By Seppe De Wit
Editor’s Note: Seppe De Wit plays for Antwerp A.
Ghent will be back at European Quidditch Cup (EQC) after a year of absence and they will be very hungry to show their progression from the last two seasons. They managed to grow to a two–team club this season and with some strong additions to their roster like Jens De Graeve from Bruges Bridgebacks and Viktor Moortgat from NTNUI Rumpeldunk, they qualified again for EQC. They will bring a 21-player roster very similar to the team that played at the Belgian qualifiers on Nov. 5.
Ghent has been drafted into Group B with HogYork Horntails, Turicum Thunderbirds, and METU Unicorns. It is the last name that will scare Ghent the most. Last year’s finalists were drafted as unseeded due to a second–place finish at their qualifiers on Nov. 26., causing Group B to be a very competitive group. Achieving first place in their group may prove too difficult for Ghent, but there is no reason to doubt their chances to get in the upper bracket. It is likely that they will put all their energy into the game against York and strive for the second place. They should not get caught off guard by the Turicum Thunderbirds, debutants and the first ever Swiss team at EQC, whose primary goal will be to win their first international game.
Ghent’s star player is without a doubt Micah Unruh. The impressive keeper has always showed great skills in the Belgian competition, but it was while playing for the national team at World Cup 2016 he really excelled on the international scene. Next to Unruh, Ghent has some very solid support in their chaser line up with Belgian internationals Nick De Leu, Gloria Roelants, and Suzanne Fischer, their new promising chaser recruit. With De Graeve and Dale Housden as subs, Ghent also has some real depth in their chaser rotation. In the beater department, Ghent has made possibly even more improvement. Their last EQC attendance ended in the quarterfinals of the lower bracket, a result that was in general caused by their beaters getting outplayed in most games. Since then, Ghent has been working on its beaters, and with addition of Moortgat, they finally have some strong leading male beaters to be a strong foundation for the rest of the team. The only hole in the Ghent roster will be Lotte Opsomer, their primary female beater who will not be attending EQC. Ghent should be able to fill the spot with the experienced beater Ellen Wiekie in their ranks.
First place in the group will probably go to METU Unicorns, but Ghent’s fight for second place will be one to watch on Day One. With this team, Ghent should have the ambition to get in the upper bracket. If they manage to have a physical answer in defence against the agile Tom Stevens and Caleb Pakeman from York, they should be able to win the game. If Ghent gets in the upper bracket, their tournament will be a success, but that doesn’t mean that they are finished. If Unruh and Moortgat play their best, aggressive style, every team may get surprised by Ghent in the knockouts.
The reigning champions will come back to EQC with only one goal: the second European title. Antwerp will bring a roster with almost no changes compared to last year. In four years, they have managed to evolve from a group of 15–year–olds grasping a sixth–place finish at their first EQC in 2014 to a mature squad that won the very tight final of EQC 2017. Given that this team is still relatively young, it will be interesting to see if they have already reached the top of their potential or have been able to maintain their progression from the past seasons.
|Werewolves of London|
|Three River Dragons Passau|
This may come as no surprise since Antwerp have always found themselves in the group of death previous years, but Antwerp has been drafted into a pretty hard group. Werewolves of London, the bronze medalists from last EQC, Three River Dragons Passau, who found themselves competing in the upper bracket last season, and Barcelona Eagles, who are a very experienced squad that should not be underestimated. Antwerp A needs to win this group purely based on quality, but they will need to be fully focused from the start. If Antwerp has a sloppy game, there should be no doubt that all these opponents can keep them in range.
Louis Lermytte made some small changes to his team to optimize the balance compared to last season. Tim Van Huygevoort looks to have swapped to beater after four years of chasing to fill in the gap left by Faust Eeckhout. Lermytte has been preparing himself to focus only on beating as well, leaving a gap in the chasing line that will be hard to replace. The adjusted structure has given Antwerp some trouble in the start of the season, taking the bronze medal at Battle Royale II after losing against Southampton Quidditch Club and Velociraptors QC. But after a year of training, where Antwerp upgraded from two to three trainings a week, it looks like they are managing very well. This can be seen as Antwerp won for the first time in their career against (a depleted) Paris Titans this February in a friendly tournament. It will be very exciting to see Antwerp A competing for first place this season. They will be eager to prove themselves against the “big” teams, since last year there was some speculation about Antwerp being lucky to not face Raptors or Titans in the knockouts.
It will be up to Seppe De Wit, Nathan Wilputte, Jonas Versmissen, and Emile Aerts to carry the offence, flanked by Laurent Venckeleer, Florence Anslot, and their fresher talents Jef D’heere—who is only 16 years old—and Veerle Baumers. This chasing lineup still looks very impressive thanks to the accurate and fast passing game which can split up any defence. And if we watch the beater rotation Antwerp can field with Soraya Abbagnato, Elisabeth Reyniers, and Katrien De Doncker next to Lermytte, Jan Dubois, and Van Huygevoort, this team seems to be ready for a consecutive European title.