By Serena Cheong and Austin Wallace
Editor’s Note: Serena Cheong is one of the co-commissioners of QCON and plays for Simon Fraser University Quidditch. Austin Wallace plays for the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds Sports Club.
QCON, or Quidditch Conference of the Northwest, kicked off its inaugural opening weekend on November 5-6, with nine teams from the American and Canadian Pacific Northwest (PNW) competing in round robin games in one of three locatiosns: Seattle, Washington; Bellingham, Washington; and Victoria, British Columbia. Perhaps it is still early into this young season, but there are already signs of change in this region that can be seen from the results of QCON’s November games.
University of British Columbia TSC (UBC)
Western Washington University Wyverns (WWU)
In stereotypical PNW weather, UBC, Portland, and WWU played their set of games in the wind, rain, and mud at the WWU campus in Bellingham, Washington. Though most teams were scheduled to play two games each, both UBC and Portland were to miss next month’s QCON games due to a scheduling conflict, so they played an extra set of games against each other to make up for those lost games.
The big storyline to come out of this was the SWIM-range game between a rebuilding WWU squad, mostly comprised of rookies, and the Augureys augmented by unaffiliated Vancouver players Taylor Attrill and Jonathan Griggs. With the new additions, Portland was able to get 30 points up on WWU in the early going, despite a roster of eight players. The Augureys have had consistently low turnout in their two years of existence; as a result, they often lack beaters to make room for their strong driving, but Attrill proved to be a crucial addition to their beater corps. The elder statesperson of the team, Jess Robertson, scored the vast majority of the goals with strong drives through multiple players. Portland kept a WWU squad that was twice its size within SWIM range before Abe Nurkiewicz pulled the snitch to give WWU a 160*-110 win.
On a slightly more expected note, UBC won all three of its games out of SWIM range and looked to be a dominant force in the conference. In fact, UBC leads QCON in points with 10 points in four games (although the Rain City Raptors have a higher points per game ratio, as they have not played all of their makeup games for December yet) and quaffle point differential (QPD), with +370 on the season thus far. The high-scoring UBC team also boasted goals from every one of the 12 chasers it brought to Bellingham, save a beater who was pressed into donning the white headband for emergency shifts. The scoring diversity was a reassuring divergence from the previous two tournaments, when Team Canada chaser Cameron Cutler scored the majority of the team’s goals. With a lethal fast break game, and a diverse set offense, UBC should be well-equipped to score against most teams. The only concern is that the majority of goals scored against the team were on bludgerless drives, and UBC wasn’t able to bring its marks to the ground with any regularity. Though the team’s tackling improved as the day went along, it will have to be a point of focus for a UBC team that is smaller and faster than previous years.
WWU continued with its rebuild from last season, with even more veteran players graduating and leaving for the Rain City Raptors. With a SWIM-range win against a tiny Augureys’ roster and a blowout loss to UBC, the Wyverns left the opening weekend with only two points and a negative QPD. Their offense was relatively rudimentary and didn’t display much creativity or foresight, and their depth was overmatched against both Portland and UBC. They have a bright future with an enthusiastic, young, and relatively athletic squad, but it will be a battle for veteran stars Jacob Keith and Abe Nurkiewicz to carry this team to challenge for a third- or fourth-place QCON finish.
Emerald City Admirals
Rain City Raptors
Simon Fraser University Quidditch (SFU)
As with the teams playing in Bellingham, those in Seattle also contended with the constant downpour of rain and windy conditions. Fortunately, they were saved from mud, as the games were hosted on a turf field at Seattle Pacific University (SPU); Nicholas Ryder, a student of SPU and player for Emerald City, managed to book a field in time for Seattle’s first set of quidditch games this season, in an effort to get a team started at the university.
Seattle produced its own interesting takeaways from the opening weekend, though not as surprising as the other two groups. Most notably, SFU picked up its first win of the season, showing flashes of the team that rose up the ranks of this region last season. With a more complete roster than the one it brought to last month’s Team Instinct Invitational, and bolstered by the addition of keeper Avery Herbert, SFU began the day with a dominating win over the Emerald City Admirals in a marathon 35-minute game. The team played better defence than last seen at Team Instinct, as it brought its usual keepers this time around; it showed in its game against Rain City, where SFU kept the game close in the first half until inexperience and a disparity in elite talent caused it to fall apart defensively and allowed Rain City to pull away.
Rain City, as expected, had a great showing as well, and currently lead QCON in points per game. Both SFU and Emerald City proved no match for the Raptors, who methodically dismantled the teams offensively, with Ross Schram von Haupt leading the charge as their primary driver, and defensively, where they effectively executed the Baylor defence. Though the Raptors have had only one game within SWIM range (against UBC at the Team Instinct Invitational in October), their perfect snitch catch percentage will prove to be useful in future QCON games, as they are set for a rematch against a more experienced UBC squad on Jan. 14, 2017.
Emerald City definitely felt the loss of Eric Andres, founder and captain/coach of last season, and it showed, as the team only managed to score three goals this weekend and left Seattle with no points. However, the Admirals may have a replacement in Ivan Magaña, a new addition to the team this season. He acted as their main ball carrier in both games and had a talent for offensive drives, but the lack of offensive beater support from his own team meant that most of these drives were done in vain. Ryder, another new addition to the team, proved to be the Admirals’ most lethal beater and was all over the pitch causing havoc on offence and defence. Nonetheless, the Admirals will need to have a better showing on December 3, when they host WWU and the University of Victoria Valkyries, if they want to move up the standings.
