Antwerp QC, Much of Belgian Core, Leaves Competitive Quidditch

After the wild results of pool play that gave life to a Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship that many thought would be very predictable, expectations were high entering Sunday bracket play. But the chalk reigned supreme on the second day, with the University of Maryland and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill marching to a very much expected finals matchup. The teams played a combined one snitch-range game all day: UNC’s 130*-80 semifinal victory over University of Richmond. As the lights came on, the park cleared out and the final match of the day was set to begin, there wasn’t much to take away from a rather drab day of play.

And then the finals happened.

In a match that will likely go down as one of the greatest in the history of our sport, Maryland defeated UNC, 160*-150, in overtime, scoring the game-winning goal on a pass from Bryan Barrows to Erin Mallory as time expired on the extra period. With the beater play keyed in on the snitch, the offenses exchanged points throughout the five minutes, with the Terrapins outscoring the Tar Heels, 60-50.

With the tournament victory, Maryland earns its second consecutive regional title, having defeated Villanova University, 110*-80, a year prior. The Terrapins have now made the finals of all three Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships, losing to Villanova in the inaugural edition.

While Maryland entered the tournament as the prohibitive favorites for the third consecutive season, they were awfully close to letting it get away from them in the tournament’s final moments. After playing an even match for the entirety of pre-snitch regulation, the Tar Heels threatened to pull away with the snitch on the pitch, scoring three unanswered goals to bring the game to 100-70. However, Harry Greenhouse, playing in his final Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship for the Terrapins, came through for his team when they needed it most, making the grab that sent the game into overtime.

In the extended period, the teams exchanged scores, with a yellow card on Maryland beater Jeremy Dehn giving the Tar Heels a brief advantage, though the Terrapins used two male beaters throughout the extra time. With just 20 seconds left, and UNC driving to take the lead, Eric King earned his second yellow card preventing a scoring opportunity. When play resumed, the shot was blocked and then picked up by captain Barrows, who ran half of the field before finding Mallory near the hoops. Mallory was just able to get off a contested shot that trickled through the hoop as time expired.

While it is the Terrapins that will be celebrating in Virginia tonight, it was the Tar Heels that impressed throughout the weekend, mixing their unique brand of offense, a heavy dose of Max Miceli and a fresh, heaping dose of defense. It was that new effort on the defensive side that not only gave them a chance in the finals, but made them a dominant force throughout the tournament. Entering the semifinals, UNC had allowed more than 40 quaffle points in just one of its six games, including a 180*-30 win over Capital Madness in the quarterfinals. While Richmond brought them briefly down to earth in the semifinals, playing them point for point in the quaffle game, the Tar Heels picked a good time to win just their second SWIM situation game of the season. They improved to 2-2 while dropping Richmond and its impressive seeking game to 6-3 in such situations.

The levels of excitement that enveloped the final games failed to make its way into the qualifying rounds, with many of the teams expected to qualify doing so convincingly–including Maryland, UNC, Richmond, Villanova, Madness, Penn State University and Appalachian State University. George Mason University pulled a minor upset over University of Virginia in the initial qualifying round, but the Cavaliers responded with a pair of wins over the Philadelphia Honey Badgers and Lock Haven University to punch their ticket to World Cup. Virginia Commonwealth University grabbed the other, final golden ticket, coming back from a snitch-range loss to Penn State by stringing together out-of-range victories over Rutgers University and Pittsburgh.

The Pittsburgh Panthers were the most disappointing causalities of the tournament, a proud program that has struggled in recent years. Pittsburgh made the Final Four of World Cups III and IV, the Elite Eight of World Cup V and bracket play at World Cup VI. They rallied together a 3-1 pool play record on Saturday but could not get it together on Sunday, losing in overtime to Madness and then being eliminated from contention by VCU. They are, however, the first team out, and will take the spot of the first Mid-Atlantic team that cannot attend World Cup or the first region that cannot fill all of its bids.

If this tournament did anything, besides qualify teams for World Cup, it was add to the murkiness of the Mid-Atlantic’s middle tier. The Terrapins remain on top, and the Tar Heels have solidified their second spot after making the finals of both Turtle Cup and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Championship. However, where to go from there is anyone’s guess. Richmond and Villanova can both argue claims for the next tier, but it was Madness that played Maryland almost even in quaffle points on Saturday while Richmond loss to non-qualifying John Hopkins University while playing other non-qualifiers in range. George Mason and Appalachian State continue to develop just barely on the periphery, while Penn State has some major what-if potential with Scott Axel and Jeremy Ross returning for the spring.

There may have been doubts about the skill level of the Mid-Atlantic and intrigue of this tournament, but the region did a notable job of dispelling them, putting out an attractive product and a thrilling finals match that set the tone for the regional season.

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