By Misha Whittingham
Editor’s Note: Misha Whittingham plays for the University of Victoria Valkyries.
The Quidditch Conference of the Northwest (QCON) continued its inaugural season with a pair of closely-fought series in Seattle, WA and Burnaby, BC, with six of the nine teams in the conference in action on Dec. 3. The absences were the incumbent powerhouses Rain City Raptors and University of British Columbia Thunderbirds Sports Club (UBC), both away attending other events for the weekend, while the Portland Augureys could not produce a full roster to participate.
Burnaby, British Columbia
Simon Fraser University Quidditch (SFU)
University of British Columbia Quidditch Club (UBCQC)
Burnaby hosted a series of three snitch-range games between what appeared to be very well-matched teams. Already suffering from an unexpected forfeit in November, UBCQC was forced to forfeit both games played December 3 due to a controversial roster violation, in which a select few players from UBC were also on UBCQC’s roster. As such, the team has been left winless and pointless in the standings going into 2017. The secondary UBC squad still played out its games (which they won 90*-30 against SFU and 80-60* against the Vipertooths), displaying strong chaser defense in relief of beater play that was uncharacteristically weak.
The lone QCON official game played in Burnaby on Dec. 3rd ended 110*-60 for Vipertooths over SFU. The Vipertooths displayed a strong cycling chaser offense throughout the game, but it was the driving play of keeper Mathias Wienicke that produced the majority of their goals. SFU was unable to press any advantage with its bludger play with an uncharacteristically poor performance by its beater corps, and as a result, was only kept in range by its driving chaser play. With the Vipertooths’ beaters able to control more of the game than anticipated, SFU was unable to buy enough time with the snitch and came away from the series without a catch. This game also pushed the Vipertooths to the top of the QCON standings, a position they will have to fight hard to maintain come the new year.
Emerald City Admirals (ECA)
University of Victoria Valkyries (UVic)
Western Washington University Wyverns (WWU)
The theme of the games in Seattle was depleted squads. No team attending had more than 15 players on their roster, with the UVic squad bringing a minuscule eight game-healthy players. Despite the small roster sizes, the games were hard-fought on all sides.
WWU came away with two wins out of snitch range on December 3. The Wyverns’ aggressive beater play wreaked havoc on the defensively-minded Valkyries beaters, while the Admirals were unable to match WWU’s beating intensity either offensively or defensively. On top of the strong beater play, WWU maintained sharp offensive passing throughout both of its games. The leadership of beater Megan Boice and keeper Abe Nurkiewicz on-pitch is noticeable on this youthful team and inspired strong play from their linemates. The result of their efforts was a pair of 150*-60 victories; though in both situations, an overreliance on beater defense, especially with snitch-on-pitch, kept the Wyverns from running away with the score. If WWU is able to shore up its chaser defense, a full squad should be able to pose a real threat to rest of the conference.
The games in Seattle also saw the first win of the season for the host Emerald City Admirals. The Admirals showcased an offense reliant on heroballing while capitalizing from turnovers, aided by their highly aggressive defensive style. However, when slowed down, their beaters were ineffective offensively and their chasers were left with no option but to fruitlessly drive on a fully-prepared defense. This style kept things interesting against WWU and brought the Admirals ahead early against UVic, though both teams were able to find their own way around the Admirals’ defensive structure. The Admirals used their chaser play and some strong seeking from Nicholas Ryder to pull out a 100*-60 win over UVic for their first of the season.
The UVic Valkyries came to Seattle with only eight players, plus injured coach Misha Whittingham. This roster included only three non-female players, forcing a great deal of line juggling by the injured bench boss. Leading scorer David Warburton was the key piece for the majority of the team’s offence, scoring all but one of the team’s 12 goals. UVic used its three beaters to create just enough space for Warburton and one of the two female keepers to produce methodical, but predictable, offensive plays. As ever, the Valkyries were kept afloat by the skill of their intense chaser defense. With a diminutive roster such as theirs, however, it also served to exhaust them. Strong snitch-on-pitch play from the team’s beaters managed to keep their games going, but without any seekers on the roster with experience beyond this month, their efforts were fruitless. Against the Admirals, the Valkyries were able to produce a large number of quality drives from their keepers Soleil Heaney and Teigan Miller-Gauthier, but inexperience in that area showed and neither player was able to capitalize, keeping the game close and eventually losing by snitch catch.
Takeaways from December
- Beater superiority isn’t BS
Across the games played on Dec. 3, there was a common trend that beater play controlled game outcomes. The teams that exhibited strong or cohesive beating – WWU and the Vancouver Vipertooths – came out on top. Those teams that relied on chaser play or showed uncharacteristic drops in beater performance suffered as a result. Though it should not be a surprise by now, the quality and cohesion of beater play has become instrumental to team success in the Pacific Northwest. This is especially true as most QCON teams are still heavily reliant on hero drives to create scoring chances. Without offensive support from beaters making space for quaffle carriers, those drive-heavy offenses are left out to dry. This was exceedingly apparent in QCON this December, with only the Vipertooths displaying any kind of offensive structure that did not rely on beater play.
- Parity party!
With the most historically dominant teams in QCON away for the month, the rest of the conference saw extremely close games. No team was ever left feeling that it was left without a fighting chance, with each team exhibiting skills and weaknesses at more or less the same rate as the others. Young teams like UVic and WWU have seen definite improvements in their newer players, while teams like SFU and UBCQC have not pulled as far ahead as expected. The result is a conference full of exciting, close games. This kind of close competition can only serve to help QCON and should provide some phenomenal playoff series when March swings around.
- Do the standings lie?
As we enter the new year, Vancouver sits atop the conference with 11 points, while UBCQC has yet to record any points. Forfeitures have played a large role in constructing that. Of UBCQC’s four games played so far, three have been forfeited, with the only recorded score being a 120*-40 loss to UVic in November. The Vancouver Vipertooths have been the lucky benefactors of two of those forfeitures, though their other two wins were rather convincing. The standings, therefore, do not entirely reflect the actual skill of the teams involved. UBCQC may be inconsistent and perhaps not as good as predicted, but it is hard to believe that the team would sit pointless through four games, and assuming the forfeits cease, those point totals should rise. Conversely, while the Vancouver Vipertooths have shown remarkable skill so far, they have yet to face up against the conferences incumbent powerhouses and their numbers are propped up by points not reflective of their play. As we move into 2017, it should not be shocking for both teams to rebound to less extreme records, but do not be surprised if a four-point difference massively affects bracket seeding come playoffs in March.
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)