The UR Thestrals, better known as Club Quidditch, took home the U.S. Quidditch Cup in Round Rock, Texas.
The Thestrals won 100–80, defeating Texas Quidditch, the team from the nearby University of Texas at Austin. UR made history as the first school from the Northeast Region to ever win nationals.
“It feels incredible, we’re all just in disbelief right now,” junior Ethan Warren, the team captain said. “I never thought we’d see ourselves here, but I’m so proud of all of my teammates, and I’m proud to bring this cup home to Rochester.”
With the Thestrals down 80–70, a Texas chaser scored an athletic goal. However, UR’s seeker reached the golden snitch and pulled the yellow flag. As several referees deliberated, including one wearing a cowboy hat, they signaled that the game was complete.
After lining up to congratulate Texas on a great game, the Thestrals were then each given medals, and the team hoisted the cup.
Texas was seen as a strong, hard-hitting team, but the Thestrals maintained control. Chaser Basem Ashkar was key to keeping the Thestrals in the game by administering their attack and playing for almost the entirety of the game. Even still, the game was truly a team effort.
“People were counting us out from the beginning,” senior and club president Sam Dinga said.
She added, “Analysts said we only had three real players, and we came out and won with some amazing depth. We ran freshmen-only lines and had some of the best utilization of female chasers seen all weekend.”
Going into the tournament, the Thestrals were ranked seventh in the nation. Earlier this season, the team won the Northeast Regional Championships, becoming the first-ever team not from Boston to win the region.
Although some quidditch players join only to be part of a competitive sports team, many are also “Harry Potter” fans. The sport is loosely based on its version in the series, though since flying broomsticks haven’t been invented yet, players hold plastic “brooms” between their legs at all times.
Each team has seven players. The main part of the game resembles handball. Three players on each team, known as chasers, try to score 10-point goals by throwing a ball past the opponent’s keeper and into one of three hoops.
Meanwhile, two beaters battle over the three “bludgers,” which are actually dodgeballs. If a chaser gets hit by a bludger, they are forced to return to their own hoops before returning to play.
After 18 minutes, a neutral player known as the “snitch” is released. One seeker on each team chases after the snitch, who wears a flag football–style flag. The team that catches the snitch ends the game and is awarded 30 points.
The game might seem highly complex, difficult, and even somewhat silly. However, it is quite serious, as it is a full-contact sport. The Thestrals take the sport quite seriously, too, as they hold two-hour practices four times per week.
The practices are both fun and important for the team’s success. The team focuses on the fundamentals, including throwing, catching, positioning, and tackling. Even still, music is always blasting during practices.
Quidditch is one of the few competitive club sports on campus that is gender-inclusive. Although this is partially influenced by J.K. Rowling’s use of co-ed teams, the real-life sport of quidditch goes even further.
In national competitions, no more than five of the seven team players on the pitch at a time may be members of the “majority gender,” which is usually male. This leaves at least two spots for non-male players at all times and allows access for athletes of all genders.
“While there are challenges that non-male players face due to the physical nature of the game, we always support each other, and it can be a very empowering experience,” club secretary Emma Foley said.
Foley added that the team is like a family, and that since the players spend so much time together, strong bonds are formed between teammates. Additionally, the club has several team bonding events outside of practices, matches, and tournaments, which help bring the players closer together.
After defeating some of the best teams in the country to take home the cup, the Thestrals cemented their spot as one of the more successful club sports teams in recent years.