By Benny Nadeau
In year’s past, some of the biggest criticisms of teams from the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic have been their inability to play out of region. But, thankfully, we continue to have tournaments like the University of Maryland’s Turtle Cup. Annually held, it has generally provided a nice measuring stick for the attending Mid-Atlantic teams before regionals. This year, however, we’ve been spoiled as many of the assumed contenders in each regional are heading down to Maryland this weekend for a good, old-fashioned brawl.
The first ever Turtle Cup saw Virginia Tech come from behind to defeat the host school in the finals during the rainy 2011 tournament. The following year, it was the University of Maryland who snatched victory away from Penn State. Aside from those two, only a few of the usual suspects are returning to Turtle Cup III (University of Richmond, Philadelphia Honey Badgers and Lafayette College), with a litany of new teams joining the fray. Simply put, this year’s Turtle Cup will be the most competitive one yet.
Can University of Maryland defend their throne? Can James Hicks, now a member of the NYDC Capitalists, defeat his old team? Can Emerson throw their weight around outside the Northeast? Can Tufts or Rochester prove that they belong in the Top 25 conversation? With many questions looming, I’ve polled over fourty players in the International Quidditch Association in order to get their predictions of this fascinating tournament. Below the jump, you’ll find my predictions of each pool, their most anticipated game and see how many find the tournament’s wacky, experimental bracket playing out!
Emerson College Quidditch
Lock Haven University Quidditch
Let’s cut to the chase here and get right down to brass tacks: Emerson versus NYDC. As far as top anticipated matchups go, this is the biggest one that is guaranteed to happen. This will, undoubtedly, be a head-to-head clash of heavyweights that have both claimed spots in many Top 15 rankings. There are so many great individual matchups here that it’s impossible to write about them all.
The obvious: David Foxx versus James Hicks. Aside from both being massive, ominous clouds of destruction—it’s their differences that make this such a highly anticipated matchup. While Foxx is most likely to break down the opposition with a few well-timed bludger blocks and raw power, culminating in a giant dunk and a consequently deafening roar; Hicks’ style seems to directly oppose that, picking apart sleeping defenses with quick, accurate passes and shots. Consequently, Foxx is afraid of nobody and will take most down with relative ease; while Hicks is most likely to let his chasers play physically, waiting to block any incoming shots. Seeing these two leaders juxtaposed in front of our eyes should be a real treat.
The underrated: Amanda Dallas versus Emerson’s beaters. Having lost two of their top beaters from last year, Emerson is still working on adjusting to life after Mara Shuster-Lefkowtiz. This weekend, we’ll see if Cassie Samuels, Paulina Pascual and Leeanne Dillman can keep up with one of the East Coast’s best female beaters. I believe they can, but if they have to depend on CJ Junior and Aaron Wohl to focus their attention on opposing beaters instead of chasers, Emerson will suffer.
Whoever wins this matchup will easily take the pool and I’ve got the team that has brought back years of built-up chemistry to steal away a win. In a game that will most certainly come down to a snitch grab, this may be the tournament’s most exciting game by day’s end.
While Lock Haven received a few votes in the poll for Most Surprising Team, there’s no way they’ll get any higher than third place.
Lock Haven: 1-2
Horn-Tailed Horcruxes: 0-3
University of Rochester Thestrals
In what many agree to be the tournament’s weakest pool, it will be the University of Maryland’s to lose. I fully expect for the University of Rochester to put up a great fight against the host, however. In Lafayette’s attempt to build off a decent showing at last year’s Turtle Cup, they will be battling for seeding with SUNY Geneseo, a team that has shown plenty of potential in the past. While all the teams here are particularly interesting, it’s clear that the Maryland versus Rochester matchup is where most of the excitement lies.
For years, UR has desperately attempted to get in on the Northeast elite discussion, ultimately being trumped by perennial powers like Tufts, Emerson, Hofstra and Boston University. Over the summer, the hype for Rochester reached an all-time high and they currently own the best record in the entire IQA. In their first major tournament of the year, it’ll be fun to see if they can really walk the walk.
