher playing time, the team can explore some different options at seeker and potentially be more successful in the ever-important SWIM situations.

Losses aside, CMU will retain its key piece. Keeper David Prueter was and continues to be the backbone of the team. As the talent around him grows, Pruetercontinues to demonstrate the ability to improve his consistently solid performance. With his strong leadership, desire to be the best and ever-growing knowledge of the sport, CMU is in a great position to continue moving upward.

Alongside Prueter, Brandon Booth, Seve Moralez, Adam Landis, Amber Harmon and David Wilber are the returning offensive players that will need to and should make an impact. New recruits aside, CMU already has some of the biggest, fastest and talented players in the Midwest. Booth and Prueter are both top-five keepers in the region while Moralez, Landis and Wilber could all make a case for the same distinction in the category of male chasers. Then there is Harmon, who is making her own case to be considered a top-five player at female chaser and her stock is only going up.

The core quaffle players of this team will continue to improve their already outstanding chemistry. Overall, CMU is a pretty polarizing team with their high intensity and tremendous ways of pumping themselves up. It is important that they are retaining many core players that are use to this atmospherebecause it will encourage the whole team to jump on board with this positive mentality. If they can get their whole team to match intensity and play within their system, this is a team that can make waves beyond just regional play. Time will tell, but I expect them to be right around where they were last year, which definitely should garner them the recognition of being in the preseason top 20.


A LACK THEREOF
By Luke Changet

CMU has some serious work to do if they want to replicate last season’s success, which, at its pinnacle, included four tournament wins in five weeks. The part of their team the requires the most work? The beater core.

CMU did not only lose captain and Team USA member Ashley Calhoun, but also her two strongest beating partners, Tom O’Neil and Andrew Derry. Without these three, it is difficult to see CMU being able to replicate its success in the beater game, especially considering that none of their replacements have ever seen significant playing time.

There is a strong case to be made for their chasers maintaining their form from last season. CMU built one of the most efficient passing games in the Midwest last year, and it’s very likely that this will be the case this season. However, defensively, CMU’s chasers have never been impressive. Captain David Wilber is a big, physical presence on point, but he lacks elite lateral movement speed, making him easy to juke out in the open field. Without the beater support he had previously, the majority of ball handlers may find CMU’s defense much easier to dice up.

This leads to another problem—will captain David Prueter still be effective on defense? Prueter is a gifted ball-handler, there’s no denying it. He has excellent hands, great vision and a great touch shot. However, defensively, he has always relied on his ability to stop long shots with his reach rather than stopping players with physicality. Prueter’s defensive style relies on his beaters being able to keep opposing chasers away from the hoops. Without the imposing beaters of CMU’s past, Prueter will either need to increase his physicality or turn the starting reins over to Brandon Booth, a much more physical keeper.

Also plaguing CMU is the loss of seeker Jeff Fisher. Even though Fisher was never talked about as one of the elite seekers—or, really, talked about period—he worked wonders for CMU in his final season, and he was far and away the best choice CMU had for a seeker. In the first season without off-pitch seeking, this may not be as big of a blow as it once was. However, seekers are still pivotal in the game, and, right now, CMU’s seeking game is a giant question mark.

CMU has not just lost a couple of beaters and a seeker, they have lost their entire defense. They have lost their ability to control and catch a snitch. They have lost a significant part of their leadership. Every key component of the CMU game, except for their offense, has to undergo some serious restructuring, and even the offense was less than ideal.

It is hard to see how CMU managed to sneak their way into the top 20, but it is even harder to imagine that they will be staying there for too long.

Will They or Won’t They: University of Florida

In addition to our preseason rankings, The Eighth Man staff will be releasing a series of articles focusing on the top 20 teams, counting down from 20 to one. Each article will be written by two members of the staff, one who believes the team will live up to or exceed expectations and one who thinks they will come up short. 


“MASTER OF NONE”
By Daniel Daugherty

Departing Players
Zachary Thorne – Keeper
Jeremy Sparks – Chaser
With only two departing players, University of Florida (UF) looks to build upon last year’s Pot Two finish. Even with only two losses, UF’s road is not paved evenly for them as they hope to rekindle some magic from their runner-up final at World Cup V.

Wrong Direction
UF prides themselves on the ability to adjust to all different strategies and be fluid in their own strategy. This could lead to being a “jack of all trades, master of none.” As important as it is to be able to adjust to what opponents are doing, it is even more important to have an identity and be able to fall back into what your team does best when a game is not going your way. After being the breakout team at World Cup V, they missed out on bracket play at World Cup VI and were knocked out in the Round of 32 at World Cup VII. UF will need to revamp in order to make a jump from a top 32 team to a top 20 team this season.

Weak Region
The South is not full of many top-tier teams, which makes it really difficult for teams like UF to get better without top-level competition. The South is right there with the Mid-Atlanticand arguably the Midwestin needing out-of-region play in order to diversify and see what elite teams are doing that is working. UF has shown in the past that they are willing to go to the Southwest in order to improve, the question is whether or not they will make that effort again this season. Many people in the South point to UF playing against Texas A&M University as the reason for them competing at all at World Cup VII.

Being the best team in the South is not outside of the realm of possibility but is going to be a tough test with Florida’s Finest only getting better. Look for UF to continue to try to be fluid with their strategy and to ultimately fall short of any impressive tournament showings. They will continue to be solid but will fail to make any huge impact on the national stage this season.


SWEET 16 FINISHER
By Sean Pagoada

Past Performances
The University of Florida Gators were ousted in the Round of 32 at World Cup VII, ending their run with a final score of 110*-60 against eventual runner-ups Texas State University. The Gators’ 2013-14 squad was largely made up of new talent, allowing their players to develop and improve with every tournament. Non-SWIM losses to Texas A&M University at Wolfpack Classic and to University of Miami in the Southern Regional Championship finals helped players gain valuable experience against tough competition. With close World Cup VII losses to Bowling Green State University in pool play and Texas State in bracket playboth in snitch rangeexpect this squad to come back seasoned and motivated to make a deeper run at the championship tournament this year.

The Returners
UF will be returning all their players with the exceptions of long-time keeper Zachary Thorne and chaser Jeremy Sparks. The leader of their pass-crazy offense is none other than keeper Dre Clements, with whom you will see chasers Elizabeth Norton and Tori Robbins show a pass-first mentality in order to open up defenses for wide-open shots. These two ladies allow UF to run a two-male beater lineup for most of the game, with Richard Crumrine leading their beating corps and contributing much-needed physicality, as well as conservative play. Coach Tim Derrick will have the chance to move this offense forward with even better passing schemes. While the offense definitely stands out, UF’s defense is what they prided themselves on last season. While Thorne will be missed for his great shot blocking, sophomore Matt Butler will have the opportunity to step up and fill the gap left behind. Nick Zakoske will be one of the heavy hitters on the team, making one-man stops when necessary, and Kate Alicante will be a hustler on defense, rounding out their female chaser lineup. While the Gators will be missing some key beaters (Ashley McDowell and Arielle Plavcan) in the spring, they will have all of the fall semester to train up some new talent. If UF can get one or two more standout players, they will be battling Florida’s Finest for the top spot in the South. Even without that, they have suffered fewer graduation losses than most of the Southern teams.

Expectations
I expect a repeat appearance in the South Regional finals and a Sweet 16 finish come April from the Gators. This should be Clements’ last season leading the UF offense; if the team can play off his passes, they should stand in a good position to rack up points against most defenses. If this team can focus on improving their performance from last season and building up to their potential, then it’ll be happy chomping for the Gators this season.

The Boys and Girls of Summer: Jayke Archibald

Three months ago, Jayke Archibald had never been the star of a quidditch team.

Despite the flare and panache he displays on the pitch, he had always played second fiddle. Archibald started his career as a snitch, donning the yellow shorts for the first Empire Classic–that season’s Northeast Regional Championship–in May 2011. He played his first season of quidditch at Hofstra University under Steve DiCarlo in his Golden Snitchy prime, and then captained a squad the following year that lived or died by the beater play of Alex Leitch. He graduated at the end of that season and went on to play for QC Boston: the Massacre, led by now two-time Global Games star Kedzie Teller.

Perhaps due to never breaking out as a big name in the sport, or maybe because his game simply had not fully developed, Archibald’s play was often seen as style lacking substance. When Massacre went 1-3 at World Cup VII, crashing out with a loss to Rochester Institute of Technology in the first round of bracket play, it did not help in dispelling that belief.

But then a funny thing happened on the way to the fantasy season, and, ironically enough, it happened while playing with his old Hofstra teammates. In May, Archibald joined a team of Hofstra alumni and current players for the Natty Boh Brawl, an all-merc team tournament hosted by the University of Maryland. The team was stocked with talent, including Archibald, former NYDC Capitalists chaser Tim Keaney and current Hofstra star keeper Jaime Colon headlining the quaffle play.

When Colon went down with an injury halfway through the day, two important things happened: Archibald was finally the unquestioned star of a team, and he had to don the green headband. It may sound like a clichéd sports flick, but suddenly the team did a complete 180. Archibald racked up points–both with his own shots and with pinpoint passes to Keaney–which,with the help of a few Freddy Varone snitch grabs, knocked off two heavily-favored opponents in a row in the semifinals and finals to win an unexpected tournament crown.

That tournament would be Archibald’s only tournament win of the summer, but it was a springboard for his play throughout the fantasy season. At West Fantasy, he got dealt the difficult hand of going for 250 galleons, and then had to contend with even more adversity when teammate and Lost Boy Vanessa Goh went down with an injury. Despite that added stress put on his back, his performance earned him tournament MVP considerations, even with the team going 1-4 that weekend.

Next up was Champagne Cup where Archibald, teamed up with University of North Carolina’s Max Miceli and Keaney, put together an undefeated run all the way to the semifinals, ending with a pair of snitch grabs that led to a heartbreaking overtime loss.

But perhaps no tournament was as much a showcase for the rising star as Northeast Fantasy. Once again teamed up with Keaney, as well as former Maryland and now Capital Madness chaser Samantha Medney, Macaulay Honor College’s Andrew Zagelbaum and a stable of talented beaters, Archibald displayed all of the skills he had honed over the entirety of the summer. His passing and shooting were elite, his drives were difficult to stop and he was a wall when defending his hoops. In the finals, he basically went one-on-one with University of Maryland’s Harry Greenhouse for 18 minutes and came off no worse for wear. While it was Greenhouse who walked away with the snitch grab and the tournament win, it was Archibald that had raised eyebrows.

