By François Carabin
Editor’s Note: François Carabin is a player for Quidditch Lionel-Groulx.
In its first year as a Quidditch Canada team, Quidditch Lionel-Groulx (QLG) is looking to turn heads with its competitive play. The team from Sainte-Thérèse, Quebec, based in a CEGEP (a transitional school that starts after high school in which students take pre-university or professional courses), enters the league with great expectations for itself. Lionel-Groulx knows that its competition is fierce, but a top 10 finish at the Eastern Regional Championship in November is far from unachievable. In fact, the team believes it could surpass that feat.
Julien Bernier, the player-coach of Lionel-Groulx, has no doubt that the team will place in the middle of the pack at regionals. There is a possibility to place beyond that, but there is a lot of work to be done, according to Bernier.
“I would love to think we can make the top five,” Bernier said. “But realistically, there are teams in front of us who have been playing for years.”
The squad is not new to quidditch, as it played a full year as part of Montreal’s CEGEP league, Fédération Québécoise de Quidditch, last year. Lionel-Groulx’s campaign ended with a disappointing loss in the championship game, but the passion for the game was ignited in many players’ hearts. A few months later, Bernier contacted Quidditch Canada to launch the process of making the team an official member.
As the only CEGEP squad in Quidditch Canada, QLG fields a different roster: it is mainly made up of players under the age of twenty. However, fourteen of them have previous experience with competitive quidditch, as they took part in last year’s campaign. Six new faces have also joined the squad to face this year’s challenge.
Inexperience does not indicate failure, however. According to Bernier, the young age of most players is far from a disadvantage, and the experience acquired by some older players could be very helpful to rookies.
“Not a lot of people know that some of our players have already been playing for more than a year now,” Bernier said.
The knowledge of the game is there for a lot of team members, and it just needs to show on the field.
“In fact, we probably have more familiarity with the game than some established teams,” Bernier stated. “For instance, I think that’s the main reason we have won most of our brooms up so far. Other teams don’t expect us to be that explosive and effective from the start.”
Jacinthe Pilette, a second year beater for QLG, agreed with Bernier.
“It gives us an edge because other teams don’t know what to expect,” she said. “They don’t know our style of play, the capacities of our players, which players to watch, and so on.”
A good start to the season
At QLG’s first tournament of the year, Vive Le Quidditch Libre III – A Montreal Tournament, the young squad had a very positive outcome, as it ended the day with two wins out of three games. The team’s only loss came at the hands of a very experienced McGill team, who went on to claim third place.
One week later, QLG captured second place at the Fall Classic Tournament in Scarbourough, Ontario. Two wins in pool play, as well as a close win against host UTSC Phoenix, propelled QLG to the final. The team’s inexperience finally showed in the final against a dominant Queen’s University Quidditch team, where QLG lost 150*-30.
Throughout both tournaments, QLG displayed great physicality and speed. However, 31 cards in seven games proved that the squad needs to acquire a better understanding of the game and contact rules.
“We have been very aggressive, even though the majority of the team is new to full contact,” Bernier said. “I have always considered aggressiveness to be the most effective attribute to seek victory in a quidditch club. Therefore, with the penalty problem resolved, this team is one to watch.”
Bernier says the team’s effective beater line also helps the chasers gain confidence and set up their plays by going past midfield in most situations. That way, QLG has the possibility to establish a game plan based on quick cuts and communication.
“Our beaters have a lot of potential,” Pilette said. “As soon as they get more guidance, they can become great.”
Pilette believes that a more offensively-oriented beater play would help the chasers get more easily in the offensive zone. According to her, “[the team has] very talented beaters when you look at their individual capacities; what [they] need to do is concentrate on communication and team play.”
The talent is there for the chasers, but a lack of communication can lead to rushed plays.
“Communication between chasers isn’t that great,” said Bernier. “Our team needs to stop relying on individual talents and execute the game plan without depending on the stronger chasers to get the quaffle through the hoops.”
He also says that the chaser line could use better understanding of the game so they will stop forcing plays, which often leads to turnovers.
Keeping the team together
Since the team is relatively new to quidditch and based in a CEGEP, a school in which students only tend to spend two or three years, it is difficult to maintain a core group of players for a long time. QLG’s players will do everything to continue building the squad, however, as they think the potential is there.
“This season is very short and there is a lot we need to work on to reach a higher level, but we will get there next year!” Bernier said.
First-year keeper and chaser Mahdi Elyamani has no doubt the success of the team is through recruitment.
“To keep the team in place,” he said, “we [will] need to install kiosks to attract new players and talk about the sport.”
Félix Paquet, another rookie, thinks the team needs to embrace its identity to have success.
“I see the squads we’ll form in the next few years as young, fresh, and potentially very strong,” he said.
As the regionals approach, Quidditch Lionel-Groulx expects to show the league how it can play. The team will want to prove that it is here to stay and will be motivated to surprise the rest of the league.
“This team is scary talented,” Bernier said. “Part of this group may become with time some of the best Canadian quidditch players. There is no doubt in my mind that we have a lot of potential.”