By Richard Turkowitsch
Editor’s Note: Richard Turkowitsch is a non-playing member of the Vienna Vanguards.
One of the most prestigious tournaments in central and eastern Europe is Poland’s own Slavic Cup. The 2018 edition was played at the home ground of GKS Świt in Warszawa on May 26-27 and saw last year’s (co-)champions Vienna Vanguards lift the trophy for the second time in two years after a hotly–contested final against Polish champions Wrocław Wanderers.
- Vienna Vanguards
- Wrocław Wanderers
- Danube Direwolves
- Compass Coalition
- Aemona Argonauts
- Warsaw Mermaids
- Kraków Dragons
- Pressburg Phantoms
- Poznań Capricorns
Austria’s four–year–in–a–row EQC qualifiers Vienna Vanguards were able to repeat their triumph of last year, where they won the Slavic Cup trophy in a joint squad with Ljubljana’s Aemona Argonauts. After an undefeated group stage, in which they beat both Polish EQC qualifiers Warsaw Mermaids as well as the Argonauts, the Vanguards got a bye through to the semifinal where they met city rivals Danube Direwolves in the seventh official Vienna derby. In a hotly–contested match where the Direwolves kept bludger control for most of the game, the Vanguards kept their calm in the beater game. Anchored by the return of Austrian national team beater Josephine Röser from injury, they managed to rip little holes in the Wolves’ defense and score a few fast goals to get out of SWIM range. With the return of bludger control into the Vanguard beaters’ hands, Austrian national team seeker coach Sascha Grimm managed to rip off the snitch sock for a 120*-40 win.
Despite this setback, the Direwolves, Vienna’s second–oldest quidditch team, managed to finish the tournament in third place after a 140*-40 victory against German merc team Compass Coalition. The Wolves continued their noticeable path of improvement compared to their winless Austrian Quidditch Cup and their guest slot at the first game day of the Bavarian League. With a tight and aggressive beater game and strong drives by Austrian national team chasers Laurids Brandl and Leon Klement (both playing as keepers for the Direwolves), as well as prime offensive weapon Kevin Domanegg — especially in a hard–fought quarterfinal against Aemona Argonauts — the Direwolves have a lot of set pieces in place to further build on.
Polish champions Wrocław Wanderers’ road to final was similarly triumphant to the Vanguards’ with them not dropping a single game in the group stages, and only Kraków Dragons able to drag them into overtime for a final score of 130°*-90*°. Their physical chaser game led by the strong drives of keeper Adam Maciak and the Kulikowski brothers Jarosław and Kuba, coupled with a tight beater defense, helped them overcome a motivated Compass Coalition team in the semifinals to meet the Vanguards in the finals. After three quick Vienna goals, the Wanderers had their backs to the wall, but dug themselves out with their aforementioned strengths in driving and physical chaser play to get in a quaffle point lead of 70-50. In snitch–on–pitch play, the Wanderers met their match in the Vanguards’ experienced beater squad and seeking, with a catch by Vanguards seeker Jessica Zekar closing the game for a 80*-70 win for the Vanguards.
German merc team Compass Coalition — comprised of players from Bielefelder Basilisken, Ruhr Phoenix Bochum, Braunschweiger Broomicorns, and Heidelberger HellHounds — were the big unknown quantity before the tournament and with very little roster information known, no one could have expected them to soar through the tournament the way they did. Led by German national team beater Paul Fander as well as Bielefelder Basilisken captain Janik Lembert, the Coalition was at times massively dominant on the beater front, especially in their quarterfinal victory over Warsaw Mermaids in the most dominant snitch–on–pitch display of the entire tournament before meeting their match in the Direwolves in the game for third place. Considering the few opportunities the team previously had to train together, fourth place is a very good result for the Coalition and the massive performances of Lembert in particular should give the opponents of the Bielefelder Basilisken at the German championship cause for concern.
With a tough loss to the Danube Direwolves, last year’s co-champions Aemona Argonauts from Ljubljana, Slovenia dropped down to fifth place after an already shaky Day One where, despite strong performances by chasers Miha Breznik, Polona Drašler, and David Gobbo as well as beater Tomas Plesko, they lost to both Vanguards and Warsaw Mermaids in the group stage. In a tough rematch against the team from the Polish capital city, the Argonauts were able to get the upper hand. Dropping down to sixth place in the rankings, Polish EQC qualifiers Warsaw Mermaids can’t be entirely happy. While dominant on chaser play and with more variety than the at times glacial slowballing the team was known for, their loss against the Compass Coalition prevented the Mermaids from taking a spot at the top. After a well-played group stage where they only lost to Vanguards, both the Germans as well as the Argonauts were too much for them. Knowing the tactical knowledge and experience of Poland’s oldest still existing team, the Mermaids will be able to bounce back in time for the next Polish tournaments, though.
Both Kraków Dragons as well as Pressburg Phantoms, in seventh and eighth place, were the unlucky teams of the tournament. In the group stages, both teams had to take some tight losses. With Kraków losing to Wanderers in overtime and both teams dropping SWIM-range games to the Compass Coalition, both fell victim to the relative parity of the tournament. The low rankings should not take away from the fact that both teams played some very solid games, and special mention should be given to Dragons beater/seeker Patrycja Szklarz as well as Phantoms keeper Martin Mudrik.
The youngest Polish teams from Olsztyn and Poznań, the HoneyBadgers, and the Capricorns respectively, saw noticeable improvements throughout the tournament and compared to their previous outing in Polish tournament play. HoneyBadgers had the upper hand in the direct duels both in the group stages as well as in the game for ninth place with their dominant and physical chaser play. While especially on Day One the massive amounts of penalties the team had to serve for sometimes ludicrous fouls started to become a running gag among fellow teams, the Badgers improved vastly and managed their last two games with only one blue card. Should they be able to improve on that, Polish quidditch will have a new strong force from the northeast. Capricorns, despite their 20-man roster (with some help from Katowice club Black Diamond Silesia Miners), sadly were not able to bring their strengths on the pitch, but improvements were visible and the experience the Poznań team has gained is invaluable.
Slavic Cup 2018 once again proved the competitiveness of central and eastern European quidditch along with the great team spirit and love of international cooperation. Every participating team (and the guest players from other teams) will take the Slavic spirit with them to their own countries to the benefit of their NGBs and the quidditch community as a whole. Do widzenia, Warszawa, until 2019.