Voyage to Victoria: QC National Championship 2017 Pool A Preview

The third iteration of Quidditch Canada’s national championship is back on the west coast in Victoria, British Columbia on April 1-2, 2017. To kick off our coverage, we preview Pool A, which consists of the following teams:

  • Calgary Mavericks Quidditch Club
  • Edmonton Aurors Quidditch Club
  • Guelph Quidditch
  • University of British Columbia Quidditch Club (UBCQC)

Calgary Mavericks Quidditch Club
By Kayla Ross
Editor’s Note: Kayla Ross is a player for the Calgary Mavericks.

Recently rebranded, the Calgary Mavericks have consistently performed well in competition this season. Despite having a severely depleted roster at the 2016 Quidditch Canada National Championship, the Mavericks (at the time known as the Calgary Mudbloods) ranked at No. 11 after Day One, propelling them to bracket play. They have since been pushing themselves to catch up with their Albertan counterparts. The Mavericks have a strong corps of experienced players, including Rachel Malone, speaking captain for Team Canada at the IQA World Cup 2016. Their beater lines are also heavy on veterans, such as Allan Chan and Alex Lamoureux, who bolster the Mavericks’ defense and tip the odds in their favour with consistent retention of bludger control.

The Mavericks have had some growing pains as a young team in their second season, notably with player recruitment and fielding a full roster. The loss of several experienced players going into the 2016-17 season put them at a disadvantage that they have struggled to shake off. While they will fortunately bring a full roster to the national championship this year, only slightly less than half of those players are new to the team or are rookies, so it will be a challenge for the Mavericks to get everyone working cohesively. As far as gameplay is concerned, the Mavericks struggle against teams with a strong defense, dragging their offense down when they are unable to compensate with focused chaser positioning and beater support. They also encounter difficulty in maintaining quaffle points once the seekers are released, tending to lose coordination between their beater and chaser corps as the game becomes more hectic.

Rachel Malone blocking a pass to a University of Victoria Valkyries chaser| Photo Credit: JYK Photography

It will be interesting to see how the Mavericks fare with a full roster. Much depends on head coach Christopher Day’s ability to build up and coordinate the new players within the existing team. The Mavericks that step out onto the pitch at the National Championship in Victoria, British Columbia will be a different team from what we have seen before, with high hopes to prove themselves against familiar rivals and new challengers alike.

Wei Shen Tan will play a key role in that. Playing in his second season with the Mavericks, Tan has proven himself to be a key chaser and scorer. Fast, maneuverable, and tenacious, he can often be seen barreling through the opponent’s defense, circumventing attempts to stop his drives. He carries this energy through on his defensive positioning as well, never hesitating to engage physically with an opponent. His skills have only continued to improve this season, and you can be sure to see some impressive plays when Tan is on the field.

The Mavericks have a host of strong, competitive teams to fight through if they wish to win a medal this season. With two unfamiliar Eastern teams to potentially face, the question remains whether the Mavericks can step up their game to make it past the quarterfinals.

Edmonton Aurors Quidditch Club
By Kayla Ross

The Edmonton Aurors’ main strength lies in their strong chaser lines, buoyed by Team Canada players Michelle Ferguson and Christopher Radojewski, as well as patented “freak athlete” Indiana Nikel. Joining them from London, Ontario is Matthew Bourassa, who also starred on Team Canada this past summer. With a wide breadth of dynamic, maneuverable chasers and keepers, the Aurors’ versatility allows them to adapt and exploit opportunities to their advantage. With the addition of Bourassa, we can also look forward to some more drive-heavy plays as well, unless he puts on a black headband to cause havoc as a beater. Watching the Aurors, it is clear that they have focused on using the entire field to spread out their opponents’ defense and create weak points. Their preference for rapid movement, accurate passing, and high-velocity drives can be overwhelming against teams unable to curb their brisk pace.