So what is it that makes Archibald such a dangerous player? On offense, he is a primary ball handler capable of accurate, quick passing from almost any distance. He also has one of the most graceful long shots in the sport and, with a Baden, is just about automatic from anywhere in his opponent’s half of the field. He is quick enough to drive into an opposing team, and his long arms make it difficult to both wrap him up and prevent him from getting a shot or pass off.

While the offensive production has been impressive, his defensive keeping has been even more so. It could definitely be argued that he is the best stay-at-home defensive keeper in quidditch, regularly plucking passes out of the air or diving to knock a shot away from a hoop with his long arms. With Archibald guarding the hoops the only way you are scoring is on a drive, and if the rest of his defense is aware of this, fact scoring becomes incredibly difficult.

On top of all of this, his value this summer has been largely defined by the fact that he never needs to come out of a game. Just as a quarterback has increased value if he can consistently stay healthy, Archibald has increased value because he is an elite keeper for the entire game.

The fantasy season has come and gone, and reality will hit hard as the new season begins. In September, Archibald will take over as co-captain of Massacre with Teller and try to fix the many internal issues that plagued the team in its inaugural season. He will likely become the team’s starting keeper and primary ball-handler, two positions that greatly need improvement.

But while the details remain hazy, one thing is clear: Jayke Archibald is a star.

The Boys and Girls of Summer: Trevor Campbell

When you look at Ball State University’s lack of success in major tournaments during the 2013 – 2014 season (their best result being a semifinal finish at the Midwest Regional Championship), it’s easy to pick apart their team and list off all the reasons why they failed to live up to expectations. You could list off any number of reasons as to what went wrong, but one thing is certain: Trevor Campbell absolutely should not be on that list.

Campbell, during only two years of quidditch competition, has already proven himself as one of the best beaters in the Midwest. His high energy levels allow him to play for long stretches of time, while simultaneously pumping up his teammates and inspiring them to do better. Campbell’s endurance is derived from his years as a cross country and track runner in high school, and his aggression and physicality is helped by his background in football, where he played center as one of the smallest members of the team.

Campbell has made quite an impact this summer. At Black Swamp Fantasy, his team went 6-0, giving Campbell a championship in his debut as a GM. Though Black Swamp was done by random draft and Campbell’s team was widely considered to be the team that would walk through the field, they still could not have done it without his excellent beating and eye for good trades. At Midwest Fantasy, Campbell was key in orchestrating a complete turnaround. After going 0-2 on day one, Campbell’s aggressive beating, specifically around the snitch, helped to drag Ball State teammate Melinda Staup’s Can’t Staup Won’t Staup to the finals through the Margo Aleman-led Maximum Carnage.

Campbell also traveled to THE Fantasy Tournament to compete for Stephen Ciccolella’s American Outlaws, where his team managed to reach the quarter-finals and held the eventual champion, Hope Machala’s Star Spangled Hammered, to their second closest game of the tournament. It’s possible that the American Outlaws could have kept their game with Star Spangled Hammered in range if Brittney Ripperger had not gone down with an injury in their first bracket game, but that is only speculation.

Truly, Campbell’s impact comes from his ability to be everywhere on the pitch at once. He is faster than most beaters (helped by his track background) and uses that speed to cover great distances. He has a very solid arm but prefers to track down the quaffle carrier and force a bad pass. In this way, he and Ball State beating partner Staup have become one of the most fearsome beating pairs around. Campbell excels at getting into a quaffle carrier’s face and forcing a hasty, often bad, decision, and Staup excels at getting to receivers and beating them before they can play off the pass.

Campbell pushes for excellence in everything he does, and it is no surprise that he was named an assistant coach and captain for Ball State after just one season; an honor that he will continue to hold this coming year.

Not only is Campbell a true athlete and exceptional beater, he is also incredibly humble and gives recognition to his teammates whenever possible.

When asked about this article, Campbell said, “I truly believe I am only as good as my team…I am truly honored to have people talk about me, and, honestly, I would love to give a shoutout to my teammates.”

In a world where great quidditch players seem to go hand-in-hand with great egos, it’s refreshing to see there are still some down-to-earth greats just waiting to give someone else a chance to shine.

The Boys and Girls of Summer: Margo Aleman

Nicole Harrig

The Boys and Girls of Summer is a new series featuring less heralded players making names for themselves over the course of the fantasy season. We start with the recently crowned West Fantasy MVP, Margo Aleman.

In the quidditch community, it is farfetched to imagine an elite seeker remaining more or less unknown for nearly an entire season. For an elite seeker on a World Cup winning team, it would seem almost impossible. Throw in the looks of a model and above-average chasing ability, and you might start believing this person couldn’t even exist.

And yet that is exactly what Margo Aleman has done over the last 10 months. He burst onto the scene as a member of the University of Texas – Austin squad in the fall, but managed to remain almost completely out of the national conscience until World Cup. And even then, many people believed it was just Kenny Chilton making all of the Longhorns’ snitch grabs.

But this slow discovery story isn’t just the story of Aleman, it’s also a story of the Texas quidditch program, and really all major quidditch programs, and what keeps them ticking, year after year. Because while this may have been Aleman’s first season with the schools’ first team, he’s been playing quidditch for four years, starting out in the Longhorn’s club system and getting his first taste of competitive quidditch years ago as part of a merc team of UT system players that traveled to a tournament at Texas Tech, the same tournament at which Kody Marshall debuted.

However, Aleman’s route to quidditch notoriety would be nowhere near as direct as Marshall’s. After failing to make the team for the 2012-13 season, Aleman played much of the year for Austin Quidditch. It was only then that he truly dedicated himself to the sport, a desire to improve that has carried all the way through to this summer.

Aleman finally joined the Longhorns for the 2013-14 season. But even this season, as he has for much of his career, he saved the best for last. After Texas breezed through bracket play and took down Austin Quiddtich in the Round of 32, Texas faced a murderer’s row of opposition the rest of the way: No. 10 Maryland, No. 6 Baylor, No. 2 Texas A&M and No. 5 Texas State. And while it would be unfair, and untrue, to say that the Longhorns didn’t outplay each of these teams, there were still three SWIM situations across the four games, three situations where a lesser seeker could have spelt the end of the team’s championship run before it ever began. Aleman didn’t flinch, scoring winning grabs over Maryland and Texas A&M before catching the snitch that defeated Texas State and made Texas back-to-back champions.

From there, Aleman was off and running, signing up for three of the sport’s four major summer fantasy tournaments. At Midwest Fantasy, he was a second round pick for Daniel Shapiro, and repaid him with a 3-1 SWIM record and a trip to the semifinals, where his streak in SWIM situations was broken by Ball State’s Blake Fitzgerald. But even more impressive than his number of catches was how quickly he was coming away with them, making most grabs in under a minute.

Undeterred by his semifinal disappointment in the Midwest, Aleman traveled to West Fantasy, where he was a 290 galleon pick for Michael Binger. He quickly proved the pick worthwhile, dragging the team kicking and screaming to the semifinals with impressive chasing and another 3-1 SWIM record, including a two-grab game in pool play. For his efforts, Aleman was awarded the MVP of West Fantasy.

Add it all together, and it comes out to a 9-2 SWIM record in competitive play over the last four months, with a World Cup Championship and a West Fantasy MVP award to his credit as well.

So how does he do it? Well, Aleman’s go-to technique at seeker is both simple and refined. Take a look at this video, which includes two of his World Cup grabs:

In both catches, Aleman dekes with his right arm before throwing his left arm around the back of the snitch. At least, that’s all that’s noticeable at normal speed. Because, in actuality, the right arm deke contains the slightest of arm grabs, just enough to reduce the snitches ability to move backwards. It’s why in both grabs you see the snitch end up spinning rather than backing up: he’s attempting to, but one side of his body is being held in place.

Arm Grab 1

Could you say that the move borders on illegal? Probably. But almost every snitch grab in quidditch does, and something so minute is never going to get called. It’s an incredibly effective move not only because it’s tough to defend against but because it can be pulled out while charging, approaching, or grappling with the snitch. This allows Aleman to end games out of nowhere, especially against snitches that aren’t experienced in playing against him.

Unfortunately for the Longhorns, Aleman’s impressive season with the team was also his only, as he graduated at the end of the season. No one seems to be sure what Aleman’s plans are for the fall, but any team lucky enough to have him would gain one of the game’s top five seekers. But the new season is still over a month away, and with Southwest Fantasy still to come, the summer of Aleman is far from over. So let’s all just enjoy the ride.

Finding the Black Sheep at Black Swamp

The Black Swamp Fantasy tournament, hosted at Bowling Green State University, kicked off the fantasy season with a novel drafting premise. But the tournament shone not just in novelty but in execution as well, with a fun but competitive nature, a smooth running schedule, and beautiful weather.

The way that drafting worked was that in each round general managers got to choose a position and a number. The number referred to a random player at that position, who was then added to the team. Following the draft, each GM was allowed to make trades, with no rules or limits to what they could do.

In the end, we had Trevor Campbell’s Blue Team, the heavy favorites coming out of draft night, managed to take the tournament. The results fell like this:

 

Trevor Campbell (Blue) 6-0, 1st place

Meredith Taylor (Orange) 4-2, 2nd place

Alexis Moody (Green) 2-3, 3rd place

Tyler Walker (Purple) 1-4, 4th place

Joseph Hackney (White) 0-4, 5th place

(Note: What started off as Joseph Hackney’s White Team ended up being Alex Scheer’s Red Team.)

But instead of focusing on overarching reviews of each team, I thought that, this early in the fantasy season, it’d be best to focus on some lesser-known players that stood out on the pitch this weekend and could be difference makers in tournaments later in the summer.

