EQC 2017 Group H Preview

With European Quidditch Cup (EQC) 2017 rapidly approaching, the Quidditch Post takes a look at each of the teams competing in this year’s tournament.

Durhamstrang
By Hannah Dignum

Despite the departure of key graduates and others, Durham has performed surprisingly well this season at both Northern Cup and British Quidditch Cup (BQC).  However, this Durham squad struggles with physicality and aggression.

Durham are bringing a strong squad to EQC, but in order to succeed in such a tournament, the standard of the players must remain at a fairly elite level, something with which Durham may struggle. Their chaser line in particular has taken a bit of a hit with the loss of both Robbie Gawne and Max Gill, which means that they lack physicality in the chaser game to counter fast breaks and put in the tackles to end strong drives. Rebecca Lowe is one of the strongest quaffle carriers that Durham possess, and they may over-rely on her due to her experience on the international stage. This is not to say, however, that Durham completely lack the chasers to compete against the other teams in their group, as Vincent Poon and Emma Sands will undoubtedly step up their game to meet the challenge from more aggressive teams. Whilst topping their group at BQC was a feat for the team, they failed to top their group at Northern, which points to an inconsistency in Durham’s performance. It is possible that they will be able to put in a solid performance if they are able to nail the consistency issues, but there is a chance for an upset if Durham fail to pull their play together on the day.

Rebecca Lowe keeping for Durhamstrang at Hateful 8 | Photo Credit: Rica Biasi (More Quidditch Photos)

Liège Leviathans
by Louis Lermytte

Liège defeating the Brussels Qwaffles in the semifinal of Belgian Cup was one of the biggest stories of the tournament. Liège, only playing in their second season, have shown massive improvements and are looking for a spot in the upper bracket this year. With Durhamstrang, Vienna Vanguards, and Prague Pegasus joining their group, they are expected to finish second.

After a large amount of drop-outs, Liège competed at EQC 2016. Their eighth-place finish at Belgian Cup 2015 and a fifth-place finish in the 2015 Belgian Quidditch League meant that a winless EQC tournament did not come as a surprise to many. However, joining the Belgian Quidditch League and playing at EQC has been beneficial to them. While it is still visible, especially in the beater game, that they are a relatively new team, Liège have improved drastically in their offensive efficiency. They have learned how to choose better moments to attack and better understand how to work together with their beaters.

Standouts on the team include Audrey Linssen and Arnaud Liepin, who were awarded with spots on the Belgian National Team and competed at the IQA World Cup last summer. Late last season, Sylvain Hochede also joined Liège. Hochede was a member of the French National Team, a quarterfinalist team at the last World Cup that only lost in snitch range to Australia. In their last league game, the weaknesses of Liège were exposed by Antwerp A, where their beater game was completely dominated by Antwerp, and their female beaters were shown to be vulnerable under pressure. Liège also felt the absence of playmaker Hochede, only scoring once in each game (130*-10 and 180*-10). Whilst relying on talents like Hochede might work against teams such as Vienna or Prague, it remains a big question if they could pull off an upset against Durhamstrang.

Audrey Linssen grapples for a quaffle at the IQA Quidditch World Cup 2016 | Photo Credit: Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography

Prague Pegasus
by Martin Hofbauer

Prague Pegasus are a new team from the Czech Republic who secured their EQC spot as one of three teams from emerging areas. Pegasus was founded in the summer of 2016 and have been practicing regularly since then, mostly led by Team Germany captain Nadine Cyrannek, who was studying in Prague for a semester. The team gained some experience when they played against the United Unicorns Prague with one of the greatest snitch runners in Europe, Denis Plog, acting as snitch runner for that game (a 120*-50 Pegasus win).

Prague Pegasus will come to Mechelen with 12 players on their squad, with the most experienced player being Team Slovakia beater Peter Švihra. He will most likely be leading the team, as he also experienced other playing styles when he played for Wisconsin Quidditch, an official team in the United States. Prague’s roster is also boosted by two experienced mercenary players: former NTNUI Rumpeldunk chaser Ondřej Hujňák and Team Slovakia chaser Martin Mudrík. These three players will be crucial to Pegasus’ play, as none of the other players have played against teams other than the United Unicorns.

Prague Pegasus | Photo Credit: Ondřej Nedvěd, via Prague Pegasus – Quidditch Team

Prague Pegasus is coming to EQC with one thing on their mind: to gain as much experience as possible. They are not expected to win any of their games, but they will come back stronger and more experienced, which will help to spread quidditch across the Czech Republic.

Vienna Vanguards
by Emina Botic
Editor’s Note: Emina Botic plays for the Vienna Vanguards.

In October 2016, the Vienna Vanguards kicked off this season with a victory at Danube Cup, after defeating long time friends and the German Winter Games silver medal winners, the Three River Dragons Passau, in a tense overtime finale. Later in January 2017, they earned their EQC spot at the Austrian qualifier, after winning against the other local team, the Danube Direwolves. This will be the third time that the Vanguards are attending EQC.

With a plethora of veterans from the Austrian national team, the Vanguards are bringing lots of experience and synergy to the tournament. With the exception of a few new additions to the team, such as agile keeper Daniel Mitterauer, physical chaser Anita Prem, and former Cassovia Crows captain Martin Curnek, the Vanguards’ core lineup has not changed much over the last few seasons. The team still relies on physical point chaser Matthias Gruber, powerful driver Andrea Wöger, and Chris Gassner, and are led by the authoritative command of keeper Dominik Hiesl. This formation will be a great complement to the experienced beating of Max Liebetreu, Lena Mandahus, and Markus Tünte.

Chris Gassner catches to defeat Warsaw Mermaids at EQC 2016 | Photo Credit: Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography

Despite gaining many new members in the past few months, the Vanguards will not be able to bring a full roster to Mechelen. The squad is missing some key players in Simon Heher, national team beater Nicoletta Sagl, and Karina Auer, with the latter attending the tournament with the Werewolves of London.

Coached and captained by Anna Koivu and Dominik Hiesl, the Vanguards are well-prepared to handle international pressure and are hoping to qualify for the upper bracket.

Conclusion

Durhamstrang is a near lock to advance to top the group and advance to bracket play. Nevertheless, if they struggle with inconsistency again, Liège or Vienna could potentially topple the favorites. This, however, would not be easy. Liège and their physical play certainly pose the biggest threat to Durham and are probably the favorites to finish second in the group. Liège’s contest with the Vienna Vanguards, however, looks to be the most interesting out of all the games in this group. Both teams are looking to make it into the upper bracket, and Vienna will certainly want to prove that they can succeed. It would be an upset to see the Vanguards make the upper bracket, but they possess the talent for a strong lower bracket showing and could potentially upset Liège. Prague are expected to come in last, but since this will be their first EQC, their biggest priority is to gain experience, which they certainly will.