Typically, the Aurors are not a heavy-hitting team, and rely instead on their beaters to stop drives on defense. This can leave them vulnerable on defense when their beaters deteriorate, especially if their players are slow to adapt to a more aggressive game. While Bourassa may add some more bite to their offense, it may be difficult to incorporate his style of play with the rest of the team. The Aurors also run into some difficulty when facing teams capable of halting their favoured fast breaks. While their reactivity and strong reflexes allow them to thrive in fast-paced scenarios, their positioning has a tendency to break down when the tempo of the game decreases.

Christopher Radojewski out-running SFU Quidditch | Photo Credit: Zendar Photography

Until the recent entrance of the UBC Thunderbirds Quidditch Sports Club (UBC TSC), the Aurors were a dominant force in the Western region and further demonstrated an ability to be competitive against unfamiliar Eastern teams at last year’s national championship. Following the Aurors’ recent upset in losing the Western Regional Championship to UBC TSC, the Aurors will no doubt be hungry to prove themselves at the upcoming national championship. If the Aurors are able to establish a good lead in quaffle points and keep up with UBC TSC’s intensive beating style, they could very well prevail against their current rivals early on to battle it out to the championship match.

If the Aurors perform well at the national championship, they will certainly have to give credit to Cayley Mendoza for her tireless efforts. Though by no means new to quidditch, Mendoza has made her debut as a beater this season. While the transition to playing a new position can often be difficult, she makes it look easy. Now with a few tournaments under her belt, she is one of the Aurors’ more aggressive beaters on the pitch. Mendoza’s past experience as a chaser certainly allows her to easily integrate her beater play to support the Aurors on offense.

Ranked No. 4 in Canada, the Edmonton Aurors will likely be a strong competitor at the national championship. While it remains to be seen how well they fare against the Eastern teams making the trek to Victoria, it would be an exciting development to see a Western team take home the championship. The Aurors are arguably fielding their strongest team this year and have collected a good number of promising rookies who have developed into valuable players; Adam Beaulac, Talia Angell, and Danielle Cattani come to mind. It is not unforeseeable that they will win a medal at the National Championship this year, with high potential to upset an Eastern team and push for gold.

Guelph Quidditch
By Courtney Butler

Unfortunately, Guelph will not be at full strength for this year’s National Championship, and with the addition of some Royal City players into its lines, many would expect this to be the team’s main weakness. Though it will definitely weaken Guelph, with Royal City improving immensely this season in its strategy and physicality due to the constant practicing with Guelph’s A team, the team is still expected to be a strong force. With ample time to practice together before the National Championship, the new Royal City additions should integrate well into Guelph.

This team uses its size and physicality to its advantage, and will be one of, if not the most, physical team to attend this National Championship. The chasers and keepers on Guelph are always looking to use their size for a classic drive to the hoops. They also have the ability to work together using their beaters to break through enemy lines and work their passes around the opposing teams’ beaters, making quick goals at the corners of the hoops. This season, Guelph has also made great use of its female chasers on offence, as many teams often choose to leave them unmarked. By using their vision and quick strong passes, they are able to take advantage and put up points.

Whether Guelph rides the line of success and failure at this tournament will fall on its beating. With three of four beater pairs coming from Royal City, a lot will ride on these players’ shoulders as to whether they can step up to the challenge. Over the past couple years, Guelph has been improving its beating strategies by adopting more aggressive and offensive styles, but it can be hasty with its bludgers and needs to find the line between being too conservative and over zealous. The Royal City players specifically will need to step up into a more physical style if they are to be successful against other aggressively beating teams. If it sits back with its bludgers, Guelph’s offence will have a hard time putting up points.

One factor that separates Guelph from many other teams is that it does not rely on star  players, but rather have a team of solid players with few weak links. With that being said, Denver Staines stands out as a strong veteran for Guelph. With enough force to push through an entire defence, Denver is a force to be reckoned with on the offensive. He has great vision on the field and uses his beaters effectively, allowing them to do work before he see the opportunity for a pass by the hoops or a charge through the defence. He is able to use his body mass to take on players and rip them to the ground, or alternatively blowing through them for a drive to the hoops. His communication and direction are strong, and will be a key factor for Guelph’s performance as a team.