Victoria, British Columbia
University of British Columbia Quidditch Club (UBCQC)
University of Victoria Valkyries (UVic)
The games held in Victoria, BC were perhaps the most unpredictable of QCON’s opening weekend, starting with the stark lack of rain in comparison to the other two series. In a series wrought with logistical issues, including UBCQC’s delay in arriving at the University of Victoria campus and its subsequent forfeit to catch the ferry, the results of all three games proved to be the major talking points of the weekend.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the weekend was UVic’s first win in over a year, albeit against a very depleted UBCQC squad. The game started out in a chaotic fashion, with UBCQC’s primary seeker Joey Krahn receiving a red card for charging a helpless receiver prior to the end of the seeker floor. UVic capitalized on this opportunity offensively with its three main quaffle carriers and racked up the score to put the game out of SWIM range to eventually win 120*-40. Unfortunately, the thrill of winning was quickly replaced with a shutout loss against the revamped Vipertooths. UVic’s beaters remained overtly passive on both ends of the pitch, especially against a much more aggressive Vipertooths beater squad. As a result, the drive-heavy offence of UVic was completely negated in its game against the more experienced Vipertooths. Though the UVic team that showed up on November 6 was a marked improvement from seasons past, it is yet to be seen how it will match up against the rest of the conference.
Though they are no longer in Quidditch Canada, the Vancouver Vipertooths showed very well in their game against UVic and may have rebounded from their disastrous season. Not many people expected them to be ranked third in standings, but the Vipertooths have proved that they are a new and improved team. Although they only played one game against the hosting Valkyries, the Vipertooths played a clinical game and shutout the Valkyries enroute to a 100*-0 victory. Bolstered by their new acquisitions, such as former UBC player Robert Jacobson and former BCQC (now UBCQC) player Eli Zhang, the Vipertooths played a very aggressive beating game against UVic, who failed to find a way to maintain bludger control for much of the game. Vancouver managed to use this bludger control to support its highly aggressive chaser defense, and as a result, few of the Valkyries’ offensive plays were able to make it past half-pitch. Though one of their snitch catches is attributed to UBCQC’s forfeit, the Vipertooths’ seeking game remains one of their strongest weapons, with veteran seeker David St. Germain leading the charge.
UBCQC had a great showing at Team Instinct a month before, but was unfortunately missing key players, such as Louis Leung and Erica Milley, from its last set of games. A nine-person roster, further decreased by the injury of veteran beater Brandon Rivas, struggled against a much larger UVic team. There was a lack of cohesion in its first game against UVic (UBCQC played UVic twice to satisfy regional requirements, but the second game does not count towards QCON standings), especially when Krahn, UBCQC’s primary seeker and quaffle carrier, received a red card. The team performed better in its second game against UVic, so one has to wonder which team will show up to QCON’s December games: the team we saw at Team Instinct, the one that barely made it out alive in Victoria, or perhaps the team that we saw in Quidditch Canada’s Western Regional Championship?
Takeaways from November
1. Status quo ain’t no mo’?
One thing is for sure: the status quo will be challenged. Although the top two teams (UBC and Rain City) will most likely remain the same, the remainder of the conference looks like it will show far more parity than first anticipated. Even between the top teams, there seems to be a narrowing of the gap between Rain City, who has traditionally been the clear-cut winner of most of its games in the region, and UBC, who recently only suffered a SWIM-range loss to its longtime rivals. It will be interesting to see how this plays out in the following months and the impact this newfound parity will have in both western Canada and USQ Northwest.
2. Another day, another discussion about the gender rule
The intricacies of a cross-border conference are as interesting as they are numerous, and none is as big as the gender rule. Canada recently adopted the IQA’s modified gender rule (7.1.3.), which does not exclude the seeker from the four maximum rule. This created confusion on both sides as to which version of the rule QCON games will adopt, but it was ultimately ruled that all QCON games, minus those which are also QC official, will conform to the old USQ gender rule. This is just one example as to the confusion of having two different rulebooks, and it remains to be seen what other issues may arise in the future.
3. Drivin’ on a Prayer
As it has been in seasons past, the region that QCON encompasses still primarily uses a drive-heavy offence; this is seen in top teams such Rain City and UBC, who have multiple excellent quaffle carriers, and those on the bottom half of the standings, who rely on one or two quaffle carriers as their sole source of offence. Consequently, defences in the region have adapted or attempted to adapt to this dominant offensive system. The question now is how these teams will adapt to non-QCON offences that may be more pass-heavy that will require more complex team defences. Will there be more diversity seen in offensive systems as we continue further into the season, or will the region allow itself to be pigeonholed into playing one brand of quidditch?
Misha Whittingham contributed to the reporting.
GP – Games Played
W – Out of SWIM Range Win – 3 points
SW – Within SWIM Range Win – 2 points
SL – Within SWIM Range Loss – 1 point
L – Out of SWIM Range Loss – 0 points
QPF – Quaffle Points For
QPA – Quaffle Points Against
QPD – Quaffle Point Differential (QPF – QPA)
SC – Snitch Catch
SC% – Snitch Catch Percentage (SC/GP)