 

Zach Rupp (Ball State, Blue Team)

Rupp is an absolute tank. I have played against him during the school season, but Devon McCoy, who is largely a similar player, has always overshadowed him. Playing against him at this tournament proved to me that he deserved some recognition himself. This tournament featured quite a few hard hitters, including Dylan Schepers, Eric Wasser, Travis Fannin, Gabe Unick, Mike Pascutoi, Malek Atassi, Andrew Axtell and McCoy, but, of all those names, I can easily say that I felt Rupp’s presence on the defensive end the most. He hit early, often, and hard. On the offensive end, he ran through defender after defender for easy scores. All in all, Rupp is a solid player that will definitely be turning heads this season with McCoy moving on to Blue Mountain Quidditch Club.

 

Travis Fannin (Ohio State University, Red Team)

Take this in: Fannin is 6-foot-5, 240 pounds, and that is basically just his beard. Fannin is an a behemoth on the pitch and he’s making huge strides towards being more consistent as he gains more and more experience. Unfortunately, he was knocked out of the tournament in their second game when my heel caught his nose – sorry again Travis! – but before that happened he was really getting a chance to shine in a big role on an overmatched team. I would have loved to watch him be able to get more minutes in such an integral role, but, nonetheless, he should be a big contributor for the Buckeyes this coming season.

 

Gabe Unick (Grand Valley State University, Orange Team)

At a tournament full of strong seekers, Gabe Unick stood out. Credit: Amy Utley

At a tournament full of strong seekers, Gabe Unick stood out. Credit: Amy Utley

Unick was the most efficient seeker at this tournament. He didn’t have the best track record coming in, those merits go to 2012 Team USA seeker Tyler Macy and 2014 Team USA seeker Sam Roitblat, who were both in attendance, but he caught every snitch, and he did so quickly. There would be times where Roitblat, who was on the same team, would come up short on a lengthy shift, only for Unick to catch it within the first few opportunities. On top of his seeking excellence, Unick played great on point defense and above average as a wing chaser on offense. There’s no doubt his utility was vital to Taylor’s team’s finals run.

 

Zach Schepers (University of Michigan, Orange Team)

Another member of Taylor’s Orange Team, Schepers was the best beater on a team that many originally said was weak at the position. When Schepers was in, he physically dominated the opposition and controlled every aspect of the game. Michigan has always had solid beaters with Zach Schepers, his twin brother Dylan Schepers, and Lisa Lavelanet, and they will continue to be a force to be reckoned with in the future.

 

Krystina Packard (Blue Mountain Quidditch Club, Purple Team)

“K-Pack” is back, and in a big way. After taking two years off – outside of the occasional fantasy tournament, Packard will be joining BMQC for this upcoming season. The biggest question mark facing the newfound team, aside from the typical community team problems, is where they will get female production from. Packard answered the question loud and clear at Black Swamp outperforming all but one or two other female chasers. I didn’t see her much, but when I did, her performance jumped off the pitch. To paraphrase David Hoops, he was excited to see how BMQC players were looking this tournament, and, largely due to the way Packard played, he came away very impressed.

 

Malek Atassi (University of Michigan, Purple Team)

Though Andrew Axtell is graduating, Malek Atassi shows promise in filling his shoes at Michigan.

Though Andrew Axtell is graduating, Malek Atassi shows promise in filling his shoes at Michigan.

Atassi is a defensive force. He has a strong body and can take down anyone. He doesn’t have the greatest lateral quickness, but as long as there’s a beater around to keep the ball carrier honest, Atassi will easily take himdown. On top of being a good defensive player, he also can barrel through a lot of defenses. Along with his ability, he has the wherewithal to know when to drive and when not to. Beaters must stay alert when he has the quaffle. Although he doesn’t have the pure athleticism or speed that Andrew Axtell has, he should fill in nicely for Michigan next season when given a larger role.

 

Juliet Slutzker (Bowling Green State University, Walker’s Purple Team)

Somehow, Slutzker has found a way to go under the radar while playing quidditch for nearly four years. She started off at the University of Michigan, and has, luckily for me, found her way to Bowling Green for grad school. Her knowledge of the sport supersedes anyone that isn’t already lauded for his or her experience. Black Swamp was her first fantasy tournament ever, and it was a chance to see just how well she can adjust to a system, as well as to her value as a player. She is fearless and aggressive while always putting pressure on the opposing team. Expect analysts, including myself, to overlook her time after time this coming year while she continues to be a productive and integral part to Bowling Green’s beating corps.

 

Pari Yost (Bowling Green State University, Moody’s Green Team)

The region got a small taste of the potential Yost offers this past season. She is tall, athletic and extremely intelligent in her positioning and execution. She easily averaged two or three goals a game at Black Swamp while being fed by Andrew Axtell and David Hoops. While her offense was great, her defense was even better. Using her tall frame and basketball IQ, she shut down wing chasers on an extremely consistent basis. She may not be the best female chaser in the region, but she was the best on this day, mainly for the way Alexis Moody used her on the pitch. All of Yost’s skills were on display, and it was a strategy that Bowling Green will likely try to mimic in the coming season.

 

Andy Hopkins (Blue Mountain Quidditch Club, Moody’s Green Team)

To be fair, Hopkins never has gotten mentioned in the Midwest before now because he has never played in this region before this tournament. That being said, the region better be on the lookout for him next year. He is a conservative beater, but he plays the role exceptionally. He, with the help of beater partner Julie Fritz, could retain bludger control better than anyone at this tournament. Doing so helped keep games close, and no one pulled out of snitch range on this team until Orange Soda learned to capitalize on the conservativeness of the beater duo. If BMQC puts an aggressive beater out on the pitch with Hopkins, expect them to make a lot of noise in the 2014-2015 season.

Midwest World Cup Roundtable

Credit: Harry Clarke

Credit: Harry Clarke

In recent weeks, interesting tournament results has thrust Midwest quidditch into the national spotlight. Now, days before the World Cup, we sat down a variety of players from across the region to talk about the good, the bad, and what the region is capable of at World Cup.

What Midwest team do you think makes the deepest run?

Samy Mousa (SM): In order, I would say the three that have the highest probability of deep runs based on their favorable pools are Bowling Green, Michigan State and Minnesota.

Alexis Moody (AM): Definitely Bowling Green and Minnesota, with Michigan State and Central Michigan also having the capability of going far. Bowling Green, Minnesota and Michigan State all have great seekers capable of making a grab in SWIM situations, while Central Michigan has a stifling defense and high octane offense to keep it close with the best.

Daniel Daugherty (DD): I completely disagree with Minnesota. The way I see it, even if they do well and win their pool, they could end up with a 2nd seed Southwest team in the Round of 32. The Southwest has plenty of experience playing against a zone defense like Minnesota runs, and I don’t see Minnesota as comparable to Baylor at all.

Alexis Moody: I agree that an early Southwest matchup in bracket play will lead to an early exit for the Gophers, but Minnesota has a pair of highly underrated athletic seekers who could prove vital in SWIM games. Realistically, Bowling Green is the one most likely to make the deepest run, but Minnesota, Michigan State, and Central Michigan all have the talent to do something big depending on their matchups.

Tyler Walker (TW): Michigan is another team I think has all the tools to make a deep run. They have tough, physical chasers, and their beating/seeking game is solid to say the least. They, along with Central Michigan, have plenty of physicality to be able to hang with any of the Southwest if they are met early on in bracket. The only thing that could really set them back is the unfortunate fact of being in almost everyone’s pool of death. They really could be exhausted after having to play probably the hardest trio of games of any Midwest team in pool play.

Luke Changet (LC): If anything can be learned from Northern Arizona, Lost Boys, Bowling Green, and Kansas last year, it’s that seekers fuel deep runs, and that beaters fuel seekers. I’ll agree tentatively that Michigan State is poised to make a deep run. We have a good pool for it, comparatively, but defensively can struggle. We have the seekers and beaters for it, but I wonder if our chasers can hang with top teams and keep them from putting points on the board.

I strongly disagree that Michigan is poised to make a deep run. They have below average seekers and below average beaters. Andrew Axtell and Batzer are the only reasons they’re in a lot of games, and once teams key in on that, which they will in bracket play, Michigan is done for.

I’m with Dan, I don’t see any kind of deep run from Minnesota. There’s a lot of hype around them after B1G/MAC, but remember that they were blown out by Michigan State at regionals, when there wasn’t a foot of snow acting as an eighth defender for them. I highly doubt the snow will be there in Myrtle Beach. As far as the original question, I’m going with Bowling Green. They have the beaters to control a game, the seeker to finish it, and the chasers to compete with anyone.

 

Which Pot One or Pot Two team will disappoint most?

Samy Mousa: Ohio State is given a rough situation to fight out of, I wouldn’t be shocked if they were a little battered and bruised come bracket time.  Likewise, Michigan State has the highest potential for disappointment, especially if they can’t get through that Arkansas game.

David Hoops: Michigan has the pool that could make it either the positive surprise or the negative one. Like the other Pot One-to-Four teams in that pool, I could see UM go 1-3 almost as easily as 4-0. NYDC has probably more star power and talent but less physicality, the Blacktips have Andy Abayan, who is a massive wild card analytically, and Austin Quidditch can match Michigan’s physicality and isn’t afraid of playing more experienced squads.

Alexis Moody: I love Ball State almost as much as I love Bowling Gren, but they got the short end of the stick with their pool. I think every single team could be competitive with the other, especially if Sam Houston gets motivated. Couple that with the disappointing results this semester, and pool play could end up disastrous.

Dan Daugherty: I am going to agree with Alexis. Minnesota might be a Pot One team, but they are a lot like Arkansas in that people feel that they don’t necessarily deserve it because of their showing at regionals. Even though Minnesota didn’t lose to any lower tier teams like Arkansas did, I still see their ranking being a bit of an anomaly.

Also, David, the fact that you can see Michigan going 1-3 or 4-0 means that 1-3 could easily be predicted. That being said, if they lose to a second team like Austin Quidditch, no matter how good people say they are, I will be severely disappointed. But I simply don’t think that will happen. I hope that doesn’t happen.

Then there’s Ball State. I think they just got an extremely difficult draw based on how they stack up in their pool. I think Emerson plays a style that will pose a problem for them, while Northern Arizona is such a great team in SWIM situations that they might be able to pull off that upset.

