Voyage to Victoria: QC National Championship 2017 Pool B 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. In the second part of our coverage (click here for our Pool A preview), we preview Pool B, which consists of the following teams:

  • Simon Fraser University Quidditch
  • University of British Columbia Thunderbirds Sports Club
  • University of Victoria Valkyries
  • Valhalla Quidditch

Simon Fraser University Quidditch (SFU)
By Kayla Ross

After pulling through for a third-place win at the Western Regional Championship, SFU will be looking to regain dominance over other teams such as University of Victoria (UVic) Valkyries Quidditch Club and Calgary Mavericks Quidditch Club after a lackluster few months. The talented Danny Ly will lead SFU’s drive-heavy offense with support from its experienced beater lines. As its most physical player, Ly will also be essential to SFU’s defense. Alexander Boom is also a player to watch, bringing some much-needed physicality to SFU while also leading the charge for the chasers defensively. However, without a wider pool of physical chasers, SFU’s overall performance may be highly variable. Poor positioning, slow reaction times, and dropped passes will be heavily punished by high-tier teams that can exploit these weaknesses. Especially on defense, SFU’s chasers are vulnerable against organized offensive plays.

Fortunately, SFU has a plethora of experienced beaters that make up for the holes in its defense. The presence of veterans Alyssa Au, Raymond Ly, and Nathan Ross, on pitch can drastically change the tone of a game. SFU has historically favoured heavy-handed beater play, matching the aggression of its chasers with additional pressure on offense. However, this style of play often requires quick transitions to defense and can be very taxing on less athletic players.

Nathan Ross and Danny Ly walking up the pitch | Photo Credit: Zendar Photography

SFU’s reliance on drive-heavy offenses and aggressive beater play will be difficult to maintain at the National Championship this year. With the smallest roster of any team competing in Victoria, it is at a disadvantage against full-strength teams that can afford to run their players hard on the pitch with sufficient rest on the side. This being the case, injuries will certainly be a concern. SFU will need to be highly conscious of how hard it can push its players and adjust accordingly to control the tempo of the game. SFU may very well rely on a male-heavy chaser line subsidized by a non-male beater pair – like the option of going all-in with Au and Ross – to give it a boost in quaffle points. Seeking in particular is going to be a difficult hurdle for SFU to overcome. The absence of its main seekers, Ethan D’souza and Jayden Driver, will be sorely noted once the snitch is on pitch. Undoubtedly, there will be extra pressure on SFU’s chasers to maintain quaffle points outside of snitch range, as well as on its beaters to keep a proper balance between the snitch and the quaffle.

SFU has been able to continue its exposure to competitive play leading up to the National Championship with its participation in the Quidditch Conference of the Northwest (QCON). This consistency will be highly beneficial when facing familiar and unfamiliar teams alike. No doubt SFU will come out strong and will secure some early victories, but whether or not it can maintain that level of intensity in a two-day tournament will be what determines its overall performance. While it will not break into the top four, SFU is in a good place to finish fifth.

Valhalla Quidditch
By Courtney Butler

Valhalla has had a season filled with ups and downs, mostly due to an ever-changing roster and commitment issues that come with being a community team. Finishing this season puts it up with the top teams in the east, but it has struggled to consistently work as a team in many of its games. The individual talent on Valhalla is significant, but with players coming from different team backgrounds, the team struggles to find its own playing style.

One of Valhalla’s greatest weaknesses as a team is its tendency to fall apart under pressure. If teams can frustrate Valhalla on defence by cutting off its signature behind-the-hoops passes, they will have a good chance at levelling the playing field and bringing games much closer in-range. Valhalla has a tendency to be overly aggressive when it is down, which can often lead to yellow cards accumulating. As mentioned before, Valhalla has a hard time working as a cohesive unit. Its beaters are strong players, but they are not often used effectively by the chasers; they try to find openings on their own, opting to pass around the defence rather than utilizing lanes their beaters can clear for them. If the team is able to communicate better with its beating lines, Valhalla may be able to turn things around and work together to put up points. However, if the team continues to work as individuals, it will be in trouble.