The Obvious: All eyes will be on Devin Sandon, who will undoubtedly draw the short stick in trying to mark UMD’s Harry Greenhouse. While Sandon’s defense is above average, one has to wonder if his offense will suffer after guarding Maryland’s best players over and over. Rochester’s offense, in the past, struggles at times to find goals when they need them most; while, in stark contrast, Maryland’s greatest strength lies in scoring.
The Underrated: Although Maryland already has a tournament championship under their belt this fall, it came against far weaker competition than they’ll see this weekend. After losing notable seniors like Hicks, keeper Patrick Rardin and beater Sarah Woosley, it will be interesting to see how well the new additions to UMD play when under the spotlight. Keep on eye on Maryland’s female chasers if Erin Mallory, acting as Tournament Director, doesn’t play—that’s a whole lot of inexperience against a very experienced Rochester squad.
In the end, I believe that Maryland’s elite talent will be more than enough to beat Rochester, but it’ll be something to watch for in later rounds of this tournament.
Elsewhere, SUNY Geneseo find themselves in 8th place of a rather weak Snowbelt Conference (Rochester currently stands at 8-0 in 1st) but I see them scraping together enough to claim third place in this pool.
University of Maryland: 3-0
University of Rochester: 2-1
SUNY Geneseo: 1-2
(Photo Credit to Dani Palmer, thanks!)
Hofstra Flying Dutchmen
University of Richmond
In perhaps the most sneakily underrated pot of them all, we see three major players from last year’s World Cup pitted against each other in Turtle Cup III’s version of the Pool of Death. Honestly, I could see any of the top three teams coming out of this pool, so all of these matchups should be highly contested. But, we’re going to look at Hofstra versus Villanova, a game that puts last year’s Mid-Atlantic Champions against Hofstra— a team that surprised almost everybody at World Cup VI.
While these are teams trending in opposite directions in terms of roster turnover, they’re both searching for a new team identity. For Villanova, they’ve nearly retained their entire roster, only having lost Billy and Tony Greco to NYDC and former captain Zach D’Amico to graduation. Under returning captain Dan Takaki, I fully expect Villanova to look much more like the team that beat Maryland last fall rather than the unlucky squad at World Cup VI. In Hofstra’s case, and I’m sure you’ve heard it by now, they graduated nearly everybody of previous notoriety (including Jayke Archibald, Tim Keaney, Taylor Crawford, Collen O’Mara, etc), leaving mostly just their dominant female beater core, Alex Leitch and Jamie Colon. But, with Alex Leitch stepping in at keeper for spells, Hofstra did just fine at last weekend’s Poison Apple Tournament.
The Obvious: Hofstra’s Theresa Buchta has stepped into the spotlight and needs to thrive at all times, particularly when Leitch is off playing keeper. For Hofstra to have success this tournament, they’ll have to squeeze every bit out of their strengths and try to minimize their weaknesses—which sounds like incredibly poor analysis, but it’s true. With Leitch and Buchta on the field, they can hold most teams scoreless for long stretches, but if their most reliable parts falter at all, Hofstra will be in trouble against an intelligent team like Villanova.
The Underrated: Who will guard Julia Fillman? Having lost O’Mara, Hofstra graduated their only dependable female chaser—and while the player-turned-coach can yell all she wants from the sidelines, she won’t be able to step in against Fillman. As one of the region’s best chasers, Fillman proved this summer that she could run with the best at Northeast Fantasy. This time, however, she’ll be going against much weaker competition. If Villanova is smart, they’ll feed her the ball all game and get out of the way.
Ultimately, it should be Villanova emerging victorious from this battle, but Hofstra will prove that they belong. Takaki gets the edge over anybody Hofstra might throw out there.
It’d be a shame if we forgot about University of Richmond, by the way! Unfortunately, I don’t know a ton about their current roster, but I know that Jules Baer is studying abroad in Costa Rica. Baer was voted All-Tournament at Northeast Fantasy, but will be absent this semester. That alone may hurt Richmond enough to keep them from winning the group—but don’t sleep on Richmond, those spiders will bite you! UPenn will be the strongest of the fourth place teams by a mile.
