Sunday, March 26, 2017

Antwerp A Drive European Competition Extinct - Capture EQC 2017 Title

By Andy Marmer

Antwerp A are the champions of Europe and it could not have happened in more dramatic fashion, as last year’s runners up vanquished the METU Unicorns 120*-110 on a snitch catch by Laurent Venckeleer.

“I feel amazing,” said Antwerp A Captain Seppe de Wit. “So tired. Wow. It feels like redemption for last year, absolutely. Finally. After four years. Finally.”

Antwerp after winning the 2017 European Quidditch Cup | Photo courtesy of Antwerp Quidditch Club

The Unicorns looked to be in control of the match, never trailing by more than 10 and twice having out-of-range leads with the snitch on pitch. Yet, beautiful passing play and an open game in snitch-on-pitch allowed the Belgian side to narrowly find their way back into snitch range, setting up Veckeleer’s heroics.

“I think it was amazing of course,” said Unicorns captain Fatih Aykurt. “All of my players did what they could. It’s been an amazing journey for Turkish quidditch since 2015. We have respect for the other teams, well done to them.”

Antwerp returned to the finals with just one in-range victory, 120*-60 over Paris Frog in the quarterfinals. In the Round of 16, they overcame German squad Darmstadt Athenas and in the semifinals grabbed a 110*-30 victory over the Werewolves of London on a snitch catch by Venckeleer, his first of the tournament.

METU Unicorns advanced to their first EQC finals in a convincing fashion, winning in the Round of 16 over Durhamstrang 190*-80, in the quarterfinals over Warwick QC 140*-50, and in the semifinals 190*-110 over NTNUI Rumpledunk in a game that was tied at 80 when the snitch came on pitch before the Turkish side overcame their Norwegian foes in snitch-on-pitch play.

Perhaps as interesting as the teams that reached the final are those that did not. Many expected to see one or both of two-time defending champions Titans Paris and recently coronated British super-team Velociraptors QC; however, both were shockingly knocked out on snitch catches in the quarterfinals, the former by NTNUI and the latter by British rivals Werewolves.

NTNUI played evenly with the defending champions for much of the early game, and eventually took a 50-30 lead; however, four straight Titans goals threatened to take the Norwegian team out of range. However, a quick goal and then a catch from captain Jørgen Helgeland Stenløkk sealed the upset and NTNUI’s spot in the quarterfinals.

“It feels very good – it’s a bit unreal at the moment,” said Stenløkk immediately after his team’s victory.

The Raptors, on the other hand, were in control of their game with Werewolves early; however, the London side refused to allow themselves to be taken out of range. Trailing 60-30 moments after the Titans loss, Werewolves replicated the Norwegian’s feat with a goal and catch by Aaron Veale to seal their own semifinal bid, 70*-60.

“Our beaters getting control and using it was key,” said Veale after the game. “That’s when we knew we could do it.”

The Titans and Raptors ultimately met, in a game many expected to be the final, vying for fifth place after the Titans disposed of Warwick and the Raptors dissected the Paris Frog, each in lopsided games, with the Titans securing a closely-fought 90*-60 win.

The lower bracket was tightly fought, but ultimately went the way of OSI Vikings who took the final 70*-40. OSI advanced to the finals of the lower bracket with a come-from-behind victory over ODTÜ Hippogriffs in the quarterfinals, 90*-80, and another victory over Rheinos Bonn, 120*-110.

“We had a very disappointing Day One,” said former OSI captain Kai Haugen Shaw, who was out with an injury. “We feel we should have won against Lumos [Compostela]. We made some bad moves and lost our heads a bit. So it’s good to say we could come back today and win the lower bracket.”

The Barcelona Eagles advanced to the lower bracket final with a 130*-110 quarterfinal win over the Vienna Vanguards and a 190*-160 win over the ITÜ Honeybees.

Group play proceeded largely as expected, with six of the eight top seeds capturing their groups, all eight top seeds advancing to bracket play, and 11 out of 16 seeded teams qualifying for the bracket. With the move to a random assignment format, margins of victory were ultimately irrelevant as teams fought for victory and little else.

In Group A, top-seeded Warwick Quidditch Club handled their business with two out-of-range wins in addition to a comfortable in-range win over second-place and second-seeded GreenTauros Quidditch Torino 140*-80, while GreenTauros secured their bracket spot by virtue of a 120*-60 victory over third-placed Brussels Qwaffles. Newcomers Dublin Draíochta Dragons performed as expected, failing to hold any of their opponents in snitch range, but ultimately came away with a meaningful experience for development in the country by virtue of facing the three more experienced sides. All other games were out of range.

