By Meredith Whiting, Ashara Peiris, and James Burnett
Disclaimer: Meredith Whiting plays for Warwick Quidditch Club, Ashara Peiris plays for London Unspeakables, and James Burnett coaches Liverpuddly Cannons, but each avoided writing about their respective team.
With British Quidditch Cup (BQC) upon us once again, and the best games to watch on Day One released, it’s time for the full tournament preview – with predictions! While Day One holds many predictable games, it is not to be underestimated as it has some key games that could change the outlook of Day Two greatly. This year sees four teams that took place in last year’s Development Cup competing, the first– and second–placed teams – Liverpuddly Cannons and Holyrood Hippogriff Seconds respectively – and the last–placed teams, Bournemouth Banshees (eighth) and Sheffield Steelfins (ninth). The final standings may also prove that the European Quidditch Cup (EQC) selection system is flawed, showing the even greater need for a different system.
Prediction: Velociraptors QC, Sheffield Squids, Swansea Swans, Portsmouth Horntail Strikers
Tournament favourites Velociraptors QC will easily progress as top seed on Day Two, to the surprise of no one. Within the lower half of the group, positions are set to change as Sheffield seem likely to proceed to the upper bracket, in part due to the addition of Sohum Bhatt – present last year on the Edinburgh squad that came fourth at BQC 2017. The two southern teams should take the lower bracket places, although Swansea have a bit more about them and should beat Portsmouth to take third seed.
Prediction: HogYork Horntails, Leicester Thestrals, Exeter Eagles, Cambridge Quidditch Club
After struggling at Northern Cup, Leicester are likely to overtake Exeter to win a place in the upper bracket – with key players Gabri Hall-Rapanotti and Katie Dickens – following silver–medal winners York. Fielding the shortest roster of the tournament, Cambridge will keep their fourth placing, joined by Exeter in the lower bracket who despite strong players such as Charlie Strickland will lack the beating nous and depth of talent to go the distance with an experienced Leicester side.
Prediction: Holyrood Hippogriffs Firsts, Radcliffe Chimeras, Manchester Manticores, Durhamstrang
Group C will be one of two groups with a second seed set to challenge for first. Heading up the close group is Edinburgh, who will have to shake off the malaise which has marred their season so far, utilising their aggressive beating skills and scrappy play style to recapture the heights of their last BQC and reach out of range of a resurgent Chimeras – to take the top seed – due to a well established and varied quaffle game backed by Team UK beater Alice Walker and a strong seeker threat in Canadian Christian Favreau. Despite an injury to breakout player Tua Karling forcing her out of the tournament, Manchester still have sufficient depth – including players such as Anna O’Gara and Marianna Parroquin – to show their rising skill level by defeating a Durham outfit set to continue floundering, but will still proceed to the lower bracket.
Team UK beater Alice Walker at the IQA World Cup 2016| Photo Credit: Ajantha Abey Quidditch Photography
Prediction: London Unspeakables, Tornadoes Quidditch Club, Chester Centurions, Bournemouth Banshees
Following Group C with the possibility of seedings being swapped, this group will more than likely see Unspeakables taking the place of a depleted Tornadoes as top seed with much improved chasing and physicality, last season’s quarterfinalists having lost key players Jonathon Cookes, Becky Thompson, and Dave Goddin all of whom were integral to how the team set up at Northern Cup. BQC 2015 led to a defeat of Tornadoes by Chester in the group stage, and there could be an upset for second place if Chester’s experienced cohort of talented players such as Olly Barker, Connor Climo, and Andy Messenger play to their best, although as it stands Chester will likely proceed to the lower bracket. Bournemouth, surprise additions to BQC after placing eighth at Development Cup 2017, will almost certainly come last.
Prediction: Southampton Quidditch Club Firsts, Bangor Broken Broomsticks, Nottingham Nightmares, Reading Knights
Southern Cup champions SQC should easily progress as top seed on Day One, with their likely closest game in northern rivals Bangor still being a washout. The contest for second place in this group promises to be amongst the most exciting of the group stages, with both Bangor and Nottingham having key talent, both established and up-and-coming. Tommy Ruler, Rachel Lily, and Zach Wright will be looking to edge the game for the 2016 fourth place finishers while Lauren Sterry, Jack Newton, and Callum Lake will look to secure the upper bracket for the Welsh side. Perhaps more interestingly, both sides’ Velociraptors QC alumni will be out in force, and the sideline coaching and strategic insight of former Nightmares Lucy Q and James Thanangadan may tip the balance to the midlanders despite the obvious advantage Bangor have in Team UK seeker Lake. Either way, the loser of this scrap should comfortably move into the third seed over Reading, despite the latter’s resurgence at Southern Cup this season.
