Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Boston's Time to Shine

Thousands of miles away from Texas, there is a shining city on a hill. And it's called Boston.

Last Saturday, the Boston Night Riders claimed the first Major League Quidditch Championship, completing a 13-0 perfect season. After out-of-snitch range blowouts throughout the regular season, the Night Riders faced a surging and determined New York Titans squad in the finals. During the regular season, the Night Riders had swept the Titans in Brookline, Massachusetts. Two weeks later and 750 miles away, the Titans were playing their best quidditch of the summer. With reinforcements Kyle Jeon, Michael Parada and Jaime Colon, the Titans commanded the field for portions of the championship best-of-three series. Without a doubt, the Titans' growth was remarkable. But thanks to timely snitch catches from Harry Greenhouse and Tyler Trudeau, the first Major League Quidditch Championship was the Boston Night Riders' time to shine.
Photo by Jessica Jiamin Lang Photography
The Boston Night Riders were not your everyday quidditch team. That was clear from the beginning. In mid-July, I was attending a pre-college program at Brown University. I had been following MLQ scores, but I hadn't watched any MLQ film except the sleep-inducing opening series. But I had just played quidditch for the first time. It was a beautiful day and I had some free time. I found a spot on the quad and opened YouTube on my iPad. I decided to watch the Boston Night Riders take on the Washington Admirals.

After traveling to the nation's capital, the Night Riders exploded out of the gate with a dazzling display of high-energy, high-quality quidditch. It was electric. As a part-time quidditch blogger, I'm supposed to stay impartial. Unfortunately, I like watching great quidditch. I like fastbreaks, alley-oops and hyper-aggressive beating. I like teams and athletes that blow the competition out of the water. Right away, I felt that the Night Riders were something special.

A couple weeks later, I traveled to Brookline, Massachusetts and watched the Night Riders dispatch the Titans. Once again, I was extremely impressed by the Night Riders. I began searching for an explanation. Why had the Night Riders overwhelmed the MLQ East Division? How did the Night Riders make world-class quidditch look so easy? I found an answer within Boston's quidditch history. Let's go back to the beginning.
A History Lesson
In the rolling hills of Vermont, Boston produced the first challengers to Middlebury's dynasty. With a burgeoning quidditch program, Emerson College advanced to the finals of World Cup III and battled Middlebury tooth and nail. Boston University's Kedzie Teller dashed around pitches, foreshadowing his illustrious, two-time Team USA career. When World Cup IV brought quidditch to New York City, Tufts University stole the show with a miraculous run to the finals. While Tufts garnered national media coverage, Emerson and BU were reaffirming their place among the quidditch elite with pool play blowouts and bracket play runs. Back in Boston, Emerson and BU settled into an intense cross-city rivalry.

Soon enough, World Cup V arrived and Boston's quidditch teams drove down I-95 en route to Randall's Island. With new challengers from Florida, Texas, California and the Midwest, the city of Boston was overshadowed at World Cup V. Although Emerson and BU breezed through pool play, the Boston rivals were stopped abruptly in the Sweet Sixteen. In the Florida heat and humidity, World Cup VI also felt pedestrian for Boston. Once again, Emerson and BU advanced to the Sweet Sixteen, but both rivals wanted more. The quiet showings at World Cup V and VI belied the bright future of the Boston quidditch scene. Emerson's intramural league was thriving, BU was racking up regional championships and Tufts was rebuilding for the future. The Massachusetts Quidditch Conference provided regular competition between Boston's powerhouses and kept smaller programs like Harvard University and the University of Massachusetts engaged.

Culminating with World Cup VII, the 2013-14 season saw the Boston quidditch scene rise above the rest. BU's trio of keeper Brendan Stack, chaser Michael Powell and beater Max Havlin proved 
unstoppable for most of the season. Meanwhile, Emerson and Tufts traveled to the University of Maryland's Turtle Cup III and took the gold and the silver back to Boston. David Fox romped over the competition for Emerson and the new-look Tufts introduced the quidditch world to David Stack, Hannah DeBaets and Noah Schwartz. Neither Emerson or Tufts had to make the nine hour trip to College Park, Maryland. Historically, Boston's quidditch programs don't travel much. Turtle Cup III signified that Emerson and Tufts were talented, eager to improve and hungry for World Cup success.

In North Myrtle Beach, Emerson's trip to Turtle Cup III paid off. After falling short to BU all season, Emerson made a dramatic run through bracket play and dispatched BU in the quarterfinals of World Cup VII. Although Emerson and BU's Elite Eight clash was overshadowed by Texas A&M versus Lone Star QC, an all-Boston quarterfinal was not insignificant. Only three cities have ever produced two or more quarterfinalists at the same World Cup: Austin, Los Angeles and Boston. With Emerson carrying the flag, Boston's World Cup VII showed that the city would not fade away like Middlebury and capes. Boston could handle springtime World Cups and compete with warm-weather teams. 

With new confidence, Boston capitalized on the momentum and enjoyed a terrific summer of 2014. Everyday Boston summer quidditch practices generated unending hype about new players and brought the Boston quidditch community closer together. Hannah DeBaets, Harry Greenhouse, Max Havlin and Kedzie Teller represented Boston for Team USA at the Global Games. Most importantly, QC Boston underwent a momentous transformation under the leadership of Jayke Archibald. Hitting the reset button, QC Boston became less antagonistic towards local college quidditch programs. QC Boston's shift helped diffuse cross-city tensions and made the Boston Night Riders possible.