Tyler Walker: I think that it has to be Kansas. They are going to easily make it to Sunday, but one of two problems will come up. The first is that their seeking game has taken a hit. I know I am beating a dead horse, but it’s a fact that without one of the most reliable seekers in the country the, Jayhawks could have been knocked out of regionals by Marquette in the quarterfinals. Or by Michigan State in the semis. The second is the Pot Three team they drew. I think they have actually improved at chaser with the swap of Hai Nyugen for Colby Soden, but Jordan Callison is too much of a hit to that quaffle game. Richmond has hung around all year with the top tier of the Mid Atlantic, and Kansas will not have enough to separate themselves in that game.  As for Michigan I definitely have them making day two, so a 1-3 pool play would be a disappointment. Ohio State seems to have a weak pool in terms of pots 3-5. They should walk through that pool relatively easy. I really do not know how to disagree for my team without sounding biased, but I did not want to ignore the above comments.

Luke Changet: I’m with Tyler on Kansas maybe not performing at a top level, but I don’t think that’s really “disappointing,” as we don’t really know what to expect from Kansas after the losses mentioned above. Really, Kansas is an anomaly right now, and their game against Texas A&M will be very telling as far as where they stand. I think, before those losses, they had maybe a 1-in-3 chance of upsetting the Aggies. Now, I think 1-in-10 is being generous. Ball State has underperformed recently, but with a full roster, they should be back to normal. I think Devon McCoy helps that team more than anyone realizes, including the team itself, and I think with him they’re a totally different monster. I’m picking Michigan to disappoint due to their virtually non-existent seeking game. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to see them eliminated in pool play.

 

What team will ultimately surprise in pool or bracket play?

Samy Mousa: I wouldn’t be shocked to see Missouri fight their way out of a bad situation and into some spotlight.

Alexis Moody: I actually think Miami (OH) has the capability to turn heads with their pool. Villanova famously plays to the level of their opponents, and I think Miami has a chance to stay in snitch range. Carleton is also down some of their top players after their roster suspensions, and NYU is also down a couple of their best players. I’m interested to see how Matt Mignery, Michael March and Brian Neibecker bring the hurt against low contact teams. I also think Tina Kinstedt and Jeremy Ferlic are the best beater duo in this pool. The Lionhawks have a strong chance to win out, which would completely shock everyone.

David Hoops: I actually really like that pick Alexis. The only question I have for Miami is their seeking: I’m not a fan of picking an upset team that has had chances to take down top teams in snitch range this year but has yet to do so. They have made grabs against a depleted Bowling Green team and Central Michigan in the fall to force overtime, but an underdog team needs stronger seeking results than that.

Alexis Moody: I’m inclined to agree David. Brendan Kelly, also known as Cato, is their best asset in the seeker position, but he also plays major minutes at keeper, and by the time the seeker floor is up he’s pretty tired. I would love to see Mignery take control at keeper for the majority of their game against Villanova, keeping Kelly fresh for when the snitch is on pitch. The issue there is that Dan Takaki is one heck of a seeker who has more SWIM pulls than Kelly, so even if they are in snitch range it’s unlikely that they get the grab. Even so, a clear Midwest tier two team keeping Nova in snitch range for the second year in a row is newsworthy enough for me.

David Hoops: I also agree with you, Samy, on the Missouri front. Pool Nine doesn’t have a stereotypical powerhouse team from pots one or two, and LSU is a bit of a wildcard in terms of roster numbers and depth. Missouri finally has close to a full 21 roster, a problem that has plagued it since the team started playing. The top-end talent for Missouri has always been there, and finally we’ll be able to see what the team can do when they don’t get as tired at the end of the day.

Daniel Daugherty: Miami and Missouri both have a shot but I have reasons I don’t ulitmately see it in the cards for either of them. Miami doesn’t have the toughest Pot One or Two teams, but NYU is an extremely solid team. I think that leads to them getting taken just out of snitch range by all three. Missouri, meanwhile, is much deeper than they ever have been with the addition of Alex Scheer. Scheer is use to leading an entire offense on his own, and now he gets to play alongside Daniel Shapiro, Josh Ebbesmeyer and others. But they have yet to play together. Scheer, to my knowledge, hasn’t even practiced with the team, and I think it may lead to more issues than solutions.

Tyler Walker: I have to agree with everyone, but for the sake of debate, and since everything I would have said was already taken, I will throw two others into the mix. The first is Minnesota. In pool play, I think they will “surprise” everyone, if that’s still possible, and beat the Skrewts and McGill to win their pool.  In bracket play, they should get a higher seed and make sweet sixteen against a weaker opponent. The other is Grand Valley. They will not advance to Sunday, but I think they have a chance to steal a game in their pool. They are dedicated this year, and it could pay off. The team I really think will surprise everyone though has to be Miami (OH).

Luke Changet: I do like the Miami pick, though for them, surprising is making brackets, which I don’t think is too lofty a goal. I really disagree with Grand Valley. They were the last team to qualify in the Midwest, and I’ve seen their program up close, they seem more interested in code words than they are in true strategy. They’ve never beaten a high-profile team, never been to World Cup, really, there’s almost nothing redeeming about them, save a couple of decent athletes. They maybe have a shot at beating Maple Rush, but I doubt it.

I do expect Missouri to surprise. No, Alex Scheer hasn’t practiced with them, but he’s an elite chaser that’s now on a team that can support him. He’s always performed well at fantasy tournaments and on merc teams, so I don’t think he’ll have trouble blending in. Plus, he gives the Tigers a seeking option that they desperately need. Missouri is a different team with Scheer: a much better team.

 

What are your thoughts on the region’s Pot Five teams?

David Hoops: I don’t see any of them making it out of pool play. I think right now TC Frost is probably the most talented after Toledo has lost Scheer and Giles, but I can’t see Frost winning two of their four games.

Samy Mousa: My most anticipated game of the entire tournament will be Grand Valley vs. UMass. I think Grand Valley can get their one win right there.

But I will give Toledo a win in a strong effort against Harvard, and accredit TC Frost with a close game with their pot three and four teams..

Alexis Moody: I have to agree with Samy and David. Grand Valley has the best pool to make waves in. On the other hand, TC Frost is definitely the most talented of the bunch, and if they had Grand Valley’s pool, they would probably make bracket play.

Daniel Daugherty: Flat out, if any of these 4 teams win a game I will be quite shocked. I love these players and their heart, but they are all extremely short handed and just do not have enough talent to compete with these teams. Samy, I see Grand Valley as the worst of the bunch even with Toledo losing Scheer and Giles. I would be pleasantly surprised if they give UMass a game.

Samy Mousa: Have you seen UMass? I think they can be beaten by a stiff breeze.

Tyler Walker: I will give Eastern Michigan a fighting chance against Crimson Fliers, but they have to ball out to win that game. They have the potential and heart, and if they could put it together against Utah, they will at least give themselves a chance. Grand Valley, I think, could pull an upset on Maple Rush. Maple Rush does have some great players, but I tend not to trust how deep a B-team can be. Grand Valley is a deep team full of solid players at every position with no real standouts. UMass has not played that well this season, and only two official games this semester against sub-par competition is no way to come in ready for World Cup. Pools 12 and 13 are just too good for anything crazy happening for TC Frost and Toledo.

 

There has been a lot written on Michigan State. What are your general thoughts on them?

Daniel Daugherty: Luke, you have documented your feelings on Michigan State quite a bit, do you mind starting off with a brief synopsis of your feelings on the team?

Luke Changet: You just have to put me on the spot, don’t you? Just like Ethan, sigh… (Editor’s Note: We just like to mess with you Luke.) But yeah, Michigan State has great players at every position. Dan, be prepared to eat your words about “Average female beaters” tomorrow, you wouldn’t believe the shit Danielle [White] was spitting about you when she read that.

Anyways,real analysis. Michigan State has depth that we didn’t see at B1G/MAC, mostly because every single player there was playing out of position. Nic Dziadosz is an off-ball chaser, he played keeper and was the main ball carrier at B1G/MAC. Niko Banks is a third/fourth string point defender. He was playing off ball, and started several games. I could go on and on and on about that, but here’s the truth of it: Michigan State is as good as their teamwork. When they play as a team, they are damned near unbeatable. When they play as “Jacob Heppe and others,” they will lose. Yes, Heppe is the standout player, he runs the offense, he catches snitches, and he dishes out big hits, but the talent surrounding him is what makes the team. This is a much deeper team than Arkansas, which is good for Michigan State, because this is a later game. Arkansas’ top line would hang with and likely beat State, but once the subs hit the field, the Spartans definitely have a step. The rest of the pool is a joke, though people out West are big on Long Beach, so that should be interesting. Overall, Michigan State has a good pool to be poised to make a deep bracket run, but it will all come down to whether or not it becomes the Jacob Heppe show that we saw in tournament finals against Ball State and Central Michigan, or the dominant team effort that we saw at regionals.

Tyler Walker: Michigan State is still hanging around in the discussion of top-tier Midwest teams, but every tournament they have gone to this semester has cut into their legitimacy. Luke, I think you are forgetting in your analysis of State from B1G/MAC that while they were missing key players, so was almost every team at that tournament. I believe you are biased because you are closely associated with the Spartans. I promise that Central Michigan played beaters they would normally not have if Derry was there. Same for Michigan if both the twins were in attendance, and just about every other team. Does their performance at B1G/MAC show exactly what they are as a team? No, but does it give a pretty good indication of where they stack up in the Midwest? Absolutely. The fact that losing one player creates an entire shift shows that they don’t have another player who can fill Heppe’s “role” and do not have any real depth.

I don’t think that’s true, but if I am wrong and it is the Heppe and others show, then MSU is going to be in for trouble at World Cup if fatigue sets in or an injury occurs. As far as Day One goes, I like Michigan State’s chances to take their pool and do not believe it is a stretch to say they will win it. After playing against a few Arkansas players at Missouri, I never felt physically overmatched, so as long as the Spartans have a solid strategy and keep their heads in the game, it will more than likely come down to a snitch catch, in which case, I favor State.

Luke Changet: Tyler, you’re operating under the impression that Heppe was the only player missing. It wasn’t his absence that forced the rotation, it was the absence of him, plus his backup, plus three-of-the-six top beaters and two top male quaffle players that forced rotations for MSU. So, yes, everyone was short players, but MSU was short seven players, all of whom get significant playing time, and all of whom contribute a lot.