Seeker Callum Lake catching the snitch at Northern Cup 2017| Photo Credit: More Quidditch Photos
Prediction: Werewolves of London, Liverpuddly Cannons, Leeds Griffins, Bristol Bees
While Werewolves of London will no doubt win this group more than comfortably, the focus should really be on the game between second seed Leeds and an unseeded Liverpool team. Boasting players such as Troy Kelly-Weekes, Anna Rowe, Chloe Hemingway, and Nathaniel Welham – the latter three who are now all members of expansion squad – Liverpool may go in as slight favourites against the admittedly more experienced Leeds team. Whilst Leeds have got the best seeker – and potentially best chaser – in Matty Percival, the lack of beaters could tip it in the favour of Liverpool and defy the odds to proceed to upper bracket. Whilst the Bees have been bolstered by the addition of former Bears’ players Aimee Donhou and Aaron Brett-Miller, the loss of Jack Harlow-Pearlstone will leave them without a suitable driver and will likely result in a disappointing last place finish in the group.
Prediction: Warwick Quidditch Club, Falmouth Falcons, Keele Squirrels, Sheffield Steelfins
Group G is liable to keep roughly similar seedings heading into Day Two, but that does not mean that there will be no close games. Battling for the final upper bracket spot will be Keele and Falmouth. An aggressive beater game may be needed to combat the big hitters of the Falmouth roster, especially on offence, if Keele are unable to effect a slick passing game centred around the Ridley sisters. Warwick should easily progress as top seed, avoiding the upset of last year, showing a roster with perhaps a less potent top end but greater strength in depth – their female chasers in particular were more involved at Southern Cup, and will look to to increase their scoring rate, while Sheffield Seconds will struggle to score across the board and should settle into a resounding fourth place.
Prediction: Loughborough Longshots, Bristol Bears, Southampton Quidditch Cup Seconds, Holyrood Hippogriffs Seconds
Whilst Loughborough and Bears have somewhat comparable chasing lineups, including new Expansion Team member Jack Kohli, the stronger beating of Loughborough including returning member Holly Kerslake and stalwart Franky Kempster – will likely be sufficient to overpower a Bears roster missing key components Josh Blannin, Alistair Goodwin, Aaron Brett-Miller, and Tom Ower from their unlikely silver medal run of last year. Despite this, Bears should still comfortably dispatch the other two. SQC can be expected to defend their now-established position as the only seriously competitive second team, and will likely use their hallmark physicality and aggressive play to brush past the mercurial Hippogriffs Seconds.
Lower Bracket – Overview
The lower bracket will as always undoubtedly produce some interesting games, often sadly overlooked, and particularly among previous highly ranked teams. Contenders for the top four are likely to be SQC 2, Manchester, Keele, Chester, Leeds, and Nottingham – a strong northern showing. Nottingham will be looking to repeat their Northern Cup 2017 success and top the lower bracket once again, while SQC 2 will hope to mirror the anticipated deep run of their first team in the upper bracket. Either way, expect to see several long standing teams take places in the lower bracket, such Keele, Durham, and Nottingham, in lieu of formerly developing teams such as Liverpool and Sheffield. Any group stage upsets, of course, could leave a begrudging powerhouse languishing in the lower bracket with damaged pride and a point to prove on Day Two.
Round of 16
The round of 16 at the start of Day Two will likely be mostly uneventful and fairly predictable. Each of the top seeds should easily follow through to the quarterfinals. No games are hugely likely to end in an upset, although some will provide more interesting matches than others. This notably includes York versus Chimeras, Edinburgh versus Leicester, and even Loughborough/Bears versus Bangor.
