The Wild West: Western Canada Regional Championship Preview

By Nathan Ross

The Quidditch Canada Western Regional Championship will happen on November 12 and 13 in Surrey, British Columbia, with six teams from BC and Alberta vying to capture the third annual regional championship. Nathan Ross takes a deeper look at some of the storylines and players to keep an eye out for.

Five Players to Watch
Vince Llobrera – University of Victoria Valkyries (UVic)
To say that Vince Llobrera means a lot to the University of Victoria Valkyries might be an understatement. He is the only utility player for the Valkyries and can slot in as either a chaser or a beater.

“His field awareness and unending work effort have massively elevated his play at both positions,” said Head Coach Misha Whittingham.

Having missed the Valkyries’ only official Quidditch Canada games this season, Llobrera should be a surprise to all the teams at the championship, no matter which position he ends up playing. Whittingham said he is excited to see how much Llobrera can grow, which means that spectators can expect to see UVic lean on him heavily as they search for their first win in over a year.

Alexes Hushlak – Calgary Mavericks
Alexes Hushlak is a new keeper this season for the also new Calgary Mavericks, and a player that Mavericks Head Coach Christopher Day singled out as someone who could potentially break out at the Western Canada Regional Championships. Despite being held off the scoreboard at Octobear 2016, Hushlak’s athletic prowess and rugby background were on display, and the crowd took notice. One area Hushlak needs to step up at in this regional championship is his knowledge of the rules, as he received a red card in his first-ever Quidditch Canada game and has taken at least one penalty in the majority of games he has played this year.

Alyssa Au – Simon Fraser University Quidditch (SFU)
Last year, SFU redefined itself as a team that preferred to go with a hyper-aggressive beater unit, and Alyssa Au returns as one of the “core four” from last year to continue that tradition. Though Au is on the smaller side, she more than makes up for it with her feisty attitude, as she is perhaps just as dangerous with a bludger as she is without one. Her ability to steal and tie up opponent beaters is a huge benefit to SFU. With the team’s chaser lineup boasting a lot of new faces, look for Au and the rest of SFU’s beaters to keep the team competitive.

Talia Angell – Edmonton Aurors
The new Edmonton Aurors team is coached by Team Canada Head Coach Chris Radojewski, so the team’s mix of veterans and rookies benefits from the wealth of experience that he brings. One of the rookies who should shine at the regional championship is chaser Talia Angell.

A “young chaser where the sky is the limit,” according to Radojewski, Angell is already used to high-pressure games, scoring twice in her first tournament back at Octobear. The second goal was at a particularly clutch time, as she scored for the Aurors in the championship game where the team ultimately fell to the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds Sport Club (TSC) in overtime. Look for Angell to play a part in helping Edmonton try to exact revenge for its previous losses.

Ardy Ferguson – University of British Columbia Quidditch Club (UBCQC)
The rebranded University of British Columbia Quidditch Club (formerly just British Columbia Quidditch Club) is looking to emerge from the shadows of the Thunderbirds Sport Club, the official school team at UBC. One of the players UBCQC is hoping can lead the way is one of the team’s two new captains, Ardy Ferguson. A beater for BCQC last year, Ferguson comes into the 2016-17 season as a leader on UBCQC. In fact, head coach Patrick Fuller believes that Ferguson is one of the best beaters to be found on either of the UBC teams. Look for him to step up as UBCQC does its best to show that it is not just a B team.

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Ardy Ferguson at the Team Instinct Invitational | Photo Credit: Danny Ly

Three Burning Questions
Which SFU team shows up?
SFU was thought to have turned a corner last year, joining the upper echelon in quidditch in Western Canada after several impressive displays, namely at the last Western Canada Regional Championship and the Subdued Excitement Showdown in Bellingham, Washington. However, SFU is winless on the season and its roster only slightly resembles last year’s team, as the team has been plagued by both departures and injuries.

SFU will bring all new keepers to the regional championship, as last year’s tandem of James Champion and then-rookie Avery Herbert are both currently outside Canada. While chasers Alexander Boom and Mark Szakun have been forced to take on leadership roles due to the absence of other team veterans, the team has been challenged with getting the chaser lineup familiar with the basics of quidditch instead of perfecting skills and strategies.