I don’t want to use this as an excuse, however, I just want to make sure we’re on the same page for accuracy’s sake. Yes, there are a lot of talented ball carriers on MSU’s team, unfortunately, none of them were there that weekend, save Nic Dziadosz, who was forced into a keeping role when he normally plays chaser.

 

Will Ohio State be shut out by anybody?

David Hoops: Every game.

Alexis Moody: No way. Their offense has improved way too much to be completely shut out.

Dan Daugherty: I actually feel it is a bold statement to answer in such a definitive way. Yes, I have lauded Ohio State’s offense in the past, and I don’t think they’ll get shut out, but to be 100% certain on it is further than I am willing to go. At regionals, when their offense was at its worse, Bowling Green essentially shut them out bar one fluke goal. I don’t foresee that happening, but I wouldn’tbet my life on it not. I would say I’m 95 percent positive they won’t get shut out.

Alexis Moody: If you don’t think  one of the region’s best offenses can pull off at least one goal per game, you must be crazy. When Bowling Green and Ohio State played at Phoenix Cup, the Buckeyes put up 130 quaffle points. This is against a team with one of the strongest defenses in the region. Even if you say that the Ohio State offense isn’t the same as it was in the early fall I can’t fathom a situation where Hoops, Boettner, Gunnar and the rest of OSU don’t rally for at least one score.

David Hoops: Dan I will bet my life on scoring at least a goal a game because if we get, shut out I’d rather you just kill me.

Tyler Walker: No way. Their offense is too clean and they have too many stand out players not to score at least 1 goal.

 

Ball State seems to be fluctuating with odd results, where do you currently see them (in regards to their pool)?

Dan Daugherty: Based on Samy’s analysis on the IQA Google Hangout after the pools were drawn, I would like to hear from him first on this one.

Samy Mousa: I think they will have a hardcore struggle. In areas where Ball State is weak I see Northern Arizona as strong. Also, that Emerson game will be a dogfight.

Alexis Moody: I agree with Samy. Ball State is going to have a tough Day 1 no matter how you slice it. But if Trevor, Devon, Tyler and Sara really push themselves they can at least go 3-1.

Tyler Walker: I really like our chances in this pool. I have to disagree with you, Samy. It is by no means an easy pool but I like our chances to take it. I think that we will actually match up well with the likes of Emerson and Northern Arizona. We played QC Pitt earlier in the season to good results, but that could prove deadly for us since they already have an idea of our players. I really do not think we will play an easy game in pool play all the way down to Sam Houston at Pot Five.

Samy Mousa: Tyler, you misunderstood me. I think you guys can win the pool; I just don’t think anyone is going 4-0. The main decider of whether you win the pool is that Northern Arizona vs. Emerson game, because then you can drop a game, just as long as you beat that victor.

 

On film it looks like a lot of Midwest teams like to switch fields when starting up their offense. On defense, a lot of teams tend to run a horizontal beater set up when they have control. Are these two related? If not, why do Midwest offenses switch fields so often?

David Hoops: Well, a lot of times defenses are focused on options around the hoops as opposed to taking away the passes around midfield. Making that point defender shift sides of the field may not really open anything up, but it is a good way to signal the other players on offense to start moving into their offensive set.

 

From recent discussions, analysts describe Midwest teams as “pass happy”, whereas some people describe their experience playing against them, although relatively limited, as being that the Midwest is basically all brute force, kind of slow tempo teams that don’t rely on the pass. Which one is true, and if they both are, what is the trend?

Dan Daugherty: I was personally shocked to hear multiple people label the Midwest as “pass happy.” People, including our own Luke Changet, have pointed to that being our biggest weakness. I do believe, however, that, as a whole, the region has been working tirelessly to change that stigma. Therefore, I would say both are true, but the trend it towards more passing, at least an attempt to.

Alexis Moody: I’ve also been perplexed by the “pass happy” label. I think there are some elite Midwest teams that do well in the passing game (OSU, CMU, MSU, and BGSU), while others tend to buckle down and drive (Michigan and Ball State). It also kind of depends who they’re playing. For me, strong beating is much more characteristic of the region as a whole.

Luke Changet: People say we’re pass happy? I think, apart from CMU and OSU, this region largely runs a one-pass-and-drive offense. For example, in the Kansas vs. Mizzou game at MWRC, there were 32 offensive possessions (both teams are counted), of those 32, 26 had 1 or fewer passes. Similarly, in the OSU vs. MSU game, with 43 possessions, 36 of them had 1 or fewer passes. (these are the only games I have stats for…as of now). Obviously, that OSU team is not the typical OSU team, and if I watched film from B1G MAC, I’m sure the OSU offense would average around 2-3 passes per offensive possession (PPoP), but from those two games, involving three top tier and one mid-top tier team in the MW, there is no way we can accurately be labeled as “pass happy”.

 

What Midwest players would excel on teams outside of the region?

Alexis Moody: I would love to see Ashley Calhoun play with Brittney Ripperger. Whether it’s in Baylor’s Hoop Zone or notl I just think they would be one of the most dominate beater duos in the country. Conversely, I want to see them duke it out in bracket play.

Tyler Walker: Max McAdoo would play well with the Lost Boys. He plays all over the field and is the most aggressive beater from Bowling Green. I think he would pose an interesting matchup and also be able to get into their beater system with a minor learning curve.

All of Minnesota’s male chasers would fit in well with Boston University. Jared Sipe, Matt Jass and Nick Berg, in particular, are big physical guys who look to pass and are consistent at landing and catching difficult passes.

I would also like to see Jacob Heppe play with Harry Greenhouse from Maryland. The speed and hustle on that team would just be too much for anyone.

 

Can Dan Daugherty still be effective if he has to face Baylor D?

Samy Mousa: Baylor D? Sorry you mean hoop defense?

Alexis Moody: Did you see him shoot from half pitch against Miami? Daniel Daugherty can do everything except birth a child and even then he would give it a good try.

David Hoops: To seriously answer this question, the three-tree zone does take away Dan’s signature long-distance heave. From watching him this season, he’s made a noted effort to get much closer to the hoops before he releases, and his driving ability is definitely underrated. Where I see Dan helping Bowling Green the most if they do run into Baylor – or Minnesota, or Emerson’s unique zone – is in his distribution abilities. Patient passing and chaser movement around the perimeter can give Bowling Green’s beaters time to clear out the zone’s beaters or at least get bludger control, which severely hampers any zone’s effectiveness.

Tyler Walker: If memory serves me right he was hitting those typically on transition. The shots can definitely still land if the quaffle players are not getting back on defense quick enough.

 

Why are Midwest offenses so long shot heavy compared to other regions?

Alexis Moody: There are some players that favor longer shots. People like Dan Daugherty, David Hoops, Tyler Walker and David Prueter all score regularly in the half court. The teams those players are on also score regularly in the keeper zone. So no, I don’t think the Midwest as a whole likes the long shot, but if you have a perfected skill, why not use it to put points on the board for your team?

David Hoops: It heavily depends on the team. Yes, Ohio State has a lot of players who have the ability to put a few long distance shots home, as do teams like Bowling Green and Central Michigan. However, the best teams all understand that the closer you are to the hoops, the more likely you are to score. Long shots, for all these “long-shooting” teams, aren’t the first or second option, but as a third or lower option, it’s good to pull up to keep the beaters honest and can give the team a huge morale boost.

 

Which Midwest player will have a breakout World Cup and which player will disappoint?

David Hoops: My Midwest player to watch is chaser Andrew Axtell of Michigan. This guy can flat out play. He is as physical as they come on both sides of the ball, he is smart enough to pass to the open player when defenses collapse, and he has the ability to power through undersized snitches as a seeker. If Michigan comes out on top of the loaded Pool 5 – something their physical team is capable of –  Axtell will be a huge reason why.

Samy Mousa: Max “Catch Anything” Wallerstedt

Alexis Moody: Hai Nguyen is my player to disappoint. He’s been touted as the saving grace for a depleted Kansas roste,r and I don’t think he’s going to live up to the hype. Hai has great speed and good movement to get around defenders, but he just doesn’t fill the holes left by Colby Soden and Jordan Callison.

Tyler Walker: All of the top seven teams from the Midwest have players who can get hot and make waves on Sunday. I think Jacob Heppe is not going to live up to the hype he has created. If Michigan State is to play well it will not be on the back of one player, but as a unit.

Luke Changet: Jeremy Boettner will have his coming out party this WC. He’s been great from the start, and is only getting better and better. I’m going to agree with Tyler, Heppe will disappoint. He’s good, but he’s not “beat elite teams by myself” good, and sometimes he plays like he thinks he is.

 

What Midwest team has the best overall beating core?

Alexis Moody: I’m going to go with Bowling Green on this one. While there are a few standouts – Max McAdoo, Chad Brown, Jenna Rindler and Joe Pavlik come to mind – the beating core as a whole executes their strategy very well.

Samy Mousa: So When Kansas had control for 95 percent of the game against them in the finals?

Alexis Moody: And then when they did have control it allowed Roitblat to get the grab, winning them a championship. Also focusing on having control isn’t necessarily successful or indicative of overall quality, as Texas proved.

Samy Mousa: One mistake was in fact made, and that was the difference in the game. That being said, Kansas’ beaters laid an intense hurt on Bowling Green. You can ask Chad Brown, he was not able to keep me away from their female beater, which was the cause of three goals.

Alexis Moody: One game doesn’t dictate the quality of individual players or a team’s strategies. Roitblat beat out Rudolph on the grab, but do we consider him better the better seeker? No. We judge a player or a group of players on their entire body of work. In my opinion, the Bowling Green beater core has been consistent and powerful all season, and have only improved since regionals.

Daniel Daugherty: I think it is unfair to the region as a whole to think that Bowling Green and Kansas are the only two teams in this discussion. I think Michigan State could be, but I see their beating core as just all really solid players, with none truly elite. Central Michigan should definitely be in the conversation with Ashley Calhoun, Andrew Derry and the imposing Tom O’Neil. Then you have the likes of Michigan, Ball State and Minnesota, who all deserve a mention.

David Hoops: I think to leave Central Michigan out of the discussion would be a big mistake. Their top two, Calhoun and Derry, might trump any other team’s best duo. I think that others have more depth, but if those two are on the field, Central Michigan has the very slight edge.

