Antwerp QC, Much of Belgian Core, Leaves Competitive Quidditch

Credit: Bill Grossman

By Austin Pitts, Steve DiCarlo and Tyler Walker

This weekend, three teams enter their series with a 3-0 record. Although they have not officially clinched their championship spots, the Austin Outlaws, Rochester Whiteout and Los Angeles Guardians are expected to not just qualify, but to compete for the titles in their respective divisions.

The other three teams—the Salt Lake City Hive, New Orleans Curse and Cleveland Riff—all remain in positions to qualify for MLQ Championship and stopping a currently undefeated opponent would be the icing on the cake.

North Division
Rochester Whiteout (2017: 3-0, 2nd) at Cleveland Riff (2017: 0-3, 3rd)
July 9, 9 am EDT
All-Time Series: Rochester 4-2

Unfortunately for spectators, each team in what should be the most competitive series of the weekend is lacking a lot of star power. The good news is that the Rochester Whiteout and Cleveland Riff rosters are weighted fairly evenly,and we can still expect most matches to be in-range. Both teams enter the matchup this weekend with a lot to prove. Rochester needs to show it is a title contender without keeper Shane Hurlbert, while Cleveland aims to demonstrate they are capable of better performances after three out-of-range losses against Indianapolis Intensity.

In addition to Hurlbert, Rochester will be also be without Jon Jackson, who seems the most likely candidate to fill the void left by the aforementioned keeper. That burden will instead fall on Basem Ashkar, who finished with 10 goals during the Whiteout’s series against the Detroit Innovators. Additionally, players like Devin Sandon and Solomon Gominiak, who have traditionally taken more complementary or defensive roles, will be looked at to make up for the 25 goals scored by Hurlbert and Jackson so far this season.

Luckily for Rochester, its beating line is intact. his corps solidly handled Detroit, a team who—on paper—is more of a challenge than Cleveland. Riff is missing their MVPs in beater Max McAdoo and ball carrier Dan Daugherty. The latter played the majority of their Indianapolis series at keeper, but could have been brought in as a beater this series with McAdoo out. Without McAdoo, Cleveland loses their workhorse; McAdoo currently sits tied with only Washington Admirals’s Colby Palmer for beat attempts at 127, though McAdoo has reached that number in half the amount of games.

Despite the loss of Daugherty, Riff can remain confident in their quaffle game. Jeremy Boettner, Zach Conkle and Jeremy Mak can all ball handle or play effective off-ball roles and all were missing from Riff’s first series. On defense, the combination of Mitch Brown and Conkle at point– with Mak and David Hoops stopping shots near the hoops–will be able to shut down the Rochester offense even in no-bludger situations. However, Riff may experience offensive woes of their own if their beaters are not able to take out Rochester’s.

Expect to see at least a few in-range games as Cleveland takes the series in what should be a defensive struggle. Inevitably, the game will come down to the seekers and how competent the snitch is. If he is a quality snitch, Riff should look to send out seeker Mitch Boehm, who–while technically is a sound seeker,–acks the physical build of Whiteout’s Cody Keefer. That said, Cleveland still has the option to send out utility player Anatoly Gunning and that flexibility at seeker gives them the edge.

South Division
Austin Outlaws (2017: 3-0, 1st) at New Orleans Curse (2017: 1-2, 3rd)
July 9, 12 pm EDT
All-Time Series: Austin 3-0

After taking care of business against the Kansas City Stampede to open up the season, the South Division favorites head to New Orleans to take on the Curse. The Outlaws swept the Curse last year enroute to finishing the regular season undefeated. They’ll look to defend their regular season winning streak against a Curse team fighting to earn their spot at championship after a 1-2 series loss against the League City Legends.

This Outlaws roster has some turnover in the quaffle game from the Kansas City series but, in turn, highlights the depth of Austin’s chasing corps. Responsible for a quarter of the team’s goals against Kansas City, Sam Haimowitz and Luke Langlanais are noticeably absent. However, in their stead, Simon Arends and Abbie Simons have appeared. One interesting aspect to watch will be how the Outlaws use TJ Goaley. Freddy Salinas, Joshua Andrews and Craig Garrison all got chances at the snitch in the previous series and with all three headed to New Orleans, there may not be shifts available for Goaley at seeker. However, this could be a good series for Austin to give other seekers more looks and give the usual lineup reps in the quaffle game.

Despite the incredible depth and talent of the Outlaws’s quaffle game, New Orleans has enough pieces to make for some interesting runs, if nothing else. Francis DePano, Tad Walters and Charlton Tramel will face a tall task trying to get through the Outlaws point chasers but they won’t be alone. Jason Winn is rostered for this series, and combined with Joshua Mansfield, Michael Sanders, Brittney Laurent and Kody LaBauve, New Orleans may have a slight edge in the beater game. The best chance for the Curse is for one of these beaters to have a monster game and control the pitch on offense and defense. Keep an eye on the bludgers; they look to be a promising means of entertainment this series.

While New Orleans does get to host Austin this year, the outcome won’t likely be any different than the last. Look for the Outlaws to get their second sweep of the year but keep an eye out on the duels in the beater game, along with Austin’s ability to adapt to the mid-range shots of Tramel and Walters.

Credit: Seabass Photography

West Division
Salt Lake City (2017: 1-2, 3rd) at Los Angeles Guardians (2017: 3-0, 1st)
July 8, 12 pm EDT
All-Time Series: Los Angeles 2-1

After dominating their first series of the season against Phoenix Sol, the Los Angeles Guardians are eager to test themselves against some higher competition this weekend. The Salt Lake City Hive stole a win from the West Division champions last year, but if the Hive wants to repeat or improve on that performance, they will need to dramatically alter the strategy and panicked gameplay they displayed last month in their series against the San Francisco Argonauts.

The Hive is not without their weapons and is perfectly capable of giving the Guardians some extremely tight games. Cameron VomBaur and George Williams are smart and sturdy ball carriers who have mastered pace control over the years. Allison Froh gives the Hive the ability to feel comfortable dropping out of a double male beater set if they need more firepower in the quaffle game, and has great partners in Raymond Taylor, Michael Vong and Duston Mazzella. Gina Allyn knows exactly where her ball carriers need her and is a constant threat when left unguarded. If the Hive plays the sort of slow-paced, calculated, risk-free game that Utah teams have been perfecting for years, snitch range games are certainly possible. Unfortunately, going off of their performance in the series against the Argonauts, the Hive appears to be avoiding that strategy this summer. They attempted to play at a fast pace, which resulted in frequent desperate passes that led to countless turnovers and opposing fast breaks against a zero bludger defense. The Hive ball handlers struggled to figure out how to properly use their one allowed reset, and if they haven’t sorted that problem out in practice over the past few weeks, the Guardians will take advantage and use their veteran beater corps to create countless fast breaks and turnovers.

While the Hive may have a slight advantage in the ball carrier department over the Guardians, the endless supply of talented support players on the Los Angeles squad make them the bigger threat in the quaffle game. Michael Richardson hero-balled his way to a ridiculous amount of goals in his season opener, and the Guardians roster is filled with players like Joseph Robles and Ryan Harris, who are nearly unstoppable in no bludger drives. Their beaters are eager to jump on any press opportunities on defense and to create zero bludger opportunities on offense. The Guardians also have, without question, more experienced seekers. They are currently in a dry spell, however, and didn’t make any catches in the Sol series. If the Hive utilizes the sort of style that troubled the Guardians last season, this dry spell will have to end for the Guardians to remain undefeated.

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