Navigating to Norway: Team Slovakia

by Lena Mandahus

On July 8-9 2017, 15 national teams from all over Europe will compete in Oslo, Norway for the title of European Champion. The next article in our European Games 2017 series is on Team Slovakia.

Roster
Hana Boskovičová
René Cehlár
Martin Čurnek
Jana Krajčovičová
Peter Král
Karolína Lisá *
Veronika Mičudová
Martin Mornár
Martin Mudrik *
Richard Randik
Štefan Štec
Miroslav Sova *
Ondrej Sova
Peter Švihra
Hana Vrbovská

*Denotes players who will also be seeking

Interview with head coach and captain Martin Mudrik

Quidditch Post: How are you preparing your team for European Games (EG)?
Mudrik: We have regular trainings four times during the week; two of them are normal trainings for tactics and playing, and the other two are specialised on physical strength and stamina. We are trying many tactics. There is one we are very familiar with; however, we are keeping it a secret until you see it on the pitch. We had friendly matches against Vienna’s two teams and in training, we are trying to have some scrimmages when we have enough players.

Martin Mudrik keeping at EQC 2017 | Photo Credit: Bruggeling Quidditch Photography

QP: What are you hoping to achieve at the tournament?
Mudrik: Like all coaches, I want the team to be in first place; but honestly, we will be satisfied with 10th place or higher, and if not that then at least a place higher than our Slovak ice hockey team at the World Cup [who came in 14th place]. On the other hand, the ranking isn’t my main goal. I want to achieve the teams coordination and cooperation; get the team together and show we have had some progress since the previous World Cup.

QP: Which teams do you particularly want to play against?
Mudrik: All the teams we wanted to measure our strength against are in our group. Personally, I want to play against Austria. Yeah, I know we are neighbours, but I think we have the possibility to win against them. Other teams we would like to play against are mostly the strongest ones like the UK, Norway, or France. We are going to see and maybe experience how it is to play against somebody who is on a really high level.

QP: What challenges have you had to face in the build-up to this tournament?
Mudrik: Firstly, it was the question of who would be the coach of the national team because our last coach got injured and stopped playing quidditch. Then the coach who was elected after them backed down from the post after a month and left Miroslav Sova and myself as coaches.

Secondly, our person responsible for equipment moved out and we had to find a new place to store our quidditch equipment and to practice. Luckily, we managed to stay strong and find a new and better pitch.

Thirdly, about two weeks ago, our hoops sadly broke and we had to reduce our number of hoops to two, so our practices are is really interesting right now. We are working on it.
Lastly, not all players are available to play with the whole team; some have not been in touch with quidditch for a long time or haven’t seen our tactics and how we play. But everyone agreed to attend at least one practice before EG.

Slovakia celebrate at the IQA Quidditch World Cup 2016 | Photo Credit: Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography

QP: What are the strengths of your team? Are there any key players or underrated players we should watch out for?
Mudrik: The strength of our team is that half of our team is training together and is preparing very hard. Everyone is doing very well and is also exercising outside the trainings. In the keeper game we have playmakers who have game awareness and vision, know when to drive, where to pass, and how to break the defense of the enemy team. In the beater game we have strong beaters who know how to cooperate and handle many hard situations. For the chaser game the defence and offence do not depend on just the keeper, but also rely on their vision, movement, and strength. Adapting to whether a quick catch or defence is needed, the seeker play is built on the situation of the game. All seekers learned how to handle seekers from other teams, communicate with beaters, and to quickly catch all possible snitches.

In my opinion, everyone on our team is a key player because when somebody is good at positioning and bad at passing, then there is another player who has the opposite problem. We fit together like a key and a lock.

QP: Are there any players in particular who deserve a mention because they improved or are especially dedicated?
Mudrik: There are many players who have shown big progress. The most progress in our team is visible in Martin Čurnek (Vienna Vanguards) and Martin Mornár (London Unspeakables) who are playing with more developed teams. They have worked to develop both their physical and technical skills. On the national team I also see visible progress in our women: Hana Boskovičová and Veronika Mičudová (Golden Owls) in the chaser game and Hana Vrbovská in the beater game. They are regularly attending training practices, train by themselves, and have found their place on the pitch. Not to forget our men, for example Miroslav Sova as the keeper knows how to handle many difficult situations, and has become one of the key players. Don’t underestimate our newest player Richard Randik who has some experience from other sports and has been training to become one of the best players.

QP: Since most of your players already played together at World Cup last year, how will this impact your team?
Mudrik: It will not impact our game in any way because throughout the year we haven’t seen many of the players outside of the Pressburg Phantoms team. The Pressburg Phantoms tactics changed and developed in the best possible way, but the players who are not on the team don’t know what to do as they don’t train with us. However, as a coach, World Cup was good for me because I learned what to expect from each player and know how to fit the game to them or if they will adapt to the tactics automatically.

Analysis

By Lena Mandahus

The Slovakian national team made their debut at the IQA World Cup 2016 in Frankfurt, where they came in 17th place out of the 21 participating teams. With a roster for European Games which, apart from three new faces, consists of the same players who already went to Frankfurt together, it will be interesting to see how this plays into the team’s synergy. Since the majority of the players are part of the Pressburg Phantoms, they should be very used to one another.

On the chaser side, Martin Čurnek, a Vienna Vanguards player, stands out as a strong driver and point defender, who is very physical and hard to stop once he is in motion. Jana Krajčovičová, small but tenacious and never afraid of a challenge on pitch, poses a big threat around opposing teams’ hoops thanks to her excellent passing skills. The quaffle game is held together by the agile keeper Miroslav Sova, whose on-pitch communication with his teammates works perfectly.

Martin Čurnek keeping for the Vienna Vanguards | Photo Credit: QuidPic.Be

For the Slovak beaters, Martin Mornár and Hana Vrbovská stand out. The two of them work excellently together, as Mornár’s offensive and physical game complements Vrbovská’s defensive and communication-oriented game. Both of them played at World Cup, but with Mornár now playing for the London Unspeakables, he managed to gain valuable game experience at tournaments such as the British Quidditch Cup (BQC).

Slovakia’s seeker department holds three players, with Martin Mudrik, who is also the team’s captain and coach, standing out, as he is very fast and knows when to make a dive for the snitch.

Slovakia’s synergy should have improved since last year as their team has not changed much, and it will be interesting to see how this has improved since then. Facing a tie against either a Group A team or the winner of Group B at best in the first round of bracket play, it’s fairly unlikely that Slovakia will make it far in this tournament. However, topping Group C and getting a good run in consolation matches on Day Two should be realistic aims for the team.

Martin Čurnek contributed reporting