Tyler Walker: If Pavlik is up to form by World Cup. then you have to give the nod to BG. But, over the past semester, Central Michigan has done work at the beating end.

Samy Mousa: If you do not think Kansas has the strongest beating core you are flat wrong. Our beaters whooped on MSU – I actually had the best game of my life against them – rolled Marquette, and in the finals, we still had a dominant game. If you don’t think Kansas has the best beaters, then tell me what do we have? Because the only game I have ever seen Kansas lose the beater game was against UCLA. But please, we actually love it when you sleep on us.

Tyler Walker: I do not think anyone is sleeping on your beaters, but if they were that dominant in those games, then why were those games in snitch range? Is your quaffle game that sub-par? Because from what I have seen, your chasers are really good. Granted, I only have limited views to judge, but I see Bowling Green first, Central Michigan second, followed by Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, and Michigan State in that order.

Luke Changet: I’m going with Central Michigan. As Dan said, they have likely the best starting duo in the Midwest in Derry and Calhoun, but you underestimate their depth. Tom O’Neil is, I think, the best backup beater in the region. He stepped up big in Derry’s absence at B1G/MAC, and played way more than a recovering Derry at Glass City. CMU’s beaters controlled both of those tournaments. Also, don’t sleep on Rebecca Bennett, she’s a more-than-capable backup to Calhoun.

Samy, here’s my take on the Kansas beaters. Yes, you keep bludger control, but when you have it, defensively, you’re hesitant to use it. You seem to value holding bludger control more than forcing turnovers, whereas other teams use their beaters to totally disrupt the opposition. You have top-notch chasers so you don’t need your beaters to force turnovers, your chaser defense is strong enough. Your beaters play into your system perfectly, but, when people discuss the best beating core, they tend to talk about which beaters are the most active, most disruptive. Thus, people sleep on the Kansas. beaters.

Samy Mousa: Well you guys see the teams closer to you more often, so you can make that claim, it’s wrong, but you can make that claim.

 

What team has the most proficient offense?

Tyler Walker: The entire Midwest tears it up offensively. Teams are not ready any of our offenses mixed with the lockdown defense. I think each of the top 10 in the Midwest is a force to be reckoned with.

Samy Mousa: Agreed.

Daniel Daugherty: Yea, I’m not going to say all of that. Ohio State has the most proficient offense and I don’t think anyone has a good case for disagreeing.

Luke Changet: I would halfway argue for Central Michigan, as I think they have a case, but I think the precision with which the Ohio State offense operates is unmatched. Central Michigan gets results, but the Buckeyes make it look good.

 

Predictions:

Eastern Michigan vs. University of Miami (5-0 Miami)

Eastern Michigan vs. Texas State University (5-0 Texas State)

Eastern Michigan vs. Macaulay Honors College (5-0 Macaulay)

Eastern Michigan vs. Crimson Fliers (4-1 Crimson Fliers)

        Tyler Walker: Eastern Michigans biggest problem this year has been depth. They have been able to hang with teams for the first five-plus minutes of games, but then their top players get tired and their game begins to get very sloppy. If they can keep it together while getting beat by the top teams, I think they will beat the Fliers, who are bringing a depleted roster as well. I do not believe this will be an easy game, but I do think that Eastern Michigan has not played to their potential, and after getting tossed around by the top three teams in this pool, they will come out with nothing to lose.

 

Miami University vs. Villanova (5-0 Villanova)

Miami University vs. Carleton University (4-1 Carleton)

Alexis Moody: I touched on this a little earlier in the discussion, but let’s break it down a little more. Miami excels at controlling a game with strong bludger control and slow methodical drives. I believe that against a region lagging behind in the bludger game, Miami has the experience and talent to turn this game in their favor. On top of that, Carleton is missing a few of their leaders and top players due to policy suspensions. Do I think Miami is going to blow Carleton out? No. But I think they can control the game and have the beating talent to pull off a major upset.

Miami University vs. New York University (3-2 Miami)

    Daniel Daugherty: Miami has an extremely difficult schedule. They play Carleton and Villanova before they play this game, and even though those aren’t the two best teams in their pots, they are still tough teams. If Miami loses to those two teams, and I believe they will, I foresee them being deflated and not coming out with the fire they will need to win this game.

         Samy Mousa: I just think that there are some fatal flaws in Miami’s play that could be the end of the game for them. I’m calling NYU by a goal or two.

Miami University vs. Oklahoma Baptist University (4-1 Miami)

    Daniel Daugherty: In my mind, Miami doesn’t have any truly standout players. Yes, they have Matt Mignery, Tina Kinstedt, Jeremy Ferlic and Brendan Kelly to name a few of their better players, but none of them are on the same level as a Tylor McLaren and Chandler Smith. Matt Mignery and Tina Kinstedt are the closest to it but I think Miami is just not ready for a Southwest team.

 

Kansas vs. Texas A&M (5-0 Texas A&M)

Kansas vs. University of Richmond (4-1 Kansas)

    David Hoops: From playing Richmond last season and watching them on film, their beaters are very, very underrated. Their quaffle game is just good enough to hang with Kansas, and with Keir not attending, I’m not sure how Kansas will answer their seeking question. Richmond with a grab while being down in quaffle points to pull the upset.

Kansas vs. Valhalla (5-0 Kansas)

Kansas vs. Eastern Florida State College (5-0 Kansas)

 

Ohio State vs. The Lost Boys (5-0 Lost Boys)

Ohio State vs. University of Rochester (4-1 OSU)

        Samy Mousa: This team is fast, and there is no way this is going to be a shut out for either team, but from what I have seen from Rochester, they are not to be taken lightly and will fight tooth and nail

Ohio State vs. The Silver Phoenix (5-0 OSU)

Ohio State vs. Rollins College (5-0 OSU)

 

Michigan vs. NYDC Capitalists (3-2 NYDC)

Samy Mousa: This is a tossup, but everyone seems so certain that NYDC will do well because they haven’t done well, whereas I don’t see them having to deal with teams that are dominant in the ways Michigan is.  Michigan has a lot of size, and I do not see NYDC as particularly resilient to physicality. My word isn’t law, but I just see Michigan with the advantage over NYDC.

    Tyler Walker: I will start by saying that Michigan has a very real chance to take this game, and in turn take this pool. However, NYDC matches up far too well at the positions Michigan needs to dominate. Particularly at the chaser position, NYDC has plenty of players who will get physical and with much better finesse than Michigan. I see this game going to a snitch catch and in a game in snitch range, it’s tough to go against Greco.

Michigan vs. Santa Barbara Blacktips (5-0 Michigan)

Michigan vs. Austin Quidditch (5-0 Michigan)

Michigan vs. New York Badassilisks (5-0 Michigan)

 

Ball State vs. Emerson College (3-2 Emerson)

Alexis Moody: This game is going to come down to a couple of key player battles. Devon McCoy vs. David Fox and Trevor Campbell vs. Aaron Wohl. I think that the highly underrated Trevor is going to completely dominate Wohl with his physicality, arm strength and pitch awareness. McCoy, on the other hand, will have his hands full with Fox. If McCoy can stay focused, keep Fox on his toes, and create turnovers, the Cardinals will keep this game in snitch range and Jason Bowling, with his 6-1 SWIM record, will do well against an inconsistent seeking game from Emerson.

David Hoops: Hyper aggressive beating and raw power from Ball State will blow up Emerson’s zone. This is going to be an extremely high scoring game and I think that’s what Ball State plays best in.

Ball State vs. Northern Arizona University (4-1 Ball State)

Samy Mousa: I foresee this being a close game. It could really be a tossup. Therefore, I’m going to break this down into 5 factors: Offensive Chasing goes to NAU, Defensive Chasing goes to BS, Male Beater goes to BS, Female beater goes to NAU, Seeker goes to NAU.

Ball State Cardinals vs. Q.C Pittsburgh (5-0 Ball State)

Ball State Cardinals vs. Sam Houston State University (5-0 Ball State)

 

Minnesota vs. McGill University (5-0 Minnesota)

Minnesota vs. RPI Remembralls (5-0 Minnesota)

Minnesota vs. Silicon Valley Skrewts (4-1 Minnesota)

    David Hoops: Probably my boldest pick, but from I can tell about the Skrewts is its roster has been lacking most of the season, and this is the best edition of the Skrewts anyone is seeing all season. I think they come into this pool guns blazing and shock a lot of people.

Minnesota Quidditch vs. University of Sydney Unspeakables (5-0 Minnesota)

 

Central Michigan vs. Florida’s Finest (4-1 CMU)

         Tyler Walker: I traveled to one of the Mid-Atlantic fantasy tournaments and I saw Sean Snipes play. I have to say that this dude is one of the greatest pure scorers in the country, and I think he will cut through a defense that will not be ready for the beating of Sean Pagoada and the rest of that team. I look at how I expect Central Michigan to play, and then I look at Florida’s Finest’s lineup, and I just think it will cause too many problems for Central Michigan too pull out of snitch range. In which case the reemergence of Tyler Macy give the finest the game. I have this down as the best game of Saturday though because both of these teams are hotheaded to put it nicely, and it should get pretty nasty.

Quidditch Club of Central Michigan vs. Texas Tech (5-0 CMU)

Central Michigan vs. University of North Carolina (5-0 CMU)

Central Michigan vs. Wizards of Westwood (5-0 CMU)

 

University of Missouri vs. Gee-Gees (5-0 Gee-Gees)

University of Missouri vs. Tufts University (4-1 Tufts)

    David Hoops: Missouri’s power trumps Tufts’ strategic advantages. Probably a come from behind snitch grab for them to win.

University of Missouri vs. Louisiana State University (5-0 LSU)

University of Missouri vs. San Jose State University (5-0 Missouri)

 

Michigan State University Quidditch vs. University of Arkansas (4-1 MSU)

    Daniel Daugherty: Michigan State just seemed to underwhelm at Glass City, and were not the only Midwest team to do so. They don’t have enough pieces to knock off a questionable Arkansas team. Now, at the end of the day, I think this is more about Arkansas than Michigan. Arkansas is headlined by the two-headed monster of Peter and Joey Reynebeau. These two play so well together and are an incredible mix of size, strength and athleticism, which I think MSU will have a lot of difficulty stopping. Then, Arkansas matches up very well with MSU’s three solid male beaters with Jordan Key and Jason Musik. I believe they have solved their issues from regionals and won’t have to have a non-beater play female beater for an entire tournament. Needless to say, this game intrigues me.

