By Ida Meyenberg and Christian Zimpelmann
Editor’s Note: Ida Meyenberg is a player for Three River Dragons Passau and the Logistics Manager for the German Winter Games, and Christian Zimpelmann is a player for Rheinos Bonn.
On January 14-15, 18 teams will compete in Munich for the three German spots at the European Quidditch Cup (EQC). The German Winter Games (Deutsche Quidditch-Winterspiele, DQWS) are going to be the second biggest tournament in Germany so far, almost catching up with the World Cup last year. As the competition for the free EQC spots is three times bigger than last year, we can expect exciting and narrow matches. The experience of the participating teams differs substantially, ranging from three months to more than three years. In this article, we want to shortly introduce and illuminate the potential of the competing teams.
Bonn can present a very experienced and physically strong squad, as almost all of their players who attended German Cup 2016 and EQC 2016 are also playing during this tournament. The team has a lot of well-known and feared key players, such as Leander Troll, Sebastian Elster, and young talent Leon Bürgers. Nevertheless, the injury of Team Germany chaser Ewelina Wolska leaves a huge gap in the otherwise strong chaser game. The remaining chasers, like Hanna Große and former NTNUI player Anneke Müller, need to prove that they are able to compensate for this loss.
Focusing more on their physical dominance last year, we can expect a very strong tactical game during DQWS. Bonn mainly utilises an aggressive beater game to start the offensive, while the chasers quickly follow suit towards the hoops. With their quick passes and hidden quaffle handovers, the opponent is more often than not left completely confused. Ending up in a group with considerably weaker teams than themselves can both be a blessing and a curse for the Rheinos.
Being the winner of both the German Championship and the NRW League 2016, many people predict Bonn to win this year’s Winter Games as well. Surprisingly, the games against Ruhr Phoenix – Bochum during the NRW League were astonishingly close matches, which were only saved for Bonn through snitch catches by rookie seeker Till Wagner. This definitely promises some unexpected turns and an overall tension for the DQWS, as Bochum is more than eager to finally beat their NRW rival.
So far, Jena have been known as a highly motivated but physically less strong team. They can look back on intense tackle sessions from the summer, where Australian World Cup champion and seeker Dameon Osborn stepped in to show them the ropes. Being one of the newer teams in East Germany, they showed some good performances at Bluecup, ultimately finishing third. Although they lost all of their friendlies this season against Looping Lux Leipzig, Passau, and the Danube Direwolves, their playing style has developed with every game. Jena’s not-as-strong beater game might be compensated through dynamic chaser game, led by keeper and coach Stephan Brosch and Jessica Senftleben. With some still unknown talents on their squad, Jena Jobberknolls may get the chance to show that they are to be reckoned with and that they have so far been underestimated.
The Hamburg Werewolves obviously do not fear tournaments, as they managed to send a team to Bluecup only one month after founding their team. Additionally, they have the longest journey to Munich, so expect them to be highly motivated! Although they are a very young team, they can look back at friendlies against the Bremen Portkeys, a narrow defeat by Darmstadt Athenas, and even some scores against the Paris Titans during their match in November. They have grown together as a team very quickly, which can also be seen by looking at their playing style on pitch. It has obviously benefitted the team that French national player Léonard Podetti joined them this season, and it remains to be seen how the Werewolves can utilise impulses he may have inspired for the DQWS.
Still struggling with their role as complete outsiders at the last German Championship, the Thestrals have had plenty of time and friendlies during the last year to gain more experience on pitch. They gave the community quite a surprise when they managed to take home close wins against Darmstadt and Frankfurt in December, as the two older teams were expected to outplay the Thestrals easily. On the other hand, Tübingen were narrowly beaten by Freiburg’s Black Forest Bowtruckles during a friendly. This makes them very hard to predict, as no one really knows what to expect of this team. It remains to be seen how much influence the former Aemona Argonauts players Borut Bezgovšek and Verena Deutsch have had on this team, as they trained with Tübingen for several months in the autumn.
The host of this year’s Winter Games is a rather small, young, but passionate team. With Barcelona Eagles Captain Chema Hidalgo López and former NTNUI player Gregor Sturm giving them some initial aid and coaching during their foundation time, Münchner Wolpertinger gained quite some experience from these top players. Lacking both of them in their team now leaves quite a hole, which is partially filled with captain René Schneider, who is definitely a player to watch out for.
Munich played as a merc team with Augsburg during Danube Cup in Vienna, finishing last after a forfeit against the Direwolves due to injured players. The two teams have quite some history together; on top of some friendlies (which were dominated by Munich), they also hosted a training camp together at the beginning of this year. Although this intense preparation probably will not compensate for the physical weakness of the team, the local fan support the team might receive in their hometown should not be discounted. It definitely would not be the first time that #Heimvorteil (home advantage) can reveal a team’s unknown strengths.
While it is pretty obvious that Rheinos Bonn will take first place in this group, the other spots are everything but set. Although the race between Jena and Tübingen might be a close one, we reckon that Tübingen may win second place due to their experience advantage in contrast to Jena. Hamburg Werewolves will most likely take fourth place, closely followed by the hosting team Münchner Wolpertinger.