Penn State University
Philadelphia Honey Badgers
Penn State University versus Tufts University is easily this pool’s killer, must-watch game. As two teams constantly trying to prove they belong, they’ve come up short in recent years. However, the results so far this year suggest that they’re here to stay and play tournament spoiler to anybody isn’t prepared for them. Penn State, coming off a second-place finish at Nittany Invitational behind UMD, will look to make another big splash before regionals. Tufts has done well thus far in Massachusetts, going 3-3 against Emerson and QC Boston Massacre (1-2 and 2-1, respectfully) and have improved immensely over the team that was bounced early from World Cup VI.
The Obvious: Hannah DeBaets is a female chaser from another planet, otherworldly at times. Hopefully Penn State has a plan to go against DeBaets or she will make them pay dearly. With Emily Hickmott behind her, the Tufflepuff’s are incredibly strong at chaser and will run Penn State off the field if they’re not careful. A new influx of freshman for Tufts has invigorated the team’s chances to win. We’ll have to see if Tufts shows up in their first major tournament since last month’s MQC showing where they fell to McGill.
The Underrated: Tufts’ beaters rely heavily on bludger control to run their offense; luckily, they have the beater personal to make it happen. Whether it is Nora Mueller, Matt Cardarelli or Michael Sanders, the Tufflepuff beaters can make life frustrating for opposing chasers. If Penn State can neutralize their offense before Tufts’ beaters can take out opposing point defenders then they should win this game. This, of course, is much easier said than done.
Tufts should turn tons of heads at this tournament. In fact, they’re my tournament darlings; my Cinderella if you will. Penn State could easily win this game, but I’m going with my gut on this one.
UNC and Philadelphia were first and second in votes for Most Surprising Team, but I’m sipping on that UNC kool-aid as well and I see them sliding in here in third place—ready to play spoiler.
Penn State: 2-1
Philadelphia Honey Badgers: 0-3
Top 5 Players to Watch:
5. Scott Axel, beater, Penn State:
Axel almost propelled former teammate Michael Parada’s Orange team into the finals at Northeast Fantasy himself. Playing like a man possessed, Axel was the driving force behind an incredibly tough defense. If Axel plays anything like he did this past August, Penn State will be a force to be reckoned with.
4. Alex Leitch, beater, Hofstra:
Thrust into a new role of sorts, Leitch has been trying to do it all for Hofstra thus far and has succeeded. Unfortunately for him, these teams are much bigger and stronger than those he faced at BAQC last weekend. If he can carry the team again, at keeper and beater, he will have put Hofstra in a good position to win.
3. Steve Mullahoo, keeper, Tufts:
As a smart keeper, he thrives in Tufts’ offense, picking apart opposing defenses. Unselfish as a passer, Mullahoo has shown the ability to make defenses commit before dishing it off to DaBaets or Hickmott at the hoops. If given the space, he can take it all the way, already showing that he’s not afraid of much bigger keepers like David Foxx. He’s got a great mid-range shot and isn’t afraid to hit someone on defense.
2. Aaron Wohl, beater, Emerson:
Lost amongst the bigger names at Northeast Fantasy, like Axel and Leitch, it was Wohl that flew under the radar. Wohl has the ability to create absolute chaos at the flick of his wrist, running at a manic pace around the pitch. In a play-style I find similar to BU’s Max Havlin, Wohl doesn’t allow anybody to get comfortable and continuously uses his athleticism to his advantage. You’re unlikely to see Wohl lose his bludger and he, unfortunately for others, could play forever without a sub.
1. Amanda Dallas, beater, NYDC Capitalists
Again, in my opinion, the key to NYDC’s high-flying offense depends on Dallas’ ability to command the defense. She’s proven before that she can thrive in most systems and she’s already grown comfortable in the Capitalists’ scheme. At this point, NYDC is undefeated and if Dallas stays hot, the Capitalists’ record could stay perfect.