A major strength Valhalla has is its ability to analyze opposing teams’ defences and work their offensive lines to exploit weaknesses. With so many experienced and utility players on the team with different playing backgrounds, the team is able to substitute players in where they are most needed at the time of play in order to exploit certain weaknesses on the other team. Additionally, Valhalla is very good at picking up on who the most effective player on the other team is and sticking to them to shut them down. This can frustrate opposing teams greatly, but if opponents are able to use this to their advantage by drawing players and beats to them as they get a pass off, they may find success of their own.

Jonathan Golla is more agile than he looks and is able to dodge beats and make solid drives in order to rack up points for his team. On defence, his arms effectively block all three hoops, making it hard to shoot from a distance. On offence, he sneaks behind the enemy’s hoops and looks for long lobs in order to turn them into dunks. His game sense, communication, and ability to order his beaters around are what helps his team put up points on the offensive, and his lank and quick reflexes counter on the defensive. Despite all of his strengths, Valhalla has not effectively used him this season, regularly placing him on the third line out. Golla is a player who, when put on the field, can strongly influence the players around him by making them play together. He will be a key player to bring his teammates together to set the tone for many of the tough games they will inevitably face at the national championship.

Jonathan Golla defending the hoops | Photo Credit: Sarah Breedon

As one of the only teams in the east to have fully committed to coming at the beginning of the season, Valhalla has been working all year long for this moment. If Valhalla is able to bring its best team to British Columbia in April, we should see a strong, fast, and hungry team on the pitch. If it can translate the hard work it has put in in regular practices over the winter, it can likely upset a few tougher teams in the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds Sports Club and Guelph Quidditch. However, if its performance is placed more on individual play like it was at the Frosty Broom a few weeks back, it is likely to be overpowered by other teams’ playing styles.

University of British Columbia Thunderbirds Sports Club
By Serena Cheong

With most of its old corps leaving the team at the end of last season, everyone expected UBC TSC to take a step back in the rankings. It certainly looked that way at Octobear, where UBC TSC was uncharacteristically human against teams it has historically dominated. But, UBC TSC put on a clinical performance at the Western Regional Championship to pry the championship away from the Edmonton Aurors (formerly the Alberta Clippers). In Victoria, it seeks to end its first season in Quidditch Canada with a national championship title.

UBC TSC’s biggest strength, specifically at this tournament, will be its roster. As one of the only teams to bring its usual roster at close to full strength, it will benefit from team cohesion and familiarity. This is a roster that has played together for most of the season, at almost every tournament UBC TSC has been in attendance. With a primarily drive-heavy offense (and the occasional handoff), it is essential for UBC TSC’s beaters to help their chasers clear a path to the hoops. UBC TSC’s level of team cohesion has allowed for offensive plays such as this to work with a high success rate.

Though no slouch in the chasing department, UBC TSC’s beaters are known for their hyper-aggressive play. Leading the way is UBC TSC’s top beater pair of Janik Andreas and Emma Sherwood, both of whom can run circles around opposing beaters while halting a team’s offense. Andreas in particular is known and feared for his pinpoint accuracy; he is able to make beats from a long distance consistently, while still quickly retrieving the bludger in time to get back in the play before anyone notices he was gone. As mentioned in our preview of UBCQC, Joey Krahn is a huge X factor for UBC TSC. He is a powerful keeper who is freakishly athletic and tall, but has a tendency to take frequent penalties at the worst times (he received two yellow cards and was booted out of UBCQC’s bronze medal matchup again SFU at the Western Regional Championship). If he can put it together and do away with the penalties, Krahn will be a huge boost to an already strong roster.

