Antwerp QC, Much of Belgian Core, Leaves Competitive Quidditch

With two weekends left in the MLQ regular season, only one team has been eliminated for a chance at the championship title, but no team has clinched their division. Nine teams have earned bids to play in League City, and the remaining each get a chance to punch their ticket to the MLQ Championship. With so much up in the air, the final weekends of the season have the potential to be the most exciting in MLQ history.

At this point, certain players have been able to separate themselves from the pack, and some compelling storylines have emerged. Let’s take a look.

Credit: Jessica Jiamin Lang

Divisional MVPs
East: Tyler Trudeau

The Boston Night Riders have struggled this year compared to past seasons, most notably in the quaffle game. There has been a lot of inefficiency from the reigning champions. Both keeper Jayke Archibald and chaser Teddy Costa have a high rate of turnovers paired with low shooting percentages.

Meanwhile, Tyler Trudeau is shooting 11 for 14 with just two turnovers. He is also second on the team in takeaways and shots blocked. The lack of Trudeau was most significant as Boston nearly dropped their first game in franchise history to the New York Titans with Trudeau sidelined by a concussion. In the team’s final series against the Washington Admirals and in the postseason, Trudeau will be looked upon to continue his efficiency as Boston tries to continue riding the streak.

North: Andrew Axtell
The biggest addition of the season has performed exactly as expected. Through two series, Andrew Axtell has started every game for Indianapolis Intensity and is leading the team in goals scored.

In the past, Indianapolis Intensity has performed well, winning the North Division each year. However, this year, Indianapolis has been winning at an unprecedented rate. Last year, Indianapolis played two games all season out of range. In 2017, through six games, Indianapolis has played five out of range.

Axtell’s driving ability mixed with Intensity’s beating has proven to be incredibly effective. Heading into the final and most difficult series against the 5-1 Rochester Whiteout, Intensity will look to lead the quaffle game against one of the most physical teams in the league with Axtell at the helm.

Credit: Miguel Esparza

South: Augustine Monroe
It should be no surprise that the four-time USQ champion is the current MVP of the South Division. What is surprising is how efficient Monroe has been. Even against a Kansas City Stampede that was extremely shorthanded, Monroe put up a shocking statline. He averaged four goals a game and three assists, all while only committing one turnover and missing two shots.

As the team with perhaps the most talented quaffle line to step on pitch, the Austin Outlaws head into their final series as the favorite to win the Benepe Cup. They need just one win to clinch the division. The Outlaws have a wealth of players with varying skills and roles that can be adapted to almost any situation. Within that, Monroe needs to balance between being a distributor and scorer. It is a role he has filled many times in the USQ season and will be looked upon to take for the Outlaws.

West: Chris Seto
Coming into the season, the 2016 West Divisional champs lost not just some of their best players, but some of the best players in the sport as a whole. Included in that list are the division’s top two quaffle players in keepers Alex Browne and Tony Rodriguez; top beaters like Alyssa Burton and Steve DiCarlo; and seeker Margo Aleman. Three of those names have played for a rendition of Team USA while Rodriguez is routinely brought up as one of the best players in the world. Despite all that, the Los Angeles Guardians have been able to win all their matches out of range this season. The biggest contributor to that is the defensive pressure their beaters put on opposing teams and the amount of no-bludger situations they have created. That factor starts with another former Team USA player: Chris Seto.

From here on out, the level of play the Guardians’s beaters will face will only grow. In their last regular-season series, they face the San Francisco Argonauts with a bevy of beaters to throw out. In League City, the Guardians will likely need to rely on their solid beating, and that will begin with the play of Seto. There are few beaters who can will a team to victory by themselves, and the Guardians are lucky to have at least one on their roster.

Credit: Amanda Dallas

Cracks in the Armor
It is hard to find many flaws in a six-game win streak to start the season, which includes five out-of-range games. However, both on paper and in the eye test, this season’s Boston team does not look as imposing as past years.

Yes, the Boston Night Riders are 6-0 and in the driver’s seat for the East, but they have done so against the 3rd and 4th place teams. Their in-range game against New York in game three showed their vulnerability and their Ottawa Black Bears series did little to quell the doubt. Last year, the Washington Admirals were able to get as close as possible to snitch range and, somehow, the Admirals are looking better than last year’s rendition.

Meanwhile, Boston looks ineffective in the quaffle game and has struggled late in series in the beating game. However, it is important to note that they are being held to the standard set by themselves and not being compared to other teams.

This year, Boston has a lot more competition for the Benepe Cup. Last year, a thin Indianapolis Intensity was able to keep the Night Riders in range twice in the semifinals. Austin did the same in the finals, and each of these competitors have noticeably improved this summer.

On top of that, Boston has shown a bit of weakness against dual-male beating sets—something the top teams in the West and every team in the South has the capability of running for extended portions of games. Make no mistake—this is still a Boston team poised to make a run to the finals, but they will likely have a tougher time at each turn than they have in years past.

Still Need to Watch the Throne
As we enter the last four weeks of the season, every team who has ever won a divisional title sits poised to reclaim their respective divisions. In the East, Washington took the second place spot from New York for the first time with a 2-1 series win. The Admirals will face Boston, and a series sweep would put them into first place. Though it seems unlikely, this Admiral team has already proven they are able to pull off an upset. Combined with the fact that this Night Riders look more vulnerable than in years past, we should at least have an interesting series. Washington’s single losses to Ottawa and New York are really coming back to haunt them as a sweep in either series would have put the Admirals in a position to take the division with just a 2-1 series win over Boston.

In the South, the Austin Outlaws look more dominant than the 14-2 squad of last year, which includes five wins against the League City Legends. This League City team does not have the firepower in the quaffle game, but all eyes should be on the beating game—both the Outlaws and the Legends have improved in this area. For League City to take down Austin, they will need Team USA’s Michael Duquette and University of Texas captain Zachary Pickett to win the beating game and then some to give their quaffle play a boost. Though an upset seems unlikely, if any team could pull it off, it is the Legends.

Credit: KimChe Photography

In the West, the Los Angeles Guardians have a legitimate claim as the best beating team in the country, but the San Francisco Argonauts will look to test that. San Francisco certainly has the depth at the position to contend through a series, but will need elite level play from beaters like David Saltzman and Mari Fromstein if they hope to contend with Guardians beaters like Seto and Amanda Nagy, who are at the top of the sport at their positions.

The North division is the most cut and dry. Whoever wins the series between Indianapolis and Rochester Whiteout takes the division. Each team will enter the series having dominated their competitors thus far: each playing just a single in-range game. Whiteout will miss Shane Hurlbert more in this series than any other and will look to Jon Jackson and Basem Ashkar to carry the offensive burden. Rochester was able to show a solid offense without Jackson, which is a great omen not just for this series but for Rochester’s hopes at an MLQ Championship berth.

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