Friday, August 8, 2014

Northeast Fantasy 2014 Preview

Players from the Northeast, Mid Atlantic and more are traveling to New York City for the third annual Northeast Fantasy. With twelve teams comprised of regional stars, under-the-radar players and impact performers, here's a preview of the summer's final major fantasy tournament.

The QuidKid Focus--These players will be under a microscope at Northeast Fantasy. Why and what you should watch for.

Julia Baer, B, Richmond, Hawaiian Shirts
As the most expensive female player at Northeast Fantasy by a whopping total of 100 galleons, Richmond utility Julia Baer will be facing extraordinarily high expectations against the backdrop of leis and tacky Hawaiian garb. While Baer has always impressed me with her smarts, technical prowess and ability to outplay her opponents, she has never seemed to be a truly game-changing player to me. Maybe it's because Richmond has too many other shortcomings and I am too quick to dismiss good players on weaker teams. Maybe it's because Baer's greatness is naturally more subtle. Maybe I haven't been watching closely enough. Who knows?

Either way, the stars have aligned for Baer to have a terrific tournament. First, while Hawaiian Shirts Team GM Ben Nadeau made some questionable decisions during the Northeast Fantasy Draft, Nadeau's fun-loving play is contagious at fantasy tournaments and his teams often exceed expectations. Furthermore, Nadeau knows to play with elite female chasers. Second, the best male beater wearing a Hawaiian Shirt will be Macaulay's Luke Espina. Espina plays moderately conservative, a style that should be tailor-made for Baer and the Hawaiian Shirt Team. Third, 2014-15 might finally be the season that Richmond makes the jump to a top-tier Mid-Atlantic team. With excitement for the new season building, a game-changing performance from Baer could set the Spiders up for a breakout 2014-15.

Alex Leitch, U, Unaffiliated, Baby Blue
Snagged in the supplemental draft by Baby Blue GM Jamie Lafrance, former Hofstra utility Alex Letich will making his last hurrah in the Northeast before likely joining a Midwest community team for the 2014-15 season. Leitch, who sustained a devastating leg injury at Northeast Regionals, didn't regain his previous beating form in time to propel Hofstra at World Cup VII. However, with Hofstra's offense struggling and beater Mike Iadevaia gaining confidence, Leitch continued experimenting at different positions. Using his trademark fearlessness, Leitch proved to be an explosive driver and a capable seeker. 
Photo by Isabella Gong
At Northeast Fantasy, Leitch could line up alongside Jamie Lafrance, Shane Hurlbert and Leanne Dillman in the quaffle game. If Leitch can play a dual point guard offense with Lafrance, Hurlbert can slide over to the wing. In my opinion, Hurlbert is at his best when he is hovering around the hoops, waiting for passes. The RIT phenom has the wingspan and soft hands to pull down errant passes and is an elite finisher. As a beater, look for Leitch to blaze a trail for Lafrance. While Lafrance certainly doesn't need much help bulldozing through a defense, it could be Leitch's beating that enables Lafrance to conserve enough energy for bracket play.

How and where Leitch plays could determine the role he fills this season, especially if Leitch is headed to Luke Changet's Blue Mountain Quidditch Club.

Sheldon Bostic, B, QC Boston: The Massacre, Black
The time has come! A little less than a year after Sheldon Bostic entered quidditch as a promising QC Boston recruit, the famed pump-up man will have to double as his team's most important player. Bostic, who showcased improved beating instincts at World Cup VII, is rumored to be preparing for a switch to full-time chaser. Whether Bostic dons the black, white or green headband, he will need to be the heart of the Black Team's defense, barking out directions and organizing his teammates. With question marks surrounding Bostic's Massacre teammate Zach D'Amico, a strong, physical defense might be the Black Team's best hope.

If he does chase, I'll be watching Bostic's ball handling skills and acceleration. Adding a soft touch and increased speed to Bostic's massive frame could be the key towards giving the Massacre a go-to power chaser.

Hugh Podmore, C, Valhalla Quidditch, Gray
Like many Global Games analysts, I share the belief that Canada only looked like a deserving bronze medalist when Hugh Podmore was keeping. As the United Kingdom's Luke Twist and Australia's Raj Kapoor were starring, Podmore kept Canada in contention by giving it a ball handler and distributor it could trust. At Northeast Fantasy, where trustworthy ball handlers were at a premium, Podmore should shine for the Gray Team.
Photo by Janet Hoffar
Podmore's most important role will be enabling Gray to space the field. The Gray Team lacks a top-tier female chaser, but thanks to Podmore's passing accuracy, Gray chasers/keepers Steven Gambino, Michael Pascutoi and Brandon McKenzie can drift closer to the hoops and deeper down the wings. A high support chaser isn't needed because Podmore's decision-making is nearly flawless. If Gray's male chasers can spread the field, Podmore will likely find himself in more isolation situations with opposing point defenders. 