Michigan State University Quidditch vs. Steel City Quidditch Club (5-0 MSU)

Michigan State University Quidditch vs. Syracuse University (5-0 MSU)

Michigan State University Quidditch vs. The Long Beach (5-0 MSU)

 

Grand Valley Grindylows vs. Baylor University (5-0 Baylor)

Grand Valley Grindylows vs. University of California Los Angeles (5-0 UCLA)

Grand Valley Grindylows vs. Ottawa Maple Rush (5-0 Ottawa)

Grand Valley Grindylows vs. University of Massachusetts Amherst (3-2 UMass)

    Alexis Moody: To me, this pick is less about the qualities of Grand Valley, of which there are few, but the even fewer qualities of UMass. Absolutely nothing impressed me about this team at Northeast Regionals back in November. In fac,t the only thing that stood out to me was a general lack of knowledge about most rules or strategy, and the fact that, on more than one occasion, players and captains screamed at refs for what they deemed was rule breaking. That said, Grand Valley has better beaters, has a solid chasing threat in John Alexander, and the talented Gabe Unick at seeker. Not only do I think GVSU will win this game, but I think it will just barely be out of snitch range.

Samy Mousa: I’ve said it before: A stiff breeze can beat UMass. That being said, I have seen some life out of Grand Valley. On the flip side, I’ve also seen a lot of dirty play out of them, but if they can limit the cards, they should have their one win.

 

TC Frost vs. Boston University (5-0 Boston)

TC Frost vs. Penn State University (5-0 Penn State)

TC Frost vs. University of South Florida Quidditch (4-1 USF)

Samy Mousa:  I have no reason to say that USF is particularly threatening. And, maybe even more importantly, I’ve seen a TC Frost team beat a full roster with only eight players.  I think they are going to be worrisome for USF.

TC Frost vs. Oklahoma State University (5-0 Oklahoma State)

 

Toledo vs. Maryland (5-0 Maryland)

Toledo vs. Arizona State University – Sun Devil Quidditch (5-0 ASU)

Toledo vs. Tennessee Tech (5-0 Tennessee Tech)

Toledo vs. Harvard (5-0 Harvard)

 

Indiana University South Bend vs. The University of Texas at San Antonio (5-0 Texas)

Indiana University South Bend vs. Q.C Boston: The Massacre (5-0 Q.C Boston)

Indiana University South Bend vs. Stanford Quidditch (5-0 Stanford)

Indiana University South Bend vs. Rutgers Nearly Headless Knights (5-0 Rutgers)

 

Crimson Warhawks vs. Lone Star Quidditch Club (5-0 LSQC)

Crimson Warhawks vs. RIT (5-0 RIT)

Crimson Warhawks vs. Appalachian Quidditch (4-1 Appalachian)

Samy Mousa: I don’t see why not.  Warhawks have super raw talent, and I mean SUPER RAW. But they have had the necessary things happen this season. New leadership, new strategies, same old athleticism. We shall see.

Crimson Warhawks vs. University of South Carolina (5-0 Crimson Warhawks)

 

Bowling Green State University vs, University of Florida (5-0 BG)

Bowling Green State University vs. Hofstra University (5-0 BG)

Bowling Green State University vs. University of Virginia (5-0 BG)

Bowling Green State University vs. Cal Quidditch (5-0 BG)

 

The Return of Abayan: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly

Credit: Kat Ignatova/IQA Staff

Credit: Kat Ignatova/IQA Staff

The sporting world has had its fair share of short-lived retirements of major players. Brett Favre dick-wagged his way from the Packers to the Jets to the Vikings. Michael Jordan took up baseball, learned what millions of young Americans learn every year – that can’t become a professional athlete just by wanting to be – and returned to basketball. Now, the quidditch world has its first such case.

Last season, Andy Abayan was one of the two heads of the UCLA beating monster. His play, which may have been less heralded than teammate Asher King Abramson’s, was every bit as good, and was essential to the Bruins’ finals run at World Cup VI. And while Abayan’s highlight reel might not be quite as burned into everyone’s mind, his play in the semifinals, negating both of Baylor’s elite beaters in a matter of seconds, was as good as any beater play I’ve ever seen. Had he started this season on a team, he likely would have been considered the best active beater in quidditch, but Abayan instead chose to take a break from the game to focus on other aspects of his life.

That all changed in the last month, as rumors of his return to quidditch were followed by Evan Bell drafting him for his Quiyk team while announcing that he would be playing for the Santa Barbara Blacktips for the remainder of the season. Just like that, one of the strongest beaters our sport has ever seen was back in the game.

This past weekend, lost in the headlines of the Southwest Regionals, Abayan made his return to quidditch at the Gold Medal Invitational, helping Santa Barbara to a semifinals run that ended with a loss to the No. 2 Lost Boys.

So what exactly can we make out of his return? Is he a Brett Favre, living out his career past its prime, or a Michael Jordan, primed for more championship runs? Lucky for me, video has surfaced from two of their biggest games of the weekend: a pool play matchup with Northern Arizona, and a bracket play matchup with the Silicon Valley Skrewts. Let’s break it down.

 

The Hard Facts

Vs. Northern Arizona (Pre-Seeker Play)

  Time Points For Points Against
With Abayan 12:05 70 30
Without Abayan 11:40 50 70

Six Forced Turnovers, Two Losses of Bludger Control, No Gains of Bludger Control

Vs. Silicon Valley Skrewts (Pre-Seeker Play)

  Time Points For Points Against
With Abayan 5:56 10 20
Without Abayan 10:02 40 40

Two Forced Turnovers, No Losses of Bludger Control, No Gains of Bludger Control

 

The Good

Abayan’s raw skills, which alone are enough to put him above most beaters in the game, haven’t fallen off at all in his time away from the sport. His speed and agility make him a massive threat on the defensive end, capable of making multiple beats in a single possession while recovering his bludger again and again. It was plays like these that completely hampered Northern Arizona in the early minutes of their game. In fact, in his first shift, which lasted just over five minutes, Abayan forced four turnovers while holding the Narwhals scoreless.

Perhaps the perfect example was this play early in the game, where an offensive turnover by the Blacktips left the Narhwals with three quaffle players on the break against the two Santa Barbara beaters. By the time the play is over, Abayan has stopped the rush and beaten three players by himself.

And while Abayan’s stamina may have tailed off a bit, something we’ll discuss later on, his arm strength was able to bail him out when his feet didn’t have it in them anymore. Look at this point saving beat made 24 minutes into the match.

While his movement was somewhat more limited by day two, something that may be attributed to a movement-hampering blister he picked up during the tournament but also may be contributed to a decrease in stamina, it was hard not to be impressed with the pure athleticism Abayan possesses, and what he could do with it. Just by having him on the team, the Blacktips can count on three or four plays every game that they didn’t have the talent to make before.

 

The Bad

Unfortunately, those lower levels of talents in the beater core also occasionally made it so nothing Abayan could do was enough to fix Santa Barbara’s issues. Midway through the Northern Arizona game, Abayan did everything he could on a play, clearing out the Narwhals’ unarmed male beater, beating their ball-handler while forcing a weak pass, and then forced Northern Arizona’s female beater, April Gonzalez, to throw at him, at which point he made the catch. This left the Blacktips with four quaffle players and a beater to defend against three quaffle players with no beater support. But the Blacktips’ female beater missed the beat, conceding bludger control in the process, and the four quaffle players couldn’t pull off a successful wrap, leading to a Narwhal goal.

An extension of the weaker beaters around him, but also likely largely due to his own break form the game, was that Abayan struggled in beater interaction situations, which require less of the raw athleticism and more experience and decision making. He was not able to regain bludger control once, despite spending 8:41 over the course of two games without it. When playing for UCLA, that was generaly alright, as the players around him made it so that playing defense and creating offense with one bludger was more than enough. But with Santa Barbara, when Abayan didn’t have control, the team was much more vulnerable. Abayan will need to improve on this before World Cup to maximize his impact.

 

The Ugly

I’ve tried to find a nice way to say this, but I honestly can’t: Abayan was utterly and completely manhandled by Willis Miles IV in his six minute shift at the beginning of the Silicon Valley Skrewts game. After Miles and beating partner Kyrie Timbrook took bludger control on brooms up, they never got anywhere near relinquishing it to the Blacktips.

But it wasn’t just that they held their two bludgers in the shell of their defense to protect control, Miles also consistently and effectively neutralized Abayan with Silicon Valley on offense. On one play, Miles ditched his bludger and laid a hit on Abayan, taking him out of the play. On the next, Miles stepped up with his bludger and confidently beat Abayan, against rendering him ineffective while retaining control.

If the Skrewts had a little more athleticism and were capable of consistently finishing at the hoops, the game could have easily been 60-or-70 to 10 after those first six minutes. Instead, the game was close, Blacktips second-string beater Brian Vampola wrestled control away from the Skrewts backups, and Santa Barbara eventually would go on to win on a snitch grab.

Not every team has a Willis Miles, or even a Kyrie Timbrook for that matter, that will be able to so athletically go up against Abayan. And yes, maybe Abayan was limited by injury on Sunday. But the fact remains that the Andy Abayan of April 2013 was almost always the best beater on the pitch, and he’s still got some work left to get back to that level, with only a month to go before the Cup. And with Santa Barbara’s seeker issues, anything short of Abayan circa 2013 is going to make a deep Cup run impossible.

Their Time to Shine: Michigan State University

Credit: Monica Wheeler

Credit: Monica Wheeler

Editor’s Note: When Luke’s rankings had the Spartans significantly higher than the rest of our site’s ballots, I felt the need to follow up, asking him to introduce the rest of the world to this Michigan State team that he truly believes will contend in Myrtle Beach. I plan for this to be the beginning of a series really breaking down some of the middle-tier underdogs that have flown under the radar so far. Enjoy!

