By Olivia Blum, with comments from Mel Müller
Editor’s Note: Olivia Blum and Mel Müller play for Turicum Thunderbirds.
There is little time before teams all over Europe will have packed up and traveled to Pfaffenhofen, Germany, for the European Quidditch Cup. For the first time in history, they will be joined by a Swiss team: the Turicum Thunderbirds (TT). So, as you see, the Thunderbirds are under no pressure at all…
Jokes aside, participation at EQC is a big deal for the Zurich–based team. It will be their first major international tournament and they are all incredibly excited to join the international stage. The Thunderbirds, like many quidditch teams, started out in the heads of a few students, who still do not quite agree with who came up with the idea of a quidditch team first. Whoever it was, it resulted in Aleksandra Langer (now playing for the Danube Direwolves), Cynthia Müller, Fidel Studer and Thomas Berglitsch founding the team (then just called “Quidditch Zurich”) in 2015. Their line–up has changed quite a bit since then. The highpoint of this growing so far has been their win in last October’s first national championship. There, they competed against two teams. Hippogreife Hägendorf and Pilatus Patronus – Quidditch Lucerne. This title earned them the spot at EQC, for which they have been training ever since.
The Thunderbirds will be competing at EQC with quite a different line-up than at the national championship. Due to a lack of players in their own ranks, and the NGB’s developing state, seven players from other Swiss teams were officially recruited. However, the Thunderbird’s core members still remain. Claudia Leuch, TT’s coach and president of the Schweizerischer Quidditchverband, the Swiss NGB, will be leading the team. Leuch will be one of the most experienced players on the field, having learnt to play with NTNUI Rumpeldunk during an exchange semester in Norway. Student exchange programs seem to be the Thunderbirds’ strong suit, with chaser Yann Hermann having also previously played for a Norwegian team, the OSI Vikings, in his exchange year. Hermann gained his great speed and fine eye for tactical maneuvers with the Vikings, and will be a player to watch this weekend. His fantastic passing skills and drives never seem to fail to find openings in the opposing team’s defense. Hermann will be joined by chaser Merlin Studer, who will be sure to annoy opposing beaters. Quick to dodge beats, Studer will also draw attention to his sheer speed, and will be using these skills to evade the many bludgers sure to come his way, being a great attacking partner for Hermann. Another chaser to look out for is Flavia Luz, nicknamed “Honeybadger” after the Dreiländer-Friendlies game against Black Forest Bowtruckles, where she proved her fearlessness in tackling players double and even triple her size. Luz will also be using her tactical knowledge and quick-thinking to adapt her position throughout the Thunderbirds’ games.
Joining the chaser squad is also Fidel Studer (brother to Merlin Studer), Filip Holecek, who usually plays for Pilatus Patronus, Vincent Vorburger, coach of Berner Boggarts, Johanna Baumgartner, coach of Hippogreife Hägendorf, and Joshua Wyss, usually a Basel Basilisks player. Wyss in particular is a great chaser, able to get up the field quickly with impressive drives. A utility player able to beat as well, Joshua does however sometimes get into difficulty waiting for his beaters whilst chasing, but we can expect to see him working well with his brother, Severin Wyss, who will also be playing with the team. From Vorburger, we can expect to see a solid chasing game, accurate passes, and an ability to be aggressive and fast-paced without losing sight of the game. It will be interesting however, to see whether the external players will add a wealth of tactics and experience to the Thunderbirds squad, or whether they will struggle to gel together, having had less experience playing together as a one team than their opposition.
Thunderbird’s keepers will be Noam Brunner, Severin Wyss, and Samson Rentsch, with Wyss and Rentsch two more players who usually play for Basel Basilisks. All three players are fast runners and focus well on the game. Spectators will want to be looking out for Severin in particular. A playmaker, he knows how to work with and use his beaters. A solid driver and good tackler, Severin also knows how to evade opposing beaters and deflects bludgers easily.
On the beaters’ side of the game, Thomas Berglitsch, freshly-appointed head referee, will be using his expert knowledge of the rules to his advantage, and also has a strong throwing arm for powerful beats. This strength will be joined by Alex Schoch, whose strength is matched by his accuracy, able to make beats across whole pitches. Schoch is one of the Thunderbirds’ most athletic players due to his fighter pilot discipline, making him a very valuable asset to the team. They will be joined by Particia Schwan. Schwan, coach for Basel Basilisks, used to play for the University of Sydney Quidditch Club teams Unforgivables and Unspeakables, where she learned her beating skills. Schwan is a level-headed beater who always makes sure to keep a good overview of the game, rarely getting distracted by either the quaffle or the beater game and making her a great defensive beater.
Also joining the beaters is Mel Müller, an accomplished defensive beater who will have an eye on the whole of the game. Good at catching bludgers, Müller is difficult to predict and will play mind games on any opposition who threatens them. We can, however, expect to see Müller aggressively guarding the hoops in defense, putting up a fight to any quaffle-carrying player. Another beater to watch out for is Kaspar Oplatka. Fast-thinking and agile, Oplatka is one of Switzerland’s best beaters, and will be sure to cause some trouble for the other teams. Oplatka will also be alternating as seeker with Vorburger.
Kaspar Oplatka at the Swiss Championship in 2017 | Photo Credit: Filip Holecek
But as it is with every new team, the Thunderbirds have almost no experience, which in a tournament like EQC is key. The Thunderbirds have some promising players, but that does not mean they have a great chance of winning. It is difficult to judge the Thunderbirds’ skills, because they have barely ever participated in any games outside Switzerland, except by joining Basel Basilisks in the aforementioned Dreiländer-Friendlies against Strasbourg Quidditch- Les Silver Strasbrooms and Black Forest Bowtruckles, where they won against both teams. This could look promising, but they were not in the same line-up as now and it was not in an official tournament setting. So, despite these successes, we can be fairly certain that they will not stand a chance against favorite METU Unicorns, the English Team HogYork Horntails or Ghent Gargoyles from Belgium, as all of these teams have earned their spot at EQC in countries with a much higher competition rate. But even if they will not win, the Thunderbirds will not go home unrewarded. They will have gained experience in international quidditch and will have spent an amazing weekend meeting the European community and watching some high quality games.