Friday, November 15, 2013

Previewing Northeast Regionals

Crashing the Party
The regional championship may be far away from Boston, but the traditional powerhouse Boston teams are the clear favorite this weekend. After QC Boston, who despite having their share of problems, are still a very talented team and Hofstra, who's fantastic beating could make up for their lack of offensive sophistication, then the Northeast is very, very wide open. From what I see, there are about seven World Cup bids up for grabs this weekend for about fourteen teams. Three spots in the quarterfinals plus, if seeding works out, a chance for a hot team to sneak into the semifinals, and sorting out the teams contending for a bid becomes a lot more interesting. Since I don't know nearly enough to analyze all fourteen teams, here's who I like this weekend.  
Photo by Michael E. Mason/IQA Staff
Macaulay: Speed. Smart play. More speed. Teamwork. Trusted Players at all Positions. Decent Depth. Good Leadership. Clutch Seeking. Macaulay should shine among the second tier teams in the Northeast, with their style of play overwhelming slower, less-developed teams. Whether Macaulay can hang with the Boston teams is a completely different question, but with an easy pool, Macaulay should head into day two as confident pool winners. 

New York Badassilisks: After failing to qualify for World Cup VI (D1) and the poaching of their most athletic players by NYDC, it looked as though the Badassilisks might fade into obscurity. And that would be an absolutely terrible thing to happen to such a likable, friendly team. Thank God New York City is a hub for college graduates. Chaser Matt Stone, who lead SUNY Geneseo to qualification last year, and Matthew Zeltzer, a long time clutch seeker for Vassar are prime examples of the NYC community team's recruiting efforts. Adding in the new players, several of which I've heard are pretty good, I like the Badassilisks to comfortably secure a ticket to Myrtle Beach.

Harvard: Like the Badassilisks, Harvard surprisingly did not make World Cup VI (D1) even after competing in close games with the other Boston teams in early fall of last year. Harvard has apparently recruited well and has players who have been getting lots of praise. If quidditch is to grow, failing to qualify for World Cup shouldn't be a death knell to a program and Harvard needs to prove this.
Photo by Michael E. Mason/IQA Staff
Time for Tufts??
Making it to the finals of Turtle Cup III was a huge breakout performance for the Tufflepuffs. For the first time since World Cup IV, Tufts is being mentioned in the national picture, but is still on the outside looking into the group of elite teams. With a young, energetic chasing corps and talented, smart beaters, Tufts will be looking for that one signature win this weekend that going to get everyone on board the Tufts hype train. What Tufts lacks in experience, they make up for in energy. Seemingly all season, a great Tufts vs. BU or Emerson game has been so close to happening. At the MQC/SNEQC season opener, an overtime loss to McGill and cut quarterfinals took away our chance to see Tufts potentially face off against the perennial Northeast powerhouses. The Turtle Cup III finals would have been great if Tufts hadn't just played a marathon game. The MQC conference matches are interesting, but incredibly annoying from the point of view of an analyst. The level of intensity isn't the same as a tournament.

Could this weekend finally be the chance where Tufts meets Emerson or BU in a high-stakes regional bracket play game? In a year where the Northeast's second tier teams are down, yes. That's very likely. Can Tufts pull off the upset? ...Maybe. Tufts seeker BJ Mestnik has really blossomed into the seeker Tufts has needed this season, and caught snitch Harry Greenhouse in the aforementioned marathon game against NYDC at Turtle Cup. Mestnik will not be able to make Northeast Regionals. With a game against Emerson or BU almost certain to be in snitch range, Tufts will need to compensate for the loss of Mestnik. Tufts has lots of athletes who have seeked before, but haven't found a ton of success. Being able to grab the snitchsock is all the matters in this case. What might save a Mestnik-less Tufts is their beating when the snitch is on the pitch. Tufts beaters are absolutely outstanding at not giving opposing seekers time alone with the snitch. Keeping his composure, beater Matthew Cardarelli is able to completely clear areas of opposing beaters and seekers with gutsy, but accurate beats. If Tufts is going to pull off a major upset this weekend, Cardarelli and other beaters Mike Sanders and Nora Mueller are going to need to have the game of their lives. They can't lose focus once, as they have to make the job very easy for Tufts' seekers. Big win at regionals or not, the Tufts hype train will definitely arrive in North Myrtle Beach on April 5th. 

Best Case: Tufts wins Northeast Regionals with wins over Emerson and BU on snitch catches. Quaffle players like a Steve Mullahoo, Max Leonhardt and David Stack are able to keep up with the fast BU offense and get by the physical Emerson defense. Great beating opens the door for two consecutive catches for Tufts.

Worst Case: Tufts falls to either Emerson or BU in an out of snitch range semifinals game. The Emerson defense shuts down Tufts or BU runs all over them in the fast break.

