Sunday, August 17, 2014

NERF Thoughts

As the final major of the summer fantasy season, Northeast Fantasy presented an opportunity to look ahead to the 2014-15 season. Here are ten lessons from Northeast Fantasy.

1. Jayke Archibald needs to be running the show for QC Boston: The Massacre. During the 2013-14 season, QC Boston's offense never really flourished. The Massacre's ball handlers couldn't distribute well enough and QCB's off-ball chasing talent was wasted. Archibald, who played primarily off-ball with QC Boston, dazzled at Northeast Fantasy as a keeper and a ball handler. Making accurate passes and launching counterattacks, Archibald seized control of games. The former Hofstra star quickly identified the best way to tear apart opposing defenses and executed his drives, passes and shots. With weapons like Team USA's Kedzie Teller, the Massacre need a duel-threat ball handler.
Photo by Michael E. Mason
2. Harvard's Carli Haggerty is the kind of player that separates a World Cup team from a non-World Cup team. Most fringe World Cup teams do not have a player like Haggerty. Haggerty routinely resurrects dead plays, using execellent field awareness to find an open teammate. She is comfortable handling the ball behind the hoops and can draw in defenders. In any given game, the odds that Haggerty drops a pass are lower than the odds that a Northwest team wins World Cup VIII. Furthermore, Haggerty has the endurance to play whole games for Harvard. Come the Northeast Regional Championship, teams like New Haven, SUNY Geneseo and Syracuse will have to mark Haggerty tightly if they want to go to Rock Hill.

3. If Maryland can make a trip to Diamond Cup in the spring, I think the Terps have a legitimate shot to win World Cup VIII. Maryland's experienced and inexperienced players shined at Northeast Fantasy and its chasing corps is the deepest and most athletic I've ever seen outside of Texas. After nearly toppling UT in the Sweet Sixteen and losing only one player to graduation, Maryland is entering the 2014-15 season with a ton of confidence. However, the level of physicality on the East Coast isn't high enough to prepare Maryland for playing elite Southwest teams.
Photo by Michael E. Mason
4. As try-outs for the 2014-15 season begin, many top Northeast teams will struggling to replace experienced beaters. However, BU's loss of Katrina Bossoti and Tufts' loss of Michael Sanders shouldn't hurt too badly because Lulu Xu and Matt Cardarelli are ready to step into bigger roles. Neither Xu or Cardarelli is physically imposing, but each beater has demonstrated an exceptional ability to read opposing offenses. As the back beater in a defensive set, Xu anticipates passes well and never loses focus. Cardarelli, who mainly played front beater with my Blue Team, is a student of the game and knows when and where to apply pressure on opposing offenses. Regaining bludger control is a weakness for both Xu and Cardarelli, but with the right beating partners, each could make a big impact on the race for the Northeast Regional Championship.

5. Curtis Taylor and Tim Keaney could be used more effectively by their community teams. Taylor, who logged most of his minutes at beater for Florida's Finest, showed that he could be a valuable off-ball chasing weapon at Northeast Fantasy. Flying up and down the field for the Dark Green Team, Taylor provided an outlet on the fastbreak for keeper Sean Beloff. If Taylor plays more chaser during the 2014-15 campaign, the former Marquette captain could help Florida's Finest add speed and finesse to an offense known for size and physicality. My take on Keaney is a bit more complicated. With NYDC, Keaney had a tendency to drift out of the game. He wasn't being targeted enough by NYDC's ball handlers to make an impact. On Randall's Island, Archibald targeted his former Hofstra teammate again and again, and Keaney didn't disappoint. For Keaney to be successful, the Warriors need to keep him involved in the offense.
Photo by Michael E. Mason
6.  Aggressive, bludger-less beating didn't work. Northeast and Mid-Atlantic beaters have figured out how to fend off unarmed beaters. Dark Green's Mario Nasta had Baby Blue's Alex Leitch running in circles. Leitch's confrontational style of play was torn apart game after game. However, the Hofstra graduate wasn't alone. Against the Gray Team, my beaters held a firm grasp on bludger control when Jimmy Pritts was on the field. Like Leitch, Pritts didn't get many chances to lay bone-crunching hits because more often than not, the Maryland graduate was running back and forth from the hoops.

7. Sam Medney is a terrific pick-up for Capital Madness. Medney brought a lot of energy to Archibald's Pink Team, especially on the offensive end. With sharp cuts, Medney was constantly communicating with her teammates and asking for the ball. Not many Maryland players have continued playing after graduating, so Capital Madness is fortunate to gain Medney's energy and experience.
8. RPI will stay relevant thanks to beating from Mario Nasta. It's not often that esteemed quidditch analysts collectively marvel at an unknown player, but midway through the day at Northeast Fantasy, Nasta put on a performance to remember against Jamie Lafrance's Baby Blue Team. Nasta couldn't miss. The RPI phenom was firing bludgers left and right and sending Baby Blue back to hoops one by one. Billy Quach could have made a whole highlight video of Nasta against Baby Blue. As the Northeast Regional Championship approaches, nobody will be looking forward to a date with RPI.

9. Sean Beloff could be the perfect fit for the Warriors. Warriors' captain Michael "Yada" Parada has long resisted the green headband, but Beloff's keeping was impressive at Northeast Fantasy. Watching the Miami graduate run a fast break is a beautiful thing. Beloff has always been known for his speed, but he has developed a delicate floater that he unleashes in transition. If chemistry between Parada and Beloff is as strong as it is rumored to be, the Warriors could have an experienced, talented one-two punch.
Photo by Michael E. Mason
10. Luke Changet will be a bright spot for Blue Mountain Quidditch Club. I have lots of doubts about the Midwest's newest community team. BMQC's depth is questionable and in a region driven by star players like Daniel Daugherty and Jacob Heppe, BMQC lacks an elite offensive player. However, I have confidence that Luke Changet will make his return to competitive quidditch with guns blazing. During the pool play match between the Pink Team and the Blue Team, Changet displayed an ability to execute a gameplan to perfection. The Pink Team seized bludger control, played conservative defense and took Harry Greenhouse out of the game. In addition to a dominating field presence and good communication, Changet showcased improved decision-making on Randall's Island.

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