Players from the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest are ascending upon Connecticut for the first Cocoa Cup. With eight teams comprised of regional stars, under-the-radar players and impact performers, here's a preview of the nation's second best winter fantasy tournament.
The QuidKid Focus--These players will be under a microscope at Cocoa Cup. Why and what you should watch for.
Victor Viega, K, QC Boston, Targaryen
I've been saying since June that QC Boston's biggest challenge will be figuring out how to use their many unique chasing weapons. At the center of this challenge has been keeper Victor Viega. By Northeast Regionals, Viega was QC Boston's clear primary ball handler on offense. The Massacre made huge strides in Rochester, scoring over 100 points in each game until they were stunned by NYU in the quarterfinals. Despite a strong regionals performance, I don't think QC Boston has reached their full potential--and a lot of that revolves around the continued development of Viega.
Team Targaryen will throw Viega into a similar situation as QC Boston with a really strong supporting cast of versatile and skilled chasers. If Viega can create chemistry with Penn State's Jason Rosenberg, RIT's Shane Hurlbert, Rochester's Devin Sandon, Tufts' Hannah DeBaets--a group that doesn't necessarily scream "instant chemistry"--Targaryen will be the highest scoring team at Cocoa Cup by far. Hopefully for the Massacre, Viega will gain more practice with making smart passes, not forcing passes and knowing when to take it and drive himself.
BJ Mestnik, C/S, Tufts, Tyrell
Noah Schwartz got a ton of attention after Snow Cup, but Tufts has yet another (somewhat) secret weapon that will get a chance to shine at Cocoa Cup. Mestnik, a chaser and seeker, is arguably the best all-around athlete playing for the Tufflepuffs. 30-some minutes into Tufts' epic Turtle Cup semifinal against NYDC, it was Mestnik that had the energy left to bull-rush snitch Harry Greenhouse and send Tufts to the finals. When Tufts turned in a disappointing Northeast Regionals performance exiting in the quarterfinals, Mestnik was noticably absent.
That's the kind of difference he makes. This weekend, at Cocoa Cup, he'll be united with BGSU star Dan Daugherty and no-longer-nameless-one Brian Zhangi under the familiar direction of Ethan Sturm. In addition, the Cocoa Cup field is not nearly as loaded with seekers as Snow Cup was. I expect Mestnik to get chances and possibly string together a couple of key snatches.
Female Chasers, C, Various Teams, All Fantasy Teams
Yes. All Fantasy Teams. Maybe this is a benefit of randomly generated teams and then a period of trading, or maybe this is due to a deep group of female chasers from the Northeast, but it looks like every Cocoa Cup team has a female chaser who they can rely on heavily. It seems that every time THE Fantasy Tournament or Firemercs rolls around, I'm always questioning whether one team is going to pay for not having a solid female chaser. In the case of Cocoa Cup, many of the female chasers start for their teams and in some cases, have leadership positions.
From Lucy Miller on Lannister to Meredith Taylor on Arryn to Erin Mallory on Stark, I can see any one of these players playing a big part for a championship-winning team.
Griffin Conlogue, U, QC Boston, Baratheon
While Ethan Sturm profiled NYDC chaser Alex Linde's venture into beating in his Cocoa Cup Preview, I would like to point attention to Griffin Conlogue's listing as a utility for Team Baratheon. Conlogue played mostly as a chaser during his career with Emerson, but has been juggled around, including stints at keeper and beater with QC Boston. At beater, Conlogue will be playing with familiar company in teammates Kara Levis and Bobby O'Neil. A winter fantasy tournament could be a great time for these three to work out some issues that the Massacre's beating corps had this fall.
In the quaffle game, Conlogue looks to be the biggest player on the roster, and with keeper experience, I wouldn't be surprised to see him running the offense. If so, he has tons of offensive options in the form of Maryland's Matt Angelico, NYDC's Casey Sabal and Tim Keaney, and QC Boston-ians Jayke Archibald, Elise Risio and Ben Nadeau--who always seems to shine at fantasy tournaments.
Mo Haggag, U, NYDC Capitalists, Lannister
I believe the essential piece of Lannister is NYDC utility Mo Haggag. Haggag’s greatest impact is in the seeking game, where his gigantic wingspan causes trouble for all but the best snitches. Creating a killer rotation with Greenhouse, each seeker will come at the snitch with very different styles. Also, Haggag is listed as chaser-beater-seeker-keeper. As we’ve repeatedly seen at fantasy tournaments across the country, four-position utility players can turn around their team’s losing streak with a position switch. [Note: this originally appeared in Quiyk's Cocoa Cup Preview]
Nora Mueller, B, Tufts, Arryn
Tufts beater Nora Mueller should have an interesting role on the David Fox-led Team Arryn. Working with fellow Bostonian Aaron Wohl, Arryn will undoubtedly be reliant on defense and the partership of Wohl and Mueller is essential. Mueller is great at playing through chaos and staying focused, especially in the seeking game. [Note: this originally appeared in Quiyk's Cocoa Cup Preview]
Jason Rosenberg, C, Penn State, Targaryen
Finally, I believe the most important player to watch is Penn State chaser Jason Rosenberg. PSU started their season off very strong with a second place finish at Nittany Lion Cup, but an injury to Rosenberg, their most important offensive player, slowed them down at Turtle Cup and MARC. Rosenberg, a terrific all-around chaser, will be making his return at Cocoa Cup on Team Targaryen flanked by the likes of Victor Viega and Devin Sandon. If Rosenberg comes back stronger than ever, the Mid-Atlantic hierarchy could be shaken up this spring. [Note: this originally appeared in Quiyk's Cocoa Cup Preview]
Dynamic Duos Rankings--Duos of players are one of my favorite things to analyze about fantasy tournaments. Here's a countdown of who I believe will be the most fearsome one-two punches of the tournament.