Group B provided upset drama, but perhaps in name only as the second-seeded NTNUI side topped the group over top-seed Virtute Romana, which, while defying the seeds, largely conformed to expectations. The Norwegian squad’s offense was on full display as they put up 170, 300, and 250 points in each their three matches, with their lowest margin of victory a 170*-70 win over Virtute Romana. Virtute Romana edged into bracket play with a 130*-90 victory over the ITÜ Honeybees. All three teams comfortably handled the lone Dutch team, the Dom Tower Dementors, who, despite catching two out of three snitches, posted the tournaments worst goal differential in group play at -440.

Group C produced the surprise of the day as despite a -40 goal differential, Spanish champions Lumos Compostela qualified for bracket play over the heavily-favored OSI Vikings. In the first round of pool games, the pool favorites METU Unicorns narrowly topped the Vikings 160*-90, while Lumos comfortably handled the Milano Meneghins 200*-60. The second round saw the Unicorns blow out Lumos 170*-30 and OSI comfortably defeat Milano 210*-10, and while many would have expected METU and OSI to continue their winning ways and advance to bracket play, it was Lumos who advanced instead, coming from behind with a pair of snitch catches to become the first Spanish team to reach the upper bracket with a 100^*-80 win over the Norwegians. METU won the group comfortably, while the Meneghins, with a -430 goal differential, narrowly avoided being bottom of the whole tournament.

Group D supplied a return to normalcy as the Velociraptors comfortably topped the group with three out of range wins, their closest game a 130*-50 victory over Rheinos Bonn. The Bizkaia Boggarts also followed expectations, finishing last with three out-of-range losses, most narrowly losing 120*-40 to Crookshanks Lyon. Although the German side gave the pool victors their biggest challenge and the French side gave the cellar dwellers their greatest opportunity, it was actually the Crookshanks Lyon that made the upper bracket with a 140*-70 win over Rheinos Bonn.

Pegged as the Pool of Death entering the tournament, Group E lived up to expectations. It came as little surprise that the eventual champions topped the group. The day started with a pair of closer-than-expected 130*-60 wins for Antwerp over Paris Frog and Bristol Brizzlebears over the Warsaw Mermaids, scores which perhaps indicated that the group might be even more tightly fought than expected. With the next round seeing Antwerp shutout the Brizzlebears 90*-0 and Paris comfortably handle Warsaw 150*-60, the stage was set for the Frog vs. Brizzlebears rematch with a spot in the upper bracket again on the line. Frog jumped out to an early lead, briefly exiting snitch range with a 60-20 margin; however, the Bears fought back into snitch range, narrowing the margin to 80-60. After a Dominic Ayre snitch catch was ruled no good for Bristol, Frog caught to win 110*-60 and avenge their early round exit from last year’s EQC.

Much like Group C, Group F saw a favorite top the group, a clear last-place team, and a second-place team that might not have been the second-best team in its group. The Werewolves of London won the group, but their victory over the ODTÜ Hippogriffs, a close 90*-80, was not what one might expect from the eventual semifinalists. While the Werewolves would win their other two games out of range, it was Darmstadt Athenas who topped ODTÜ 100*-80 to advance to the upper bracket with a -10 goal differential. The Aemona Argonauts lost each of their games out of range to finish last.

Group G featured four teams with ambitions of a deep bracket run. Titans Paris comfortably topped the group, winning each of their games by a margin of at least 90 points and catching all three snitches in the process. Three Rivers Dragon Passau advanced to the upper bracket with a pair of comfortable wins over the Barcelona Eagles and Tornadoes Quidditch Club, while the Eagles took third with a 130*-110 win over Tornadoes, who must be disappointed in their team’s performance this weekend.

Group H provided one of the most tightly-contested battles as it was the Liege Leviathans, perhaps boosted by playing in their home nation, who surprised many by topping the group. After unconvincingly defeating Prague Pegasus 130*-30, Liege edged the Vienna Vanguards 70*-30 and Durhamstrang 170*-100 to finish first. Durham’s 120*-40 win over Vienna earlier in the day saw them through as the second-place team, while Prague lost each of their contests solidly out of snitch range to finish last.

