The first Midwest fantasy tournament of the summer will take place in Bowling Green, Ohio on May 24.
Editor's Note: The author of this article will be playing for the #sassmasters.
The Midwest kicks off its summer fantasy schedule with the in Bowling Green, Ohio on Saturday. A unique draft structure and subsequent trades have turned this small, five-team event into a good place to shake off the post-World Cup rust before the larger fantasy tournaments hit later this summer.
The draft for Black Swamp was a modified blind draw: each player would designate their preferred position and would be listed as a random number of that position. For example, I was listed as "Keeper #7." The GM’s drafted live in a snake draft and would know exactly who they picked up immediately after their selection. For a week after the draft, GM’s could make trades to try to get some of the players they coveted in their draft boards.
In a tournament of only five teams, it won’t take much for a supposed underdog to come out on top or for a favorite to fall short of expectations. I will be breaking the tournament down team-by-team to try to paint a picture of how the day will go.
Blue Steel – GM: Trevor Campbell (Ball State University)
Campbell’s initial draft landed him some of the best male quaffle players on the board. Campbell lost some of those players (including Bowling Green State University’s Dan Daugherty) in trades, but I believe he has helped his team’s long-term success. Campbell picked up teammates Mac Randolph and Sara Makey, which will give him a lot of added chemistry compared to most teams at the tournament. He also retained teammate and beating partner Melinda Staup and chasers Jeremy Boettner (Ohio State University) and Devin Sandon (University of Rochester), which gives him a Ball State-centric starting lineup with considerable speed and a scoring punch. Samantha Elgin (Bowling Green) and Braden Stevenson (Ohio State) add further scoring options at chaser, and Stevenson has proven to double as a capable seeker in the past. Blue Steel was the probable favorite after the draft ended and, in my opinion, has remained so even as other teams have improved via trades.
Anti-Flash White – GM: Joseph Hackney (Eastern Michigan University)
Hackney is probably the least known GM of these five, and his luck seemed to run low as the draft progressed. He stayed quiet in the number of trades he made, but his high-profile addition of beater Chad Brown of Bowling Green could be a game-changer. Hackney can pair Brown with University of Texas (and now World Cup champion) beater Michael Duquette, either in a two-male beater set or subbing in for one another to keep fresh. In the quaffle game, Hackney will be able to couple these two beaters with some superb defensive players. Keeper Eric Wasser of the University of Michigan improved tremendously this season and is not a bad option for running a drive-based offense. Katie Milligan of Bowling Green is well-known for being a highly intelligent defensive scrapper, and Alex Scheer (Blue Mountain Quidditch Club) provides an excellent utility option. Given Hackney’s perceived lack of scoring punch, but with a more than capable defense, either one of his more unheralded players will need to step up scoring, or Scheer will need to have a near-perfect record with the yellow headband for this team to capture a title.
Orange Soda – GM: Meredith Taylor (Bowling Green State University)
Taylor’s team started out with a huge leg up: having Taylor herself. She is likely the best female quaffle player attending and will be a nightmare for these defenses to contain. Taylor was able to pick up her teammate Dan Daugherty via trade, meaning defenses will have to handle how these two players build off each other in addition to each player’s immense individual talent. Taylor unfortunately lost teammate and keeper Zak Hewitt to a dropout, but her other keeper, Brandon Booth (Central Michigan University), fits well with Orange Soda’s expected offensive strategies. Daugherty will likely become her second keeping option. David Wilber (Central Michigan) has proven to be one of the better point defenders in the region and can lay down the law to take pressure off a beater line that didn’t originally feature many big names. The biggest of those names was freshman standout Jenna Rindler of Bowling Green. However, the Hewitt dropout turned into an overall positive when Taylor picked up Grand Valley State University beater Gabe Unick, creating a Unick/Rindler beating duo that is athletically dominant. On top of all these big names in the quaffle game, Taylor made the luckiest selection in Team USA and Bowling Green seeker Sam Roitblat, a pick I think makes Orange Soda the second-best team.
The Kobes – GM: Tyler Walker (Ball State University)
Walker might be the GM who relies on himself the most. Not many big names fell into Walker’s hands, and he seemed relatively uninterested in acquiring more. The biggest one is beater Luke Changet (Blue Mountain Quidditch Club). This is the first real chance to see if Changet can still play at his Ohio State University level. If he can, pairing him with Bowling Green’s Juliet Slutzker can become a classic matchup of aggressive and conservative gameplay. The quaffle game will rely strongly on Walker and University of Michigan’s Malek Atassi, who can hit like a truck and distributes surprisingly well compared to the average “power” chaser. Blue Mountain Quidditch has another important return to the game in Krystina Packard (formerly of Michigan State), who is expected to be one of Blue Mountain’s best female chasers after not playing for over a season. Walker’s chances of success rely heavily on these Blue Mountain players’ first steps back into competitive quidditch.
#sassmasters – GM: Alexis Moody (Coach of Chicago Phoenix)
#sassmasters has the only GM who will not be playing this weekend, which may give them a strategic advantage in having a teammate not wrapped up in performing as a player. Moody has put her mind to the test by making more trades than any other GM--just under half (seven of 17) of her team was originally drafted by another GM. Trades for chaser Devon McCoy (Blue Mountain Quidditch) and beater Andy Hopkins (Blue Mountain Quidditch) added a much needed scoring option and beating presence to go along with Ohio State teammates Julie Fritz and myself. However, Moody’s biggest addition came not from a trade, but from a dropout replacement: chaser/seeker Andrew Axtell of the University of Michigan. Axtell turns this team into a physical powerhouse while adding an above-average seeking option. A potential starting six of myself, Axtell, McCoy, Pari Yost (Bowling Green), Fritz and Hopkins will not be easily stopped by anything but the most physical of opponents, although we may struggle to keep up with speedier lineups.