Friday, October 16, 2015

Triangles, Transfers and Keystone Cup II

It's mid-October and another Keystone Cup has come and gone. Once again, I feel incredibly privileged to have the opportunity to host my own tournament in my hometown. Since late July, I've worked hard to provide competitive opportunities for top quidditch programs and present quidditch to my local community. I recruited and selected teams and I laid the groundwork for a timely tournament. I am a perfectionist and I can proudly say that Keystone Cup II was another all-around success. Now, let's get down to business! Last year, I didn't have the opportunity to write about my tournament. Luckily, I found some time this year to share my thoughts on an exciting day of quidditch!

RPI Engineers a Cinderella Run
As the inaugural Major League Quidditch season wrapped up in mid-August, I began to consider extending an invitation to RPI for Keystone Cup II. Teddy Costa was zipping around pitches for the Boston Night Riders and Mario Nasta was playing consistently for the New York Titans. I believed that Costa could provide some offensive fireworks and Nasta could duel with the tournament's top beaters. I did not imagine that RPI would unfurl an effective triangle offense and surge into the championship game.

RPI's breakout performance at Keystone Cup II was definitely unexpected. RPI's chasers are undersized and inexperienced. Without Costa, RPI lacks a go-to scorer. It was reasonable to predict that RPI would struggle offensively. After traveling four hours to Haverford, Pennsylvania, RPI had other plans. Contrasting with direct, linear offenses, RPI has mastered quidditch geometry and adopted a skillful triangle offense. RPI's triangle offense compensates for lack of size, lack of physicality and lack of playmakers. Chasers zip the quaffle around, passing unselfishly and moving constantly. It's like a pinball machine or tiki-taka.
Photo by Caleb Eckert
Undoubtedly, RPI's triangle offense stems from Ball State's rhythmic ball movement and high-percentage passing. And indeed, both Ball State and RPI have been accused of slow-balling. Right now, I see no problem with possession-oriented quidditch. For the past two years, Keystone Cup has hosted Ball State and RPI. I am confident that both teams have produced attractive quidditch and enhanced the spectator experience at Keystone Cup.

Second Time's the Charm
After falling short to Ball State at the inaugural event, NYU dispatched RPI in the championship game and took home the Keystone Cup trophy. Mostly, NYU showed us more of the same. Once again, NYU played to the level of its opponents and caught snitches. On Saturday, NYU played down to the level of its opponents, narrowly escaping snitch range contests with George Mason, Virginia, DCQC and RPI. Yet, NYU's undefeated day seemed to indicate that the Northeast would be an evenly-matched region.

Photo by Caleb Eckert
When the Eighth Man announced Kyle Jeon's departure for QC Boston, I was definitely surprised. Stepping away from his alma mater, Jeon did not want to interfere with NYU's new leadership or steal minutes from new recruits. I respect Jeon's decision and I'm semi-optimistic about NYU's future. Nevertheless, as a quidditch analyst, I'm disappointed. I can't imagine that NYU will compete with an upgraded QC Boston roster anymore. Adding beater Leeanne Dillmann to last year's winning formula, NYU's beating will never be completely overwhelmed. However, QC Boston's potential beating duo of Max Havlin and Kyle Jeon could be unrivaled in the history of East Coast quidditch. If NYU (or anybody else) somehow stays within snitch range of QC Boston, Harry Greenhouse, Tyler Trudeau and Kyle Jeon, who caught three game-winning snitches at Keystone Cup, will be waiting.

Community Outlier
As analysts quickly pointed out, community teams seemingly underperformed at Keystone Cup. DCQC finished 3-3, falling to the Warriors and NYU twice. Despite inserting chaser David Fox into the lineup, the Warriors unexpectedly dropped matches to Virginia and RPI. In August, I announced that I would reserve six Keystone Cup spots for college quidditch programs, leaving two spots for community teams. I stuck to my word and I always expected that one or both community teams would play in the finals. As the Eighth Man livestreamed the championship game between two colleges, my proclamations about the decline of college quidditch must have seemed ill-considered. However, I believe Keystone Cup misrepresented the college/community dynamic and my tournament will be remembered as an outlier. Let's look more closely at both community teams.

My patience is definitely running out with the Warriors, but I'm prepared to give New York City's premier community team one final chance. At Keystone Cup, the Warriors immediately threw unfamiliar players into significant roles. Whereas new additions to Rochester United or QC Boston gelled with old players during the Major League Quidditch season, the Warriors' summer acquisitions were not involved with the New York Titans. David Fox starred for the Boston Night Riders, Ricky Nelson appeared for the Washington Admirals and Santiago Gonzalez did not play for an MLQ franchise. If they continue to practice regularly, the Warriors will likely turn it around. Nelson upgrades the Warriors' historically imperfect beating corps (although failing to add Luke Changet, who moved to the New York area and joined Tri-State Lightning, could still be costly). Fox, who shut down RPI's triangle offense in the semifinals, strengthens the Warriors' defense immeasurably. I might be making excuses, but I believe the Warriors's semifinal exist belied sunny days ahead.

The future looks even brighter for DCQC. At the beginning of the season, quidditch pundits predicted that DCQC, the Washington area's premier community team, would revolve around chasers Max Miceli and Darren Creary. Unfortunately, Creary could not attend Keystone Cup; I wondered whether DCQC could handle its tough schedule. Despite three losses, DCQC clearly exceeded expectations. DCQC played two snitch range games with NYU, looking on-par with the eventual tournament champions. James Hicks eased concerns about DCQC's beating game with a positive performance. When Hicks cleared out defenses and Miceli combined with former teammate Andrew McGregor, DCQC bore striking similarities to last year's UNC. Once Creary returns to the lineup, DCQC could meet and exceed 2014-15 UNC's finishes at regionals and World Cup.

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