The biggest benefit that SFU has going for it is the team’s beater corps, which includes long time SFU veteran beater Philomena Chenne and sophomore Raymond Ly. The four of them, along with the new additions to the beater corps this season, will look to energize the team, while SFU’s chaser, keeper, and seeker positions remain a giant question mark. With a slew of rookies trying to show where SFU ranks among teams this season, it is anyone’s guess what SFU will look like at this regional championship.

Do the University of Victoria Valkyries finally get a win?
Last year, it was no secret that the University of Victoria Valkyries went the entire season without a win. Even when the team played the Nanaimo Nightwings, a team so new the players were still using regular cleaning brooms, UVic failed to come away with a W. The team is still 0-3 at this point in the season, failing to win a game at Octobear. The Valkyries were outscored 430-160 in those games, and the hope is that this year is not a repeat of last year. However, it should be pointed out that UVic was leading against the Calgary Mavericks when the snitch came out, and was only playing that tournament with 12 players, a fraction of its roster. Furthermore, only six of those 12 players are actually on the team this season, as temporary recruitments for the Octobear tournament, such as former player David Warburton and Team Canada beater Ema Shiroma-Chao, are not playing with UVic this season.

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UVic preparing for brooms up at Octobear 2016 | Photo Credit: JYK Photography

Since Victoria is hosting the national championship later in April, team captain Misha Whittingham wants the Valkyries to prove to Canada that they will be more than just a host team.

“We want to show the rest of Canada that we are a team to watch out for during nationals, and not just the lucky hosts,” Whittingham said. “We’ve earned our place on the map, and it’s time we let everyone else know.”

Whittingham believes that the team will come third, ahead of SFU, UBCQC, and Calgary. To do that, UVic is going to need to get that elusive win.

Does the Regional Champion come from Alberta again?
Last year, the now-defunct Alberta Clippers beat SFU in the Western Regional Championships to claim the top spot. The Clippers no longer exist, which means that this year’s regional championship will have a new winner. Many are picking TSC to win, which makes sense given that the team already has two tournament wins under its belt this season, having won Octobear as well as the Team Instinct Invitational, which they hosted. TSC has finally joined Quidditch Canada after playing the last few years in USQ, and the team is looking to prove it is the best in Western Canada.

However, TSC could potentially not even be the best team that shows up from the University of British Columbia, as UBCQC head coach Patrick Fuller believes that this could be the team’s time to shine.

“We’re a stronger team than previous years, and this tournament is our time to show it,” he said, acknowledging that there is always a worry that they are just the B team at UBC.

This could be a time to go big or go home for all the teams, and players like Chris Radojewski are not convinced that any team is head and shoulders above the rest.

“I think it is clear that there is competition in the West, and that teams are not so far apart,” Radojewski said. “While some teams may be stronger, playing styles can sometimes make for some really close games despite what you think otherwise.”

His Edmonton Aurors are looking to continue the success of the aforementioned Clippers, as many players from Alberta have ended up on Edmonton. Do either Calgary or Edmonton, the spinoffs from the Clippers, have what it takes to bring the championship back to Alberta? Or will a new champion come from as west as it gets in Canada, with a British Columbia team rising up?

Western Canada Regional Champion Pick – Edmonton Aurors
It was difficult to choose, but the Edmonton Aurors are the pick for the Western Canada Regional Championships. It is tough to go against the grain and not select the TSC, but at the end of the day, the Aurors get the nod. The TSC is riding high after two tournament wins, but the loss of so many players from last season (all TSC players must be active UBC students) will play a factor here. TSC does not have a roster that can remain unchallenged by any other team in the West as was the case before.

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Indiana Nikel will be crucial to the Aurors’ success at the regional championship | Photo Credit: JYK Photography

Calgary Mavericks head coach Christopher Day said, “[Edmonton] probably has some of the strongest overall chaser lines in the West as well as – in my opinion – the best seeker in Canada.” With penalties still an issue for TSC with the aggressive style of Head Coach Lendl Magsipoc, the Aurors have the edge here thanks to Team Canada Coach Chris Radojewski. The Aurors will probably also need just a bit of luck, but after falling to TSC in overtime once this year, they are due. Look for them to collect and win the Western Canada Regional Championship.