By virtue of playing in the Pacific Northwest, UBC TSC has not played a lot of teams that could match its physicality. Though it is still a relatively physical team, UBC TSC has lost some of its physicality in its chasing game with players such as Lendl Magsipoc graduating and the transition of Cole Li to beater. In past seasons, UBC TSC has suffered losses against more physical teams, with the Boise State Abraxans coming into mind as a team with which UBC TSC frequently had troubles. This has not been an issue against the less physical western Canadian teams, but eastern Canadian teams are a lot more physical, particularly in the beating department. If UBC TSC is unable to deal with the massive increase in physicality, this could spell trouble for its national championship aspirations.

Despite this, UBC TSC  is a strong contender for the championship. It has the luxury of bringing a team that has competed together throughout the season and players who have completely bought into its system. There is no question that UBC TSC will finish in the top half of the rankings, but where in the top four is dependent on how the other teams look in Victoria as much as it does on how well UBC TSC is able to adapt to different styles of play.

University of Victoria Valkyries
By Nathan Ross

What a difference a year makes for UVic. The team began its season in Calgary with the Octobear tournament, fielding a mashup of Frankenstein proportions with only half its playing roster being actual UVic players. Fast forward to now, and under the guidance of longtime stalwarts Misha Whittingham and Cynthia Chao, it appears that the home team at the Quidditch Canada National Championships might be able to put on a pretty good show alongside the bigger names at the tournament.

Misha Whittingham and Cynthia Chao in the starting line up forUVic| Photo Credit: JYK Photography

UVic’s biggest strength has been finding players to buy into the system that Whittingham has put in over the years. For a team that was founded by anarchists who emphasized fun first, you would barely recognize it as the team that just came in third in the QCON playoffs. Not only does UVic have a structure and set plays it can rely on, but it also has determined players who can carry them through.

Even though he was our player to watch for the Western Canada Regional Championships, it bears repeating that Vince Llobrera is a big name to watch for on the Valkyries. However, if Llobrera was already on your radar then keep your eyes peeled for rookie chaser Taisha Ferguson. She has a high level of skill for a first-year player and her strength on the quaffle is one of the reasons you see UVic driving the play more instead of just hoping for the best. Also worth mentioning is keeper Teigan Miller-Gauthier, whose impressive play has bumped her up to starting games for the Valkyries.

UVic celebrates a win at QCON Playoffs Weekend | Photo Credit: Jordan Kubichek

While there are good feelings about in Victoria, this will be a good test to see if the team is really ready to go toe-to-toe with some of the bigger names in the region. While UVic has gotten its fair share of games against UBC TSC thanks to QCON, it has not played any Alberta team since November nor any team from out east for a couple of years. All that being said, it is truly encouraging to see UVic finally figure out a more aggressive beater game, which was starting to border on “too nice for their own good.” Beater (and seeker) Nicholas Planidin has become a rock for UVic, and the team is definitely trending in the right direction. With this being the last hurrah for some of its players, it wouldn’t be surprising to see UVic gut out a big last effort in front of its friends and family.

Pool Analysis
By Serena Cheong

As expected by most, both UBC TSC and Valhalla will have little trouble dealing with SFU and UVic. Both teams simply have too much talent and experience, which makes their matchup an interesting game to watch. On paper, Valhalla is the more talented team, boasting a roster filled with marquee names, but UBC TSC’s ability to work together as a team might be the reason why the western champions have a good chance of beating Valhalla. This all depends on whether Valhalla can come together as a cohesive unit, rather than a group of individual players. If UBC TSC can weather the initial storm by aggressively defending against Valhalla’s offensive rushes, it might frustrate Valhalla enough to get the team off its game.

The SFU vs. UVic matchup has historically been very tilted in SFU’s favour, but with the explosive growth of the Valkyries this season, it will be a lot closer than in previous seasons. With its starting six all in attendance, SFU wins the beater matchup, but a lack of set plays and offensive creativity evens out the playing field in the quaffle game. UVic, on the other hand, works more together as a team, particularly on offense, allowing it to be more patient and tiring the opposing defence. This will spell trouble for SFU, as it is coming to Victoria with the smallest roster of all the teams and without its starting seekers. SFU needs to win out of snitch range or risk losing, something that has burned it against UVic in the past.

Cameron Cutler contributed to reporting.