The only hesitation leaving Guelph out of the position for first is the question of whether the Royal City players will be able to fill the roles of their Guelph A counterparts. With 11 Royal City players and 10 Guelph A players filling the roster, the outcome will be based on how well these players can integrate into the Guelph A playing style. There are good fights against UBC and Valhalla on the horizon, and Guelph will be looking to overturn them and take the title, but it will not be an easy road.

University of British Columbia Quidditch Club (UBCQC)
By Nathan Ross

UBCQC has had an incredibly up and down year, mostly due to roster size issues. Look no further than the Quidditch Conference of the Northwest (QCON) Championships, where they had to forfeit due to a lack of players. This is a team that should easily be considered one of the better teams of the west because it trains in a successful program and has enough talented people who have played for it over the past year to be a strong dark horse candidate in Victoria. Alas, it comes down to a numbers game, something that has become an unfortunately recurring trend in the area lately.

UBCQC beater Ardy Ferguson faces off against Mavericks chaser Zaw Aung in an attempt to regain the quaffle | Photo Credit: JYK Photography

The team is led by Ardy Ferguson and Damir Ninković, but one of the biggest weapons it has been able to utilize this past year might be one of its biggest threats come this National Championship. Joey Krahn transferred to the Thunderbirds and will face off against his former club in Victoria. Should he be able to stay out of the penalty box, that is a big loss for UBCQC. With Krahn out, look for both Travis Gritter and Gillian Savage to step in and bring some stability to UBCQC’s seeking game. Other than that, Brandon Rivas seems to have recovered from his injuries throughout the year and is a force for UBCQC on the back end. Look for him and Ferguson to try to bring some stability to allow their chaser game to flourish.

With a roster similar to the one it had at the Western Regional Championship (with notable absences in Louis Leung and the aforementioned Krahn), this could be the same team that was one upset away from being in the finals for the Western Regional Championships. UBCQC is likely playing with a chip on its shoulder and could be one of the bigger surprises in Victoria. Unfortunately, that is a big if, should we look at results from QCON between their games in the Regional Championship and where we are now. Besides the aforementioned forfeit in the QCON playoff weekend, the team only won two out of its nine games. It wasn’t so long ago that the University of Victoria Valkyries were celebrating getting their first win in a very long time, taking advantage of a depleted UBCQC roster. That was at the beginning of the season, and the team went on to have more disqualifications due to roster issues than they did wins, only able to secure two victories overall in the nine games it played for QCON. It is difficult to predict a finishing spot for a team that has had so many question marks this year, as this is a team that could finish anywhere from fifth to eighth place.

Pool Analysis
By Serena Cheong, with additional analysis by Cameron Cutler

The final rankings for this pool will be more difficult to predict than Pool B simply because all the teams but Edmonton are huge question marks. It has been many months since we have seen both Calgary and UBCQC play with a decent-sized roster in a big tournament, and Guelph’s roster has more Royal City players than its own players.

With this in mind, the Guelph-Edmonton game will be close but dependent on who wins the beater battle. Guelph’s reliance on its physicality, and its difficulty in scoring without beater supremacy, means that it will fall on Edmonton’s beaters to step up their aggressiveness to help out their chasers. The addition of Matt Bourassa will certainly help Edmonton, but it remains to be seen if he will make up for its shortcomings against a very aggressive Guelph team.

Cayley Mendoza trying to regain bludger control | Photo Credit: JYK Photography

To beat UBCQC, the Mavericks will have to get past the beater wall of Rivas and Ferguson, and then also best the blocking skills of Ninković. With their track record against stronger defences, the Mavericks may need to play the matchup game and get their stronger scorers away from these players to rack up the quaffle points and stay out of SWIM range. If UBCQC leads, whether within or out of SWIM-range, chances are that Gritter will help his team seal the deal and get the win.

Pool B previews will be coming soon.