10. David Foxx and Meredith Taylor, K/C--BGSU chaser Meredith Taylor is, in my opinion, the clear second best offensive player on her team behind the Emerson power keeper. A strong day from Taylor and quick chemistry development are all that's keeping Arryn from becoming a completely one-dimensional offense tomorrow.
9. Robert Vortherns and Matthew Zeltzer, B/S--Being drafted onto a team with few big names has given analysts the chance to revisit UMass beater Robert Vortherns amazing performance at Northeast Regionals. Vortherns will be doing double duty this weekend. He'll have to work to keep his offense within 30 points and if he can, he must give Zeltzer, one of the few pure seekers at Cocoa Cup, the chance to succeed.
8. Tim Keaney and Jayke Archibald, C--While I don't necessarily expect this duo to be the primary offensive contributors for Baratheon (Nadeau, Sabal, Angelico and Conlogue will all contribute heavily), I like seeing the reunion of two former collegiate teammates who now play for different community teams. As more community teams pop up across the country, fantasy tournaments will become opportunities for old teammates to play again together.
7. Brandon McKenzie and Noah Schwartz, K/C--With New Haven keeper Brandon McKenzie in the back guarding the hoops and Schwartz point defending, Stark could have a tough defense. It'll be interesting to see how McKenzie, who has to resort to playing hero-ball sometimes to get points on the board for his team, will play with Schwartz, the ultimate team player and rising star.
6. Shane Hurlbert and Jason Rosenberg, C
5. Victor Viega and Devin Sandon, K/C--If I were coaching Targaryen, I would mainly run two separate chaser lines with Hurlbert and Rosenberg on the first line and Viega and Sandon on the second. This way, I think the styles of each player are less likely to clash, and Targaryen ends up with two very solid lines. In addition, the versatile Hannah DeBaets can be added into either line.
4. Aaron Wohl and Nora Mueller, B--Very few of these fantasy teams have a starting beating pair that I have 100% trust in, but I know Wohl and Mueller will deliver for Arryn.
3. Jenna Jankowski and the #QCBeaters, B--I talked about how Griffin Conlogue would get the chance the to beat alongside his teammates earlier, but Macaulay beater Jenna Jankowski will also be in the mix. Such a deep beating corps is bound to really help Baratheon.
2. Dan Daugherty and BJ Mestnik/Brain Zhangi, K/C--Daugherty sometimes gets the reputation as a player who will shoot instead of pass. This is completely false. With Mestnik and/or Zhangi on the wings, Daugherty should be unloading pass after pass.
1. Harry Greenhouse and Ricky Nelson, C/B--Besides working together on defense with Greenhouse point defending and Nelson beating, this pair may not have the same on field explosiveness as the others, but I highlighted it as my number one dynamic duo because of the leadership factor. With Maryland's attendance at the Beantown Brawl up in the air, this may be the chance for Greenhouse and Nelson to make a statement in the Northeast.
Predictions--Who's gonna win?!
Pool One--Tyrell, Baratheon, Stark, Arryn
Tyrell has the best, most explosive offense by far and goes 3-0 to start the day. Baratheon's many offensive weapons overwhelm Stark and Arryn. Noah Schwartz shuts down David Fox with terrific point defending to give Stark a 1-2 record and Arryn drops to 0-3.
Pool Two--Targaryen, Lannister, Greyjoy, Frey
Targaryen takes the game of the pool from Lannister on an Andrew Zagelbaum snatch. Greyjoy and Frey are clearly outmatched by the pool's top two teams and a Matthew Zeltzer snatch is the deciding factor in that game.
Quarterfinals--Tyrell def. Frey, Lannister def. Stark, Targaryen def. Arryn, Baratheon def. Greyjoy
Semifinals--Lannister def. Tyrell, Baratheon def. Targaryen
Finals--Lannister def. Baratheon
Team Lannister is my pick to take the Cocoa Cup 2014 title. Armed with the Maryland dual-threat in the chasing game of the experienced Harry Greenhouse and freshman Chris LeCompte, as well as BGSU keeper Zak Hewitt, Lannister should have a multi-dimensional offense and a solid chaser defense. Additionally, beater Ricky Nelson is no stranger to fantasy success as his team placed second at Northeast Fantasy this past summer. [Note: this originally appeared in Quiyk's Cocoa Cup Preview]