The runner-up of last year’s German championship is again expected to be one of the strongest teams in the competition. Since several key players are currently abroad (Philipp Wetterich, Lisa Tietze, Alexander Heinrich) or injured, the team roster has lost some depth. While they are still able to run one of the strongest starting lineups in Germany, the substitution bench is lacking quite some experience. Darmstadt worked hard to give their new players the needed experience with an impressive amount of friendlies against the Heidelberg Hellhounds, Frankfurt, Tübingen, Hamburg, and Paris Titans. Besides the games against Paris and one game against Tübingen, they were able to win all of them.
Darmstadt traditionally play a keeper-centered quaffle game (Quarterback-Style), combining strong drives with long passes behind the hoops. It remains to be seen how the new coaching team around Simon Bugis and Steffen Wirsching adapted the tactical formation. A rather pleasant development is that the former lack of female players seems to be overcome: the team lists no less than 10 female players on their official squad.
Darmstadt is clearly able to beat every other team in the tournament, and they are one of the most promising contestants for the EQC spots. Since they might not be able to keep up their high level over the whole tournament, it is, however, less likely that the team can win the Winter Games.
Re-established this year, Augsburg is one of the newer teams in Germany. Besides River Cup, they attended the Danube Cup in Vienna together with Munich as a merc team, finishing last in the tournament. A draw and a loss against Munich constitute the only friendlies the team has played so far. While little is known about their strategic formation after team founder Johannes Lotz left Munich, new captain Monika Parzinger definitely gathered a highly motivated team around herself and we expect the Winter Games to be a great learning opportunity for the whole team.
Ruhr Phoenix Squad
Ruhr Phoenix is the only club sending two teams to the Winter Games, with the Ruhr Phoenix Squad being the B-team. Ruhr Phoenix Squad consists of several new players complemented by experienced players like beater Saskia Busse. In addition, a few players from the Bielefelder Basilisken fill up empty spots. This mix could turn out to be stronger than the term “B-team” suggests. Since the team has never played officially, the play style and overall strength of the team remains unknown. Their strategy, however, might be influenced by the Ruhr Phoenix A-team since they practice together.
Berlin is one of the new teams one definitely has to look out for. They won their own tournament, the Bluecup, and gained further experience in friendlies against the Skyhogs Berlin and Looping Lux Leipzig. In addition, several players attended the Christmas Cup in the UK for international experience.
Berlin showed solid tactical understanding and discipline. Their strong quaffle game is centered around the three Martens brothers (Max, Mio, and Jonas) and Southampton returnee Sara Dohle. Young chaser Rosa Kuhn also showed great talent and impressive tackle skills. The beaters rely heavily on Florian Marquardt, MVP at the Black Forest Cup 2016, and Julia Frieling, former member of the first quidditch team in Germany, the Taunus Thestrals. Without Marquardt on pitch, the beater game tends to become a bit unstructured and less effective.
How far the Bluecaps can get in the tournament depends on their ability to work together as a team and utilize their core players in the important games.
Braunschweig is another new and rather unknown team. Several players from Hannover complement the squad, and the two teams are looking forward to a practice session with Georg Aigner, the national coach of Austria, in January. Furthermore, Braunschweig played friendly games against Hamburg to gain further experience as a team on the weekend before the Winter Games.
It seems very likely that Darmstadt and Berlin will turn up to be the strongest teams in the group, with Darmstadt probably taking home the group win. Due to the influence of their A-team, Ruhr Phoenix Squad will most likely finish third. While the game between Augsburg and Braunschweig is clearly the hardest to predict, Braunschweig seems to be a bit stronger judging by former results.
Three River Dragons Passau
Passau is highly motivated and keen to take home an EQC spot, which the team barely missed last year. In a training camp a week before the tournament, Passau is working on their team cohesion and strategy. This is much needed since the team relies on several key players who do not practice with the team regularly. In this respect, beater Borut Bezgovšek and Team World seeker Verena Deutsch need to be mentioned. While these players could potentially boost the lineup, it remains to be seen how well the team can work together. Next to well-known beaters like Sarah Fuchs or Elisa Keul, a fresher to look out for is Sami Fekkak as chaser/seeker.
With non-playing coach Peter Bogner and team captain Chris Häuser, Passau is strategically very flexible, which can be an advantage if they succeed in adapting the team tactic to the specific opponent. The lack of a well-trained standard tactic could, however, also lead to less strategic discipline and a less structured play style.
At the Danube Cup, the Dragons finished second after their local rival, the Vienna Vanguards. However, the Dragons won a return match in December. Compared to other strong teams in Germany, Passau is locally a bit isolated. While this means a lack of potential teams for friendly matches, it leaves a lot of room to surprise the rest of Germany.
Black Forest Bowtruckles
The team cooperation with Frankfurt ended this season such that Freiburg is competing again as a single team. As one of the oldest teams in Germany, it is always a team to watch out for. The non-attendance of former national players Bob Thines and Katja Weymüller, however, constitutes a major hit to their squad. The Bowtruckles won 130*-30 against the new team in Karlsruhe and also took home two close wins against Tübingen (110*-70 and 90*-70). With quaffle players Adrian Schlee and Johanna Köhler, a calm but powerful chaser game can be expected.