Defensively, Podmore's shot-blocking and tackling will be crucial, as Gambino and Pascutoi should shut down the point and the Ohio State duo of Julie Fritz and Matt Eveland will clog up the middle. If Podmore can live up to my lofty expectations outside a Team Canada jersey, Andy Marmer could add another summer fantasy championship to his general manager resume.

University of Maryland Players, B/C/K/S, Maryland, Various Teams
With uncertainty in the West and graduations at Boston University, the University of Maryland looks to be the non-Southwest favorite for the 2014-15 season. Maryland is bringing by far the largest out-of-region contingent and I have high expectations for many of the lesser known Terps. Jeremy Dehn and Emily Camardo will anchor the Purple Team's beating corps, while Dehn's usual beating partner, Isabella Newton, plays with Erin Mallory's Black Team. We will see what chaser Chris Thomas can do without much help around him on Ricky Nelson's Union Jack Team. Steve Sleasman and Steven Gambino will play big parts for Ethan Sturm's Light Green Team and Andy Marmer's Gray Team, respectively. Because of Northeast Fantasy's weak chaser pool, players like Thomas, Sleasman and Gambino should stand out thanks to their superior athleticism. If Maryland players (especially young Maryland players) have strong performances at Northeast Fantasy, Maryland's confidence will be through the roof by Turtle Cup IV.
Photo by Nicole Harrig
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. Robert Vortherms and Luke Changet B: Both experienced, effective and bludger-wielding field generals, Votherms and Changet should give the Pink Team stability and reliability in the beating game.

9. Matthew Zeltzer and Curtis Taylor S/B: I like Zeltzer's chances to make a couple of key snitch catches, but Taylor will have to open the door for the Badassilisks seeker with attentive seeker beating.

8. Ben Nadeau and Victor Viega C/K: Former Emerson and current QC Boston teammates, the chemistry between Nadeau and Viega should be strong, but I'm expecting to see each player to swap roles. For the Hawaiian Shirts Team to be most successful, I believe Nadeau needs to be the primary ball handler and Viega needs to play as an off-ball power chaser.

7. Nik Jablonski and Emily Hickmott K/C: Jeff Sherman's White Team is loaded with quick off-ball chasers, but Jablonski is the best passer of the bunch. The Loyola keeper will need to find Hickmott early and often for the White Team to advance into bracket play.

6. Matt Eveland and Julie Fritz B: With all the talented beaters available in the Northeast Fantasy Draft, Gray Team GM Andy Marmer might have landed the best starting pair at a reasonable price. Facing high expectations for the 2014-15, Eveland and Fritz will try show Northeast beaters why Ohio State was a quarterfinalist at World Cup VII.

5. Scott Axel and Amanda Dallas B: For the Union Jack Team to even think about putting points on the board, Axel (and Emerson beater Aaron Wohl) will need to tear apart opposing defenses. With Axel flying around the field, Dallas will have to fight to maintain bludger control and limit fast breaks.
Photo by Nicole Harrig
4. Sean Beloff and Hannah DeBaets C: Beloff and DeBaets have to be the most electrifying duo of the tournament for Dark Green to stand a chance. Fortunately for GM Shannon Moorhead, I don't think that's too much to ask.

3. Jayke Archibald and Tim Keaney C: Archibald put on a show at West Fantasy, but as the new QC Boston co-captain looks to notch a Northeast Fantasy title, he'll look to an old, trusted teammate in Keaney. If Archibald can start fast breaks for the Pink Team, look for Keaney to be streaking down the sidelines, expecting a last-second pass.

2. Wesley Weiss and Jon Jackson K/C: Considering the huge World Cup performance he had for Emerson, Weiss' 110 galleon pricetag is even better value than Jackson at 130 galleons. Let's see if Ethan Sturm's disciplined drafting can pay off again. Expect give-and-goes galore from Weiss, Jackson and the rest of Light Green's chasing corps.

1. Jamie Lafrance and Shane Hurlbert K/C: I've already dedicated a big portion of this article to Lafrance and Hurlbert, but in case the message didn't get across: Lafrance and Hurlbert will be extremely fun to watch. It is not uncommon for Lafrance and Hurlbert to score more than 50% of their teams' goals.
Photo by Ben Holland
My Prediction--Who's gonna win?!

Ehhh, I think I'll pass. We will have our answer soon enough! #BleedBlue

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