Pool Predictions (By Vote:)
Emerson: 27 votes
NYDC: 16 votes
Maryland: 38 votes
Rochester: 5 votes
Villanova: 20 votes
Hofstra: 11 votes
Richmond: 10 votes
UPenn: 2 votes
Tufts: 22 votes
Penn State: 19 votes
Philadelphia Honey Badgers: 1 vote
(One person did note vote)
Most Anticipated Matchups (By Vote:)
5. Maryland versus Rochester: 1 vot
4. Penn State versus Tufts: 2 votes
3. Emerson versus Maryland: 6 votes
2. Maryland versus NYDC: 11 votes
1. Emerson versus NYDC: 21 votes
Best Player in the Tournament (By Vote:)
1. David Foxx, Emerson: 11 votes
2. Harry Greenhouse, UMD: 10 votes
3. James Hicks, NYDC; Alex Leitch, Hofstra; Devin Sandon, Rochester: 3 votes
Others Receiving Votes: B.J. Mestnik, Tufts (1), Hannah Dabaets, Tufts (1), Aaron Wohl, Emerson (1), John Gaffigan, NYDC (1), Scott Axel, Penn State (1), Michael Parada, NYDC (1), Ricky Nelson, UMD (1), Erin Mallory, UMD (1), Nathaniel Charles, Emerson, (1)
Biggest Surprise (By Vote:)
1. UNC: 14 votes
2. Philadelphia Honey Badgers: 6 votes
3. SUNY: 5 votes
4. UPenn: 4 votes
5. Lock Haven: 3 votes
Others Receiving Votes: Rochester (2), Penn State (1), Villanova (1), Tufts (1), Lafayette (1)
Tournament Winner (By Vote:)
1. Emerson: 16 votes
2. Maryland: 13 votes
3. NYDC: 10 votes
4. Rochester + Penn State: 1 vote (tie)
If you’re not aware already, Turtle Cup III will not being using your conventional, run-of-the-mill tournament procedure. Instead of sending the top two teams from each pool through into bracket play, all sixteen teams will be seeded accordingly based on their performance.
That being said, it makes predicting the bracket pretty much impossible; but, for fun, I gave it my best shot. Here’s what I got:
6. Penn State
12. Lock Haven
14. Philadelphia Honey Badgers
16. Horn-Tailed Horncruxes
Which turns into a bracket like this:
Quickly, rapid fire predictions:
Maryland (1) over (16) Horn-Tailed Horncruxes
Richmond (9) over (8) Hofstra
Tufts (4) over (13) UPenn
NYDC (5) over (12) Lock Haven
Maryland (1) over (9) Richmond
NYDC (5) over (4) Tufts
Maryland (1) over (5) NYDC
Villanova (2) over (15) Lafayette
UNC (10) over (7) Rochester
Emerson (3) over (14) Philadelphia
Penn State (6) over (11) SUNY
Villanova (2) over (10) UNC
Emerson (3) over (6) Penn State
Emerson (3) over (2) Villanova
Finals: Emerson (3) over (1) Maryland
In the end, I see Emerson pulling off the victory, assuming everybody stays healthy. Ricky Nelson is a great beater, but I’ll take the two-headed tandem of CJ Junior and Aaron Wohl there. Both teams will be missing their best female chasers (Maddy Smeaton and Erin Mallory), so whichever decides to step up may just tip the scale in their favor. With Josh Marks abroad, that only leaves Matt Paesch as the biggest force versus David Foxx.
Harry Greenhouse is tough to mark, but the efforts of Pablo Calderon and Carlyle Thomes should slow him down considerably. Watch for Matt Angelico to put up huge numbers as Emerson’s man defense falls off considerably after those two. Swiss Army Knife players like Tyler Trudeau and Wes Weiss could prove really important for Emerson if Charles and Cardwell come up empty handed at the snitch.
If it does come down to a snitch grab, Greenhouse obviously gets the nod over any Emerson seekers. Saying so isn’t to rag on ECQ’s seekers, but Greenhouse has proven to be elite. Don’t sleep on Charles though as he’s steadily improved for Emerson already. Nelson is going to be incredibly busy with David Foxx, presumably, so his teammates should get plenty of one-on-one looks at the hoop if Foxx shares the quaffle.
Play this game ten times, you might see them split evenly; but for this weekend, I see Emerson thwarting Maryland’s attempt at a back-to-back trophy.
(Unless noted, all photo credit to Michael Mason, thanks, buddy!)