Raptors vs. Tornadoes → Raptors
Loughborough vs. Bangor → Loughborough
SQC vs. Bears → SQC
London Unspeakables vs. Sheffield → Unspeakables
Werewolves vs. Falmouth → Werewolves
Edinburgh vs. Leicester → Edinburgh
York vs. Chimeras → York
Warwick vs. Liverpool → Warwick
The quarterfinal brings closer games, with the first real chance of one of the title contenders leaving the competition, and seems set to put the EQC system to the test as Warwick face up against a York side who will be heading to Pfaffenhoffen ahead of them despite a tense debate amongst analysts about whether they are the stronger side. This will likely be the most interesting game of this group; Hateful 8 showed York could hold Warwick in SWIM while still lacking key players Tom Stevens and Hannah Dignum. So long as Dignum makes the recovery from injury at Hateful 8, it will likely be close – and will rely on the conditions on the day. Despite this, Warwick – even lacking the influential Tayyeb Ali – should still edge above them to take their place in the semifinal on the strength of their formidable quaffle line, with the commanding Seb Waters having greater strength around him than his opposite number Stevens. Raptors and Werewolves should both comfortably win against Loughborough and Edinburgh respectively, while SQC and Unspeakables meet in their first rematch since Southern Cup 2016 where SQC were knocked out. This game will depend upon the strength of the teams working together rather than upon individuals, and is likely to draw a healthy crowd. Fresh from a strong showing in their Southern Cup victory SQC will be favourites – but that was the case in 2016 too.
Raptors vs. Loughborough → Raptors
Werewolves vs. Edinburgh → Werewolves
SQC vs. Unspeakables → SQC
Warwick vs. York → Warwick
With two former BQC winners and a runner-up, not to mention three regional champions, expect the semifinals to be tightly contested games with all four challengers squarely set on progression towards the trophy. Meeting again for what is to be the ninth time, Werewolves will be facing against the favourites to win, Velociraptors. Werewolves will want to claim the top spot after losing out in BQC 2017, and although the record stands at 6-2 in favour of Raptors, this is not cause to discount Simon Bidwell’s team: in major competitions, they can boast one victory each, with Werewolves having won the teams’ meeting in the EQC 2017 quarterfinals. Roster differences are few, with both squads bringing large, if not full, teams – although the absence of Team UK star Andrew Hull looms large for the defending champions – so it really will be a battle between two titans. Close as the margins are, the strength of Team UK beater pairing Lucy Q and Bill Orridge adds a venomous edge to Raptors’ play around the snitch and should ensure the London outfit’s pursuit of a first major tournament win continues in spite of an ever-growing cache of silver and bronze medals. Warwick against SQC occurred twice at Hateful 8, with both SWIM games leading to eventual SQC victories. Warwick will be hoping to finally beat the Southern champions and ensure their medal chances, yet it will be hard fought on both sides. Fortunately for the 2015 BQC champions, key players Aaron Veale, Bex Lowe, and Anjit Aulakh are in the form of their life this season and that should be enough to see them to the final.
Werewolves vs. Raptors → Raptors
SQC vs. Warwick → SQC
Third/Fourth Place Playoff
If all goes as expected, another rematch will take place, this time of the Southern Cup 2017 semifinal between Werewolves and Warwick. Despite a win against Werewolves at Hateful 8, the Werewolves roster was too depleted for it to foreshadow how this match will turn out. With the talent amassed in the increased depth of the Werewolves roster, whereas Warwick have to rely on a number of less experienced players, Werewolves should have their second consecutive BQC bronze.
Warwick vs. Werewolves → Werewolves
Perhaps fittingly a contest between the Northern and Southern champions, this will no doubt be the most exciting game of the season, with one of these two teams looking set to join the Radcliffe Chimeras in having two BQC titles. Having shown their strength in a gruelling Southern Cup final against Werewolves, SQC will be looking for a victory against a strong Raptors roster, and the sterner test they faced for their regional crown may just be their biggest edge against the defending champions. Both teams have shown their capability this season of producing victories in close games. At Battle Royale, Raptors defeated SQC after catching the snitch while ahead five goals. The improvement in SQC’s playing was tangible when Raptors narrowly snatched the win after being two goals down. Either way, this game will be a hard–fought battle with a worthy winner at the end, with the capacity of the bullish and aggressive Raptors chasing to shut down the careful control of SQC playmaker Aaron Veale and the ascendency of Anjit Aulakh, Ben Guthrie, Imy Gregg, and Kerry Aziz against Lucy Q, Bill Orridge, and Dan Trick likely to be the key deciding factors. If SQC can slow the game down enough to stretch the pitch with their slick passing movement then they may be able to break the champions down, but Lucy and Orridge are menacing in their pursuit of an isolated quaffle game and it will likely only take one or two missteps from Aulakh, leading the SQC beater line, to deliver the suckerpunches to take the game away from the southerners. Unless Aulakh can play a near-perfect game – admittedly well within his means – or the Raptors’ beater offence falters, Jay Holmes’ team seem favourites to become the first team to successfully complete a BQC title defence.
Raptors vs. SQC → Raptors
Velociraptors after winning Northern Cup 2017| Photo Credit: Howard Orridge
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