The 2014-15 season came next and produced new surprises. Graduations had exacted a toll on long-time powerhouses Emerson and BU. Ready for the challenge, Tufts and QCB quickly stepped into the spotlight. Yet, while Tufts and QCB revolutionized beating and claimed tournament titles, Emerson and (especially) BU began inspiring rebuilding efforts. For college quidditch programs, successful rebuilding efforts have been increasingly rare thanks to the heavy hand of community teams. However, BU began to do the unthinkable, regrouping and recruiting new athletes to replace
quidditch legends. With the 2015-16 season on the horizon, BU's rebuilding effort will attempt to progress further. 

Although Tufts and QCB flunked out of bracket play at World Cup 8, Boston's top quidditch players improved and matured throughout the 2014-15 season. When Ethan Sturm and Amanda Dallas unveiled Major League Quidditch, Boston was ready. 

From the beginning, Boston had all the parts to build a champion. Old teammates reunited. New teammates fit together perfectly like puzzle pieces. By the end of the season, the Night Riders' success could be explained by four key cogs. Each cog represents an aspect of the city of Boston's championship formula. Without a doubt, Boston's recipe for success will not be easy to replicate. Nevertheless, the four ingredients for the 2015 MLQ Champions are listed below.

Photo by Hannah Huddle 
The Blue Bloods exemplify Boston's storied quidditch history. Over the years, the Blue Bloods have led Boston's most successful quidditch programs, drawing eyes nationwide to Boston. Like great musical artists, the Blue Bloods have reinvented their style and adapted to the times. The Blue Bloods have kept Boston ahead of the curve.

David Fox's illustrious four-year career for Emerson began in the bygone era of World Cup V. Indeed, Fox's stardom has spanned monumental changes in quidditch. Evolving from an unstoppable power keeper to a fearsome defensive stopper, Fox's trophy case includes the Champions Series, Turtle Cup III and World Cup VII's Final Four. After showcasing mind-boggling athleticism throughout the summer, Fox's resume now boasts the Benepe Cup. 

Max Havlin was not always a beater. However, Havlin's lasting imprint on Boston quidditch has been made with bludgers. For BU, Havlin cleared out defenders and allowed Stack and Powell to wreak havoc on defenses. After claiming gold at the Global Games, Havlin and QC Boston forced the entire
Northeast to practice and develop two male beater sets. Facing stiffer competition like NYU's Kyle Jeon and Tufts' Andrew Miller, Havlin refined his craft during the 2014-15 season. With the Night Riders, Havlin rightfully earned the MLQ East MVP.

Photo by Hannah Huddle 
The Born and Breds found opportunities to develop and improve over the years thanks to Boston's unique quidditch scene. The Born and Breds entered the quidditch world without fanfare and set to work. Allowing their skills to speak for themselves, the Born and Breds eventually joined the company of the Blue Bloods. The Born and Breds show that great quidditch cities must provide competitive opportunities for all levels. B teams and lower-level college teams can produce unlikely superstars and help make quidditch cities more vibrant. In the age of community teams, quidditch cities must redouble their efforts to sustain lower-level quidditch teams.

Away from the spotlight, Harvard's Carli Haggerty quietly scored goal after goal for Boston's smallest quidditch program. Yet over time, Haggerty gained experience against national powerhouses in the MQC and participated in Boston's summer quidditch scene. This summer, Haggerty brought her scoring and passing ability to the Night Riders' deep and talented female chasing corps.

Tyler Trudeau began his quidditch career on the Boston Riot, Emerson's off-and-on B team. By the 2013-14 season, Trudeau lifted Emerson to Turtle Cup III and World Cup VII glory. Since North Myrtle Beach, Trudeau has matured as an on-pitch leader and improved his playmaking abilities. With Trudeau dishing out assists, Greenhouse-Fox-Trudeau-Baer was the Night Riders' most dependable chasing line.

Photo by Hannah Huddle 
The Homecoming Kings and Queens played college quidditch outside of New England, but quickly joined the thriving Boston summer quidditch scene. For years, Boston summer quidditch practices have been a laboratory for position changes, all-star scrimmages and new strategies. Seeking fresh ideas and renewed energy, Boston's summer quidditch scene has enthusiastically welcomed the Homecoming Kings and Queens. When MLQ was unveiled, the Homecoming Kings and Queens had already built strong chemistry with the Blue Bloods and the Born and Breds from past summers. As 
MLQ expands, quidditch cities with strong summer quidditch scenes will enjoy a considerable advantage.

No one brings more energy than Harry Greenhouse. From his pregame hype routine to his snitch catches, Greenhouse exudes confidence and determination. As a leader, Greenhouse sets the tone of high intensity and high expectations. With years of Boston summer quidditch practices, Greenhouse reached new heights as a player on the Greenhouse-Fox-Trudeau-Baer line. When Greenhouse was clicking, the Night Riders truly approached the level of World Cup VI's legendary University of Texas squad.
Photo by Hannah Huddle 
The Transplants came to Boston as college graduates and infused Boston's quidditch scene with life. Helping to maintain the city of Boston's national profile, the Transplants have steered Boston's premier community team, QC Boston: The Massacre, away from disaster. When the new season arrives, QC Boston will be prepared to compete for championships thanks to the Transplants. As a Mecca for young professionals, Boston will always have advantages over Detroit or Cleveland. However, Boston's Transplants have taken enormous strides and seized big opportunities to improve the prospects of tomorrow for Boston's quidditch scene.

At Hofstra University, Jayke Archibald and company always flew under the radar. Why? Hofstra couldn't beat Emerson or BU on the big stage. When Archibald ventured to Boston, QCB promised an invincible superteam, but couldn't deliver in the first year. Meanwhile, relations between QCB and Emerson worsened and the future of community quidditch in Boston was unclear. In the summer of 2014, Archibald captained a sinking ship to safety, embarking on a multi-year plan to claim the top spot in the Northeast. Indeed, the Night Riders, MLQ and the Benepe Cup might only be the beginning. When rosters are unveiled, QCB could be the best team outside of Texas.

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