The Midwest has been a cluster of confusion this season, with seven teams – No. 9 Bowling Green, No. 11 Kansas, No. 15 Michigan State, Ball State, Michigan, Ohio State, and Central Michigan – virtually even with each other, and several more just barely a step below. Combine that with virtually no video exposure, and it’s safe to say that the Midwest is easily the most unpredictable region. However, one team has been flying under the radar all season. Most likely it’s because they haven’t won a tournament, but I feel that it’s also because nobody has had a chance to really look at their program. That team is Michigan State, and this is why they’re a power, not just regionally, but nationally.

I know your first questions is going to be: If they’re so great, where have they been? Well, Michigan State has lost in tournament finals twice this season. Once in their first tournament, when they were still putting this roster together, and the other against Ball State after an injury to Kevin Fennell, their star point chaser, who is probably the only player on the team capable of taking down some of Ball State’s stars one-on-one. At Regionals, Michigan State dominated a heavily favored Ohio State team, and was the only team to beat Kansas in quaffle points.

Since Regionals, this team has only gotten better. Bobby Casler still hadn’t mastered the sport at that point, and wasn’t even a part of the Regionals team. Similarly, Sara DeLongchamp had only been playing for a couple months and had yet to figure out how she fit in. At the time, she was only third string, but has rapidly become a clear starter. Some coaching and rotational issues bogged Michigan State down for a while, but now Michigan State will be naming a designated sidelines coach to deal with those issues, freeing Ian Hoopingarner up to play more, and likely solving the issue of Heppe not getting enough time in SWIM situations.

In short, this team has been here all year, they just hadn’t put the pieces together yet. But now, the puzzle is finished, and it’s a masterpiece.

Player-By-Player

Keepers

Jacob Heppe is a name you may have heard when talking about top seekers. It’s true, he has a 100 percent SWIM this season, but since he’s always worn out from being one of the best keepers in the region, he doesn’t always have time to rest up and get in the game at seeker. He’s fast – like sub-five 40-yards fast – strong and stocky, and though he’s short, he has the vertical to cover every hoop.

Heppe is a player who can put a team on his back and win. He’s nearly impossible to bring down, if you can even get a hand on him to begin with. He has an incredible finesse shot, and works well off the ball as well. Really, he’s the closest thing the Midwest has to a Tony Rodriguez; a player who dominates every game he plays in.

Heppe dishing out a big hit, then going coast-to-coast against Ball State.

Backing up Heppe, Griffin Engel is a major threat as well. Engel is much taller that Heppe, which allows him to pick off more passes near the hoops, and also a better distributor. His driving ability is astounding, and he almost never misses a mid-range shot. If it wasn’t for Heppe, Engel would easily be a starter, and likely considered one of the top keepers in the region.

Chasers

Kevin Fennell is a top-notch point chaser by any standards. At 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, Fennell has the size to match up relatively well with anyone, and has the determination to never let go once he wraps up. Fennell was missing from the Michigan State team at Midwest Regionals due to a shoulder injury, and with him, there’s not a doubt in my mind they would have won regionals.

He is also a defensive nightmare for opponents, and has some of the best offensive positioning, hands and awareness in the region. He’s one of the few Midwest players – many of whom are on Michigan State’s team, I might add – who has mastered receiving an alley-oop, and with his size, he’s a threat to drive as well.

Nic Dzaidosz and Engel might as well be the same person on the pitch, separated only by Engel’s fiery red hair. Their builds are similar, their minds are similar, their driving ability is similar and their mid-range shooting is nearly perfect. As a result, Dzaidosz and Engel are a perfect storm offensively. As a keeper, Engel will have the ball most often while coming up the pitch, but with these two, it’s impossible to tell where the final shot will come from.

Nic Dzaidosz makes a heads-up play, adjusting to catch, shoot, and score off of a tipped shot.

Sara DeLongchamp is a Freshman, but is easily one of the best female chasers in the Midwest, and possibly in the nation. She has spent this year becoming the best catcher on the Michigan State roster, and her height makes her an easy target near the hoops. She has a quick release paired with great hands, which we all know translates into easy goals. She’s already the top female chaser on Michigan State’s roster, and she’s only been playing for a semester. By the end of this semester, it will be impossible to have a conversation about Midwest female chasers without her name coming up.

Ian Hoopingarner is a fierce competitor, and has gained a lot of enemies on the pitch. However, his determination to win shines through every second he’s on the field. One of the fastest players on Michigan State’s team, Hoopingarner pairs his great speed with a very athletic build that allows him to power through all but the stingiest of point defenders. This past semester, he was forced into a coaching role for Michigan State, but what little time he has spent on the pitch has been productive.

Meyessa Mansour is a veteran of the game, and uses her knowledge and experience to her advantage. Her small stature makes her a tougher target than DeLongchamp near the hoops, but she makes up for it with gritty play and quick thinking.  Mansour has been a consistent scorer for Michigan State for years, and she’s a perfect sub for the DeLongChamp, because the team doesn’t lose anything except some height.

Bobby Casler is a junior, but he’s a first year quidditch player, and was a great find for Michigan State. His football background brought their chaser lines some much-needed physicality, and his raw athleticism translates into opportunities everywhere. Like DeLongchamp, as the season has gone on, he has gotten exponentially better, especially at off-ball chasing and catch-and-release shots near the hoops. Casler is built similarly to Heppe, with hands like DeLongchamp. He’s an off-ball slasher with an extra dose of physicality on defense.

Kevin McCoy, another first year quidditch player, has become a staple on the Spartan bench. He’s one of the faster players on the team, and one of the better point defenders. He’s not the best by any means, but he can fill a lot of roles. He’s good at sticking with a man, and he’s good at making cuts or finding an opening to shoot on offense. A true Jack-of-all-trades, he filled in as point chaser at Regionals for the injured Fennell, and Michigan State reached the Final Four without ever being outscored in the quaffle game.

Beaters

Jim Richert is the headliner of this dynamic beating group. Richert has a powerful arm and isn’t afraid to use it. On an overall scale, he leans a bit conservative, and doesn’t like to waste his bludger, but when he makes up his mind to throw, it’s always on target, regardless of distance. His powerful arm has saved many goals for the Spartans, and his conservative nature allows them to hold onto bludger control for long periods of time.

Jacob “Bubbles” Bobeldyk is a much more aggressive beater. Similar to Chris Seto or Peter Lee of the No. 2 Lost Boys, Bobeldyk uses his speed to his advantage and loves to clear up space on offense. However, unlike Seto or Lee, Bobeldyk doesn’t use his arm as much, and instead relies on his positioning to force the issue around him, using his speed to be wherever it helps the most. However, he thrives on snitch beating. Bobeldyk is fast enough to keep up with snitch play, and smart enough to target the right player in the snitch game. He’s a large reason that Red Team was able to win the Midwest Winter Fantasy tournament, as no seeker was able to get close to the snitch when he was on it.

Bobeldyk (#23) takes out Ashley Calhoun and David Preuter of Central Michigan over a few seconds, without losing track of the snitch.

Tim Glew is just a freshman, and as such, he’s still learning the nuances of beating, but his natural ability far outshines any strategic disadvantages. His speed pretty makes him a menace at brooms up, and his aggression paired with a cannon arm is reminiscent of Asher Abramson, but younger and less certain of himself.

Shelby Atkinson is a prototypical “ghost” or “back” beater. She knows perfectly when to throw so that receivers don’t have a chance to dodge or block, and she knows that she’s sometimes the last line of defense and acts accordingly. Her throws are never wild, and her rebounds are always recoverable. She plays with incredible precision that’s hard to replicate.

Danielle White is to Atkinson what Bobeldyk is to Richert. She’s fast and aggressive, and never hesitates to take you out of the play. Her aggressive play can get her into trouble at times if she misses, but more often it kills opponent’s plays before they even get started.

Really, what allows the Michigan State beaters to thrive is their adaptability in the beater game. If they want to really dominate the game with beaters, they play Bobeldyk or Glew with White. If they want to reel it in and shore up their defense, they play Richert and Atkinson. If they want a solid mind with an aggressive undertone, Richert and White; a high-pressure front and a clean-up in back, Bobeldyk and Atkinson; all male chaser line, White on point and Atkinson as ghost; two male beaters, Richert and Bobeldyk can control any game, or throw in Glew as a wild card to really dominate the whole field.

This versatility is unmatched, and Michigan State can play as many beating strategies as they have beaters, and this is without even mentioning their third string beaters, Brandon Ollio and Maria DeNunzio, who, while young, work very well as a pair and even better with some guidance.

Their chaser lines may be deep, but the versatility of their beaters is what makes Michigan State elite.

Seekers

Finally, the closers. What does Michigan State have that will give them that little extra? How about two of the top three seekers in the Midwest? Heppe is renowned for his seeking, and I’ve yet to see a snitch last more than a minute on a pitch with him, but Jack Norgren is one of the best around as well. His Tae Kwon Do background taught him a lot of fighting skills, which are very useful in seeking, and his lanky build allows him to get around most snitches with ease. An argument could be made that Michigan State should have won their semifinals matchup at MWRC when Norgren caught the snitch, but it was ruled off because the snitch backed into him and impeded himself. Suffice to say, these two seekers in rotation are virtually unstoppable.

Vulnerabilities?

This Michigan State team doesn’t have many weaknesses, but their main weakness is also their main strength. Keeper Jacob Heppe, when given the chance, will put a game on his shoulders. With so many weapons around him, if you just focus on shutting down Heppe, he’ll be able to distribute with ease and the Spartans will rack up points. However, if you let Heppe do his thing, and take away his options, he’ll do it all himself.

This creates the one and only problem for the Spartans, Heppe doesn’t conserve energy – when he’s on the field, he’s giving 100 percent every play. This, paired with keeper being the only position with any kind of depth issues on the team, can lead to Heppe getting tired when Michigan State needs him the most: at the end of the game as a seeker. Norgren is a fantastic seeker in his own right, but has been streaky in the past, whereas Heppe has always been automatic. If you can get Heppe tired during the game, he might not have enough energy left to finish things off.

An Example of Heppe’s endless hustle as he chases down what appears to be an easy goal.

It’s a gamble to let another team’s best player go loosely guarded, but Michigan State’s only losses this season are when Heppe has played too much keeper, and therefore can’t seek right away.