As a whole, the play among nations shows that the level of European quidditch is rapidly rising and despite the British and French historically showing strongly in international play, neither had a side rise beyond the semifinals. European Games 2017 should be wide open for the taking.

Jack Lennard and Lena Mandahus contributed to reporting.

Editor's Note: The portion on the Barcelona Eagles path to the lower bracket final was clarified. Additional typos were also fixed.

Records by Nation
Editor’s Note: This represents our best approximation of the tournament results based on information available at the time of publication. We apologize for any errors or incomplete information. Records do not include forfeits or games that were not played, though those are reflected in the standings.

Belgium - 3 teams - Winning Percentage: .706  Record: Overall:  12-5  Group Play: 7-2, Upper Bracket: 4-2, Lower Bracket 1-1;  Results: Antwerp A (1), Liege Leviathans (13-16), Brussels Qwaffles (21-24)

Norway - 2 teams - Winning Percentage: .714 Record: Overall 10-4, Group Play: 4-2, Upper Bracket: 2-2, Lower Bracket: 4-0; Results: NTNUI Rumpledunk (4), OSI Vikings (17)

France - 3 teams - Winning Percentage: .666; Record: Overall: 12-6, Group Play: 7-2, Upper Bracket: 5-4, Lower Bracket N/A; Results: Paris Titans (5), Paris Frog (7), Crookshanks Lyon (9-13)

Turkey - 3 teams - Winning Percentage: .611; Record: Overall 10-7, Group Play: 5-4, Upper Bracket: 3-1, Lower Bracket: 3-2; Results METU Unicorns (2), ITÜ Honeybees (19-20)ODTÜ Hippogriffs (21-24),

UK - 6 teams - Winning Percentage: .571; Record: Overall: 20-15, Group Play 12-6, Upper Bracket: 6-7, Lower Bracket 2-2; Results: Werewolves of London (3), Velociraptors QC (6), Warwick QC (8), Durhamstrang (13-16), Brizzlebears (21-24), Tornadoes QC (25-28)

Germany - 3 teams - Winning Percentage; .563; Record: Overall 9-7, Group Play: 5-4, Upper Bracket: 2-2, Lower Bracket: 2-1; Results: Three Rivers Dragon Passau (9-13), Darmstadt Athenas (9-13), Rheinos Bonn (19-20)

Italy - 3 teams - Winning Percentage: .333; Record: Overall: 5-10, Group Play: 4-5, Upper Bracket: 1-3, Lower Bracket 0-2; Results: Virtute Romana (9-13), GreenTauros Torino (13-16), , Milano Meneghins (29-32)

Spain - 2 teams - Winning Percentage: .300; Record: Overall: 3-7, Group Play: 2-4, Upper Bracket: 0-2, Lower Bracket: 1-1; Results: Lumos Compostela (13-16), Bizkaia Bogarts (25-28)

Catalonia - 1 team - Winning Percentage .571; Record: Overall: 4-3; Group Play: 1-2, Upper Bracket: N/A, Lower Bracket 3-1; Results: Barcelona Eagles (18)

Austria - 1 team - Winning Percentage; .400; Record: Overall 2-3, Group Play 1-2, Upper Bracket: N/A, Lower Bracket 1-1; Results: Vienna Vanguards (21-24)

Ireland - 1 team - Winning Percentage: .200; Record: Overall 1-4, Group Play: 0-3, Upper Bracket: N/A, Lower Bracket: 1-1; Results: Dublin Drachiota Dragons (25-28)

Poland - 1 team - Winning Percentage: .200; Record: Overall: 1-4,, Group Play 0-3, Upper Bracket: N/A, Lower Bracket: 1-1; Results: Warsaw Mermaids (25-28)

Czech Republic - 1 team - Winning Percentage: .000; Record: Overall 0-5, Group Play: 0-3, Upper Bracket: N/A, Lower Bracket: 0-2; Results: Prague Pegasus (29-32)

Slovenia - 1 team - Winning Percentage: .000; Record: Overall 0-5, Group Play: 0-3, Upper Bracket: N/A, Lower Bracket: 0-2; Results: Aemona Argonauts (29-32)

Netherlands - 1 team - Winning Percentage: .000; Record: Overall 0-5, Group Play: 0-3, Upper Bracket: N/A, Lower Bracket: 0-2; Results: DomTower Dementors (29-32)

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