QC Boston Faces Pool of Death
From a competitive stand point, QC Boston should be really hungry for an impressive win this weekend. Drawing the Northeast Regional pool of death was a blessing and curse for the Massacre. Rochester didn't do terrifically at Turtle Cup, but if chaser Devin Sandon can play through injury, Rochester is an experienced team with a great offensive playmaker. New Haven keeper Brandon McKenzie is far from the type of player you would expect out of a tier three Northeast team, and QC Boston will have to work to defend him. Hofstra has both a fearsome beating corps and power keeper Jaime Colon, and poses a threat to knock off the Boston community team. If QC Boston can get through this pool, they'll be going into day two with a ton of confidence. If this happens, chances are new pickup Matt Lowe, the former Emerson chaser, has fit right into the Massacre's attack and is getting on the scoresheet. However, the are a few reasons I don't like QC Boston's matchup with Hofstra.

I believe Hofstra can really expose QC Boston's weaknesses. The Flying Dutchmen beaters are capable of taking over this pool play matchup. Hofstra star beater Alex Leitch is known for physical play that is on the verge of reckless. This is why I wouldn't be surprised if star Massacre beater Kara Levis, who has been rehabbing an injury, plays minimally against the havoc-wreaking Leitch. Partners of Leitch, as well as a very competent beating duo themselves are Theresa Buchta and Mike Iadevaia. Using the "one and a half" strategy, Hofstra should be able to hold bludger control against QCB. 
Photo by Michael E. Mason/IQA Staff
But this doesn't add up you are saying! QC Boston's chasing corps has like 30 combined years of quidditch experience and Hofstra's quaffle players seem to be mostly newbies. For some reason, QC Boston's offense hasn't come together like we expected it to. From what I've heard, as well as what I observed from Peter Lee's film from some low-key MQC games, the Massacre's offense isn't a quick, precise, well-oiled attack with an emphasis on passing and movement. They aren't using their physical and strategic talent to its full potential. This is why Hofstra has a chance. With superior beaters, a chasing corps that may not be completely outclassed at this point in the season, and Jaime Colon, the Flying Dutchmen can keep this one in snitch range and maybe snatch a victory. 

QC Boston
Best Case: QC Boston finally looks like they are getting it together and with all the non-injured pieces in place, the Massacre easily defeat Hofstra and advance to the semifinals. Their passing game elevates and suddenly, QCB is making four or five passes per possession, instead of one or two. In the semifinals, the Massacre stay in snitch range of either Emerson or BU.

Worst Case: Unable to deal with Alex Leitch, the Massacre lose to Hofstra causing them to receive a lower bracket play seed. As a result, QCB meets one of the other Boston teams in the quarterfinals and loses.  

Best Case: With a great win over QC Boston, Hofstra returns to the Northeast regional semifinals. Top-notch beating and improved support chasers make the difference for the Flying Dutchmen.

Worst Case: Hofstra loses to QCB and is eliminated in the semifinals. Lack of good support chasers makes opponents' defensive jobs simple: as long as they can stop Colon, they can win.

Another Coin Flip
I can talk about the NYC teams, Tufts, Hofstra and the Massacre all day, but all signs point towards another epic, instant classic showdown between Boston rivals Emerson and BU. As video of team after team from the Midwest, South and Mid Atlantic surfaces, the teams in the video are torn apart by Southwestern and Westerners and labeled as inferior. Great film hasn't surfaced yet of BU or Emerson, but everyone who's sick of Southwest/West dominance is hoping that when the people in the western half of the United States see BU and Emerson in regionals form, they will be impressed. 

BU is a quintessential long passing and fast break team. With long bodies at chaser and keeper, the Terriers are able to intercept a lot of passes, making up for their lack of great defensive physicality. Emerson doesn't play pretty offensively, so even if decent film of them surfaced, many would quickly point to instances of sloppy passing and boot the Lions out of the top ten. 
Photo by Michael E. Mason/IQA Staff
What works for Emerson is a tight, gritty, defense. They don't display textbook Southwest tackling, but grind out strips, hustle for loose balls and stay organized in their zone defense. This year's Emerson team has a ton of heart and dedication--they are going to leave it all on the line to avenge their finals loss last year and take the crown. It is said that teams that like to play in the fast break don't like it when their opponents also push into the fast break. If David Foxx can shove an effective, goal scoring fast break right back into the face of BU, Emerson has a chance to stay in snitch range. Then, it's up to the seekers and the beaters. It seems dead even in the seeking game with BU having slightly better beaters and Emerson having the better seeking rotation, especially if Foxx is inserted. And that's where we get another coin flip. If you're pumped for another BU-Emerson showdown, reread Ben Nadeau's post-NERC reflections from last year, What A Rivalry a Means to Me.
Photo by Michael E. Mason/IQA Staff

Best Case for BU/Emerson: Win Northeast Regionals.

Worst Case for BU, Emerson and practically everyone except Tufts: One of these teams does not make it to the finals. Something just wouldn't seem right.

My Prediction
Quarterfinals: BU def. NYU, Emerson def. New York Badassilisks, Tufts def. Hofstra, QC Boston def. Macaulay
Semifinals: BU def. QC Boston, Emerson def. Tufts
Finals: BU def. Emerson

World Cup VII Qualifiers: BU, Emerson, Tufts, QC Boston, Macaulay, Hofstra, New York Badassilisks, Harvard, NYU, Rochester, RIT, UMass

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