Looping Lux Leipzig
Leipzig is another new team that is definitely capable of surprising at the Winter Games. The teams relies on a very physical beater lineup. Several tall and athletic chasers complement the team’s powerful play style. Chasers to look out for are Emely Joost, Ruben Lampe, and the tall import from Bremen, Jan Kohler. On the other hand, one disadvantage so far is a lack of strategic experience and structure. The beaters, for example, played very defensively and did not utilize the physical advantages to the fullest.
During several games against the Bluecaps, the team had good opportunities to gain experience and grow as a team. Most games were really close, although Berlin won more often, mostly by a snitch catch.
Münster showed great potential during the NRW league in November and December, winning two close matches against Bielefeld and taking home third place. Founded by Rheino Motte Müller, the team grew a lot in a very short time and was able to bring an almost full squad to all of their matches. Noticeable is their high share of female players such that they even had problems to fulfill the gender rule on one match day.
For a new team, the beater game is very structured and laid the foundation for the two wins against the slightly more athletic team from Bielefeld. The strategy in the chaser game relies a lot on trolls and occasional drives by Lukas Borner.
Although it seems very likely that Passau will take home first place, not all games will be easy wins. Furthermore, we expect Leipzig’s greater athleticism to beat the tactical deliberateness of Freiburg and Münster. The last potential spot for the upper bracket will likely go to the more experienced Bowtruckles, unless Münster can use the impressions of the NRW League to utilize their potential faster than we expect.
Bochum managed to grab the last EQC spot in 2016, and obviously they are highly motivated to defend their spot again at DQWS 2017. With them being the only club sending two teams to the Winter Games they have good chances of doing so, especially as their A team roster can demonstrate a strong chaser game with players like Miriam Quaß or Alexander Müller, who is famous for his long shots.
In most of their games, Bochum plays a very compact defense, keeping their players rather close to the hoops. They have developed quite a physical beater game during several tournaments and especially at NRW League, where they only lost two games against Bonn due to snitch catches. However, the result of a clash between the two teams at DQWS might end up differently this time: at least in the eyes of Bochum, the winner of this tournament is already clear.
Heidelberg is one of the oldest teams in Germany, but had one of the biggest player turnovers since their inception; hardly anyone of the original team still plays there. Heidelberg has so far been playing without a strict tactic. In a recent friendly this deficit became obvious, resulting in Darmstadt defeating them 110*-30 and 110*-50.
As the Hellhounds have some experienced players who have played in Oxford, they may have gotten some more tactical input to their trainings. The team competing at the DQWS will be supported by some players of Karlsruhe and Mannheim. Although they did have some joint training sessions, the question which will remain open is how well this team will manage to play together during DQWS.
TGB Frankfurt Mainticores
This season, Frankfurt is not playing together with Freiburg anymore as Word Cup hype has brought them a lot of new and promising players. They were already able to gain some tournament experience with their new players at Danube Cup, where Frankfurt played as a merc team with Bremen, winning against the Slovakian merc team and therefore reaching fifth place. Moreover, Frankfurt joined a sports union this season, which gave them access to new training opportunities.
The Mainticores are one of the oldest teams of Germany, with some well-known players like Team World chaser Patricia Heise. With Sebastian Jux, Valentin Anders, and Nina Heise, they can bring a very flexible beater game that might surprise at Winter Games. Nevertheless, this did not help them in their friendlies against Darmstadt and Tübingen, in which Frankfurt suffered two defeats. This result leaves us even more curious about the performance of the Frankfurt Mainticores during this tournament – will they be able to keep up the World Cup spirit?
This northern team is not just highly motivated for the DQWS; it also puts a lot of effort in sending their players to tournaments all over Europe. Although they are a very young team, Bremen attended Barcelona Moustaches Time in Spain, Christmas Cup in Oxford, Bluecup in Berlin, and Danube Cup in Austria as a merc team with Frankfurt. Although some players gained international playing skills with these opportunities, the team as a total is still lacking experience. However, with coach/captain Jonas Becker and chaser Felix Goldau, Bremen have some strong quaffle players in their lineup and should be able to put some pressure on their opponent.
Having probably the strongest roster of this group, Bochum is most likely going to take home the group win. As they already played together at Danube Cup, the game for second place between Frankfurt and Bremen might end up being very intense, but we believe that Frankfurt will beat the younger and more unexperienced team, therefore leaving Bremen in third place. The underdog of Group D will most likely be Heidelberg, although the mixture with Karlsruhe and Mannheim could lead to unexpected surprises.
While some teams are mainly looking for learning opportunities at their first tournament, others are highly motivated to capture one of the three EQC spots and represent Germany at the European Quidditch Cup in Belgium. The teams most likely to succeed in doing so are Berlin, Leipzig, Darmstadt, Bochum, Passau, and Bonn, with the latter three having the highest chances to win the whole tournament. We expect many exciting games, lots of fun in the cold, and a huge boost for the German quidditch community.