Antwerp QC, Much of Belgian Core, Leaves Competitive Quidditch

This weekend kicks off the Major League Quidditch season with a North Division matchup as the Detroit Innovators travel to face off against Indianapolis Intensity. The two teams farthest west in MLQ will have the entire country looking at them, hoping that the quality of play in the new league will be worth following. While we all wonder about the long-term impact of MLQ on our sport, there is still a series to analyze and predict to see who gets off to a hot start and who will have to claw their way back up the division standings.

Opening Thoughts
These two teams feature contrasting rosters in both composition and expected style. Detroit’s roster is mainly filled by top players from three Great Lakes teams: the University of Michigan, Michigan State University and Blue Mountain Quidditch Club. The team’s top two keepers, Eric Wasser (Michigan) and Ben Ackland (Blue Mountain), can get the ball where it needs to go, but are not classic distributors. Thankfully, this roster should not need too much passing to put points on the board. Most of the team’s chasers, notably Sara Delongchamp (Michigan State), Matt Oppenlander (Michigan) and Alex Scheer (Blue Mountain), come from teams that do not feature complex passing systems. Where most of the quaffle players here thrive is in simple drive-and-kick systems based on raw athleticism, and we can expect to see the same sort of play with the Innovators. Anchoring the beating game with Team USA’s Ashley Calhoun (Blue Mountain) paired with either Tad Walters (Loyola University—New Orleans), Jim Richert (Michigan State), or Zach Schepers (Michigan) should complement this simple-yet-effective offense. Walters and Schepers especially can be expected to bother defenses with one-and-a-half attacks.

Indianapolis, on paper, probably does not have as much raw talent—but it would not need it. The biggest struggle for most of the teams in MLQ will be to develop enough chemistry during the summer to play to the roster’s full potential. Indianapolis here has a massive advantage over Detroit. Sixteen of the 22 players on the roster played this past season for Ball State University, with three more having played for Ball State the season prior. While Detroit wonders how all the pieces will come together, Indianapolis can pick up where it left off after last season. Expect to see more of Ball State’s patient offensive approach, probing around the perimeter of the defense before striking at the best, not first, opportunity. Coach Tyler Walker should continue to be a massive contributor in the quaffle game, while plugging Alex Leitch (Blue Mountain) in at beater gives the Intensity an offensive creator in a black headband. The Intensity feature deep lines at every position with little dropoff in talent, which they can use to press and play high-energy quidditch on defense, subbing frequently to stay fresh. The final key advantage for Indianapolis in this matchup is seeker Jason Bowling. Bowling grabbed multiple game-winning snitches during Ball State’s blistering hot fall semester, using craftiness and explosiveness to bide his time for the right moment. Granted, any seeker is better than Detroit’s designated seeker on the roster: nobody.

Matchup to Watch: Calhoun/Schepers v. Leitch/Melinda Staup
If Detroit uses the one-and-a-half as much as it is expected to, the beater game will be absolutely crucial to determine the outcome of the series. When Detroit does not have control, they would not be able to run that offense. When Calhoun is on the field, however, Indianapolis will likely be outclassed and trying to manage the bleeding. If Detroit holds on to control using its top line for 12, 14, or 15-possession stretches, not many teams will be able to withstand its physical chasing lines, least of all an undersized Indianapolis team.

Key Player: Keeper Zach Rupp, Indianapolis Intensity
Rupp is a season removed from USQ play, and was not the most well-known player during his last year at Ball State. What Rupp does bring for Indianapolis is legitimate size and tackling ability to a team mainly based on speed. When Rupp is on the field patrolling the hoops, Detroit will at least have to be wary that someone can take down their largest ball carriers. How rusty Rupp is or is not could turn some bang-bang plays near the hoops in Indianapolis’ favor.

Detroit Innovators

Detroit Wins If:
Calhoun and co. dominate the beater game for at least half the match, opening up easy driving lanes with offensive attacks. Their superior size keeps Indianapolis away from the hoops, launching long shots that Wasser and Ackland eat up. The lack of seeker does not hurt them as they use an army of seekers-by-committee to bring home MLQ’s opening series.

From Detroit’s manager and chaser Scheer: “We can’t let Blake Fitzgerald (Ball State) or Kyle Isch (Purdue University) run free. Blake and Kyle are dangerous and shutting them down will be vital for our defensive success. We must maintain bludger control, especially when Melinda Staup is on the field (for the Intensity), and we need to score early and often.”


Indianapolis Wins If:
The speed around the edge, coupled with the huge chemistry advantage, turns all three matches into entertaining, high-scoring affairs. Neither team can consistently stop the other, but neither team gets on a long run. Indianapolis’ beaters win the battle when Calhoun subs out and are not dominated when she is in, especially with the snitch on the pitch, where Bowling proves to be clutch.

From Indianapolis’ manager and beater Erin Moreno: “I think the key will end up being our team chemistry. With this game being so early in the season, we have the obvious advantage of having a lot of Ball State veterans who all know how to play and win together. In addition to that, we have brought in the talents of Leitch and Matt Pesch (Indiana University) who both bring a new and refreshing set of skills to our team.”

Final Prediction: Detroit, 2-1
Indianapolis pulls off the first match of the series in snitch range. Detroit gets better as the day goes on, clearly building chemistry with every minute. The Innovators take a snitch-range win in the second match, and pull away in the third out of range.

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