Austrian EQC Qualification Review

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By Emina Botic

Editor’s Note: Emina Botic is a player for the Vienna Vanguards.

On Saturday, January 21, the two Viennese teams, the Danube Direwolves and the Vienna Vanguards, competed for Austria’s only spot at the European Quidditch Cup (EQC). A single game decided who will take part in the tournament and compete with the European quidditch elite in Mechelen, Belgium, on March 25-26.

The Vienna Vanguards are by far the more experienced team, having already attended EQC 2015, EQC 2016, and various other international tournaments both as a team and as individual players. The Danube Direwolves, on the other hand, recently also gained quite a bit of tournament experience. They co-hosted the Danube Cup in Vienna in October 2016 and also played friendly matches with the Three River Dragons Passau in December.

Vanguards and Direwolves at the Austrian EQC Qualifier | Photo Credit: Kristina Felleis

Both sides struggled at the start of the game. Both had difficulties finding the rhythm of the game, especially the Vanguards. Their well-rounded gameplay did not work as well as it usually does.

Both teams put their strength into a strong offence. The Danube Direwolves played with a physical chaser lineup and relied on fast drives. They used their big players, such as chaser Leon Klement and David Jaffry, in order to break through the Vanguards’ defence. Using these players, paired with newly-elected Austrian national team coach Georg Aigner and chaser Emely Schulz, the Direwolves managed to outplay the Vanguards and score some goals, especially in the beginning of the game. Further into the game, they had difficulties reaching the Vanguards’ keeper zone and got stuck at the midfield line, wasting their offence on long shots that did not arrive where they were supposed to.

The Vanguards put in a powerful offence formation and worked with a quick passing game, led by keeper and captain Dominik Hiesl, who guided the team well through their organised attacks. Together with chasers Anita Prem and Jana Stefan, Hiesl managed to break through the Direwolves’ defence with ease.

On defence, the Direwolves placed both of their beaters close to their hoops. With national team beater Katharina Felleis and offensive-focused Thomas Muhm, they managed to get bludger control and keep their defence line rather tight. However, due to the chasers not paying much attention to marking, the Vanguards easily worked their way through the Direwolves’ defence.

The Vanguards’ defensive game, on the other hand, got a bit messy at times, which benefited the Direwolves and helped them keep the game at a tight score, especially in the first 10 minutes. However, the Vanguards soon managed to obtain control over the game and got out of SWIM range. Thanks to point chaser Matthias Gruber and national team beaters Lukas Schweighofer and Lena Mandahus, the Vanguards managed to dominate the pitch and hold their opponents in defence. Compared to the Direwolves, the Vanguards played a more physical game with strong tackles from newbie Ella Grilz and former Cassovia Crows player Martin Curnek.

The Direwolves’ seekers defended the snitch until the last minute. Eventually, the snitch got caught on the third handicap by Vanguards seeker Osman “Ozzy” Akkaya, securing his team the EQC spot with a 190*-70 score.

Considering the variety of different skill levels and the conditions under which the teams played, both teams put on a good performance. Due to sub-zero temperatures, there was a lack of concentration on both sides, which led to many thoughtless actions, especially in the beginning of the game. The qualification for the EQC spot was decided by only a single game, and with the first game of a day usually being a team’s worst performance, both teams struggled to find their rhythm.

All in all, it was a fair, albeit rather slow, game. After a few hiccups at the beginning, both sides were able to regain focus, but there is still a huge potential for improvement for both teams. The Vanguards tend to need some time to find their rhythm in a game, which results in goals being scored against them, especially in the beginning of a game. The Direwolves have huge opportunities in their physical chaser lineup; however, it seems that they still lack the necessary tactics and experience to fully utilise this potential.

Due to the small number of teams, Austria has yet to raise more awareness toward the sport. Both the Vanguards and the Direwolves are currently planning to get together and approach different regions in order to help the growth of quidditch in Austria.