On the 11th day of Kissimmee we have a Great Lakes quartet and a Mid-Atlantic squad.
Central Michigan Quidditch Club
By Matt Pesch
Despite being only a Pod Four team, Central Michigan Quidditch Club (CMQC) is looking much stronger than previous years. It has acquired depth and brought back some key veterans who played elsewhere last season. Among these returning veterans is two-time Team USA beater Ashley Calhoun, who also led Blue Mountain Quidditch Club to an Elite Eight run just two years ago. Her experience in bracket play is invaluable to the team. The Centaurs hope to reach the Sweet 16, which would be the farthest they have ever made it in the national tournament. Coach David Wier hopes CMQC’s performance in Florida will inspire its newer players to stick around for years to come.
Central Michigan is a pretty well–balanced team. Both its chasers and beaters have a good mix of size and speed, and the entire team works effectively as a single unit. The team is certainly not without weakness, though. The Centaurs have lost more in-range games than they have won this past season, including a 80*-60 loss to Michigan State, a team that went 0-5 at the Great Lakes Regional Championship. If the team wants to reach Day Two, it’ll need to capitalize on its in-range opportunities.
Ball State Cardinals
By Matt Pesch
After last year’s historic win over the Texas Quidditch and an impressive Final Four run, the pressure is on the Cardinals to perform well this year. While top talents of last year’s roster Tyler Walker and Blake Fitzgerald will be playing for Lone Star Quidditch Club this year, Matthew Brown, who switched to full–time beating, and breakout rookie keeper Nathan Ellert, have filled their shoes. Some key players from last year are missing, but the drive to win is the same.
Ball State is one of the top fast-break scoring teams in the game, especially when Nick Kaufman is on the pitch. Ball State capitalizes on every opportunity it gets, and that is how it runs up a score on opponents. Playing Ball State in-range is not easy either. If Team USA seeker Jason Bowling has just one or two free attempts at the snitch, there is a good chance it is game over. Luke Lipps’s goal for the team is to at least make the Sweet 16. We all know what Ball State did last year in that round.
Virginia Quidditch Club
By Scott Lebow
When most people think of Virginia Quidditch (UVA) they remember USQ World Cup 8. Anchored by its veteran beaters and seekers, the Wahoos were able to advance from their flight and make the Sweet 16, owing a great deal to coach Kyle Stolcenberg. Two years later, only six players remain from that run.
The Virginia Quidditch Club of 2017 has adapted and grown since then. Coach Alex Zammitti has built a team that can generate offense through its chasers alone. The Wahoos move the ball with speed and chemistry rarely found in quidditch. Chasers John Hogan, Matt Cooper, and Zammitti are large-bodied drive threats able to quickly create lanes. Brittany Huffman and Bradley Hudson bring experienced, sure hands to their passing options. Look for UVA to attack the hoops from every direction, passing until a defensive error is made, then capitalizing.
While the Wahoos’ chaser game has improved greatly, its beating lags behind. Beaters Chloe Downs and Brett Curtis are experienced, solid players but there is a gradual drop-off when they are off the field. Additionally, the Wahoos are much more conservative with their bludgers than most modern teams, preferring to keep their balls nearer to their hoops. They may struggle against teams with strong defensive beaters.
In its pool, UVA has a good shot to defeat Cal Quidditch if it maintains the growth and momentum it has been building in the tail-end of the season, and could enter Sunday with a 2-2 record with an additional win over Tribe. In bracket play, Virginia could be set up for surprising upsets if it ends up with favorable matchups and avoids major injuries.
Lake Erie Elite
The third major community team hailing from the Great Lakes region is Lake Erie Elite (LEE), a team comprised of college graduates from Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois. Led by captain Eric Wasser and coach Krystina Packard, this duo leads a team of passionate players who show it through their performance on pitch. After a rocky start to the year, Lake Erie Elite has only lost to a few strong collegiate teams in its region, including Central Michigan Quidditch Club (CMQC), Ball State Cardinals, and Bowling Green State University. The team’s lack of seeker has made the difference between these possible victories.
Leading up to US Quidditch Cup, the team has progressed to beat and hold its own against the region’s top teams: CMQC, Ohio State Quidditch (OSU), and snitch grab loss to Rochester United (RU). If this team can capitalize on phenomenal athletes like Andrew Axtell, Packard, and Chris Barnard in the quaffle game, then LEE can certainly keep in close proximity to its opponents, RU and OSU. By combining the beating power of Erin Mcdonald and Matt Oppenlander with seeker Devon McCoy, this team could clinch a win against Rochester United in pool play. This would put Lake Erie Elite at the top of its pool if the team can beat Marquette University Quidditch, the Long Beach Funky Quaffles, and snitch catch to beat Oklahoma State University. An easy match up on Day Two could allow this team to go all the way to an Elite Eight finish before losing to a more skilled team.
Ohio State Quidditch
Ohio State Quidditch (OSU) has a long history in the Great Lakes region, and as it enters its sixth US Quidditch Cup it can only do better. After a rebuilding year, captains Chris Bowman, Jack Rawlinson, and Mitch Boehm have constructed the Buckeyes squad to be a formidable opponent in the speed game. With agile chaser Jeremy Boettner and nimble Lacey Hutchman, the OSU squad has been able to make the first 18 minutes of any game a nightmare for slower opponents. After seasoned beater veterans departed last year, Natasha Pascal and Gavin Kyle have had huge roles to fill in at beater.
The Buckeyes have a solid seeker who can clinch wins during the most needed times. After solid wins over Appalachian Apparators Quidditch, Ball State Cardinals, Central Michigan Quidditch Club, and Midwest neighbors Kansas Quidditch, going 4-0 on Day One is not out of the Buckeyes’ grasp. The toughest opponent for OSU is Texas A&M Quidditch, whose physicality may be too much for quick northerners. If former captain David Hoops is on the roster for Florida’s Finest, then pick that for the match to watch as it will be a grudge match where apprentice challenges master. Expect a 3-1 record on Day One where the Buckeyes beat their first opponent and bow out during the Sweet 16 to another physical team.