By Cameron VomBaur
With Day One of the MLQ Championships in the book, we take a look at Saturday’s games and look ahead to Day Two.
1) They Are Who We Thought They Were
In every matchup on the day, the higher-seeded team prevailed. Out of four matchups in the first round, three were 2-0 sweeps, with Rochester defeating Salt Lake City, San Francisco knocking off New Orleans, and League City taking down New York. In the quarterfinals, another three matchups were sweeps, with Austin over Rochester, Boston over San Francisco, and Los Angeles over Washington. Furthermore, all three were won out of snitch range, as the consensus top three teams imposed their will with relative ease. There were only a few hiccups in top-seed dominance. In the first round San Francisco needed two in-range victories to defeat New Orleans, including a game one in which they trailed by 20 points at the catch. In turn, San Francisco managed to keep Boston from holding a lead until partway through the 16th minute, and were still in range for thirteen seconds after the seeker floor expired before Boston pulled away in game two of their series. Finally, Detroit and League City stole games from Washington and Indianapolis in their first round and quarterfinal series respectively, culminating in snitch-range win-or-go-home matches that fell in favor of the favorite.
2) Gabe Garcez Continues to Break the Game
MLQ’s efforts to prevent last year’s schedule-stretching matches at the hands of a near-invincible snitch seemed to be effective, despite the new rule being pushed to its limits. Gabe Garcez snitched for four games on Day One, and three of those lasted to the 40th minute, the maximum game time allowed under MLQ rules. The fourth lasted 33:06 in a tight Argonauts-Curse match, and ended at the lightning-quick hands of San Francisco’s Hugo Quiroz. The next-longest match was David Becker’s performance in a hotly contested Intensity-Legends match, at 27:34. Especially with colleagues Anthony Hawkins and Dilan Freeman suiting up for the Guardians and Legends, respectively, Garcez’s status as the event’s biggest X-factor is unquestioned, and the numbers reflect it. While two of his games were relative blowouts that his longevity didn’t have much of an impact on, Day Two is sure to hold more high-stakes matches, and teams may find themselves game planning around the presence of the sport’s premier snitch runner.
3) Day Two Ought to Be Thrilling (Even After the Semifinals)
When MLQ commissioner Ethan Sturm drew the quadrants for the championship weekend, the immediate takeaway was that we would not see another Austin-Boston final, with both powerhouses located on the left half of the bracket. Last year’s series was arguably the highest level of quidditch the sport has ever seen, with absurd talent at every position on both teams, and very similar, extremely well-executed gameplans. However, despite not being able to rematch each other for the league championship, Sunday should still hold plenty of excitement. Unlike last year, both of the other divisional champions have advanced to the semifinals, and unlike last year, there is a third team with a perfect record. While last year’s Guardians dropped a surprise game to the Hive during the regular season and bowed out of Day One of championship weekend with stunning pair of upsets at the hands of the Legends, this year, a 9-0 regular season record preceded a pair of blowout Day One wins over the Admirals. The Intensity, again champions of the North, are also legitimate contenders. The showed their capability against top competition in a pair of tight snitch-range losses to the eventual champion Night Riders in last year’s semifinals, and had their mettle tested in a series of back-and-forth battles with the Legends on Saturday. With the addition of a dominant leading scorer in Andrew Axtell and the retention of their core, and the new-look Guardians eager to display their high-pressure style against an elite team, the Guardians-Intensity series shapes up to be a worthy semifinal. Boston looks to repeat, Austin looks to bring gold to a group of players that have long deserved it, and Indianapolis and Los Angeles will be hungry to show that MLQ isn’t a two-team league.