Magic moment: Cal Quidditch flies to nationals in Texas

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It may not feature the flying brooms accelerating at top speeds or enchanted balls that move with a mind of their own, but Cal’s commanding presence in the world of quidditch is far from a work of fiction.

This weekend, Cal Quidditch will fly its brooms out to Round Rock, Texas, to compete at the US Quidditch Cup 11 against 63 other top college teams from across the nation.

Cal Quidditch was founded in 2009; originally, it was a way for students to bring the sport of quidditch from the silver screen to the green grasses of Berkeley, particularly Memorial Glade.

With the club garnering more and more interest, what began as the “Quidditch League at Berkeley” metamorphosed into the highly competitive club sport it is known as today.

Over the past couple years, Cal has participated in a plethora of tournaments at both the local and national level, one of the most notable being the World Cup V, now known as the US Quidditch Cup, in New York City.

“It’s grown and changed a lot since my freshman year,” senior chaser Maddy Montgomery said. “We’ve been driven these past years to increase our competitive level and do strong team-building, and I think we’ve been successful.”

Part of this team-building is an annual tradition in which the team is separated into the four houses from “Harry Potter” — Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, Ravenclaw and Slytherin — with each house getting together occasionally for bonding and social events.

“I thought it was so cool that I could join something that was both a competitive sport and also my favorite thing in the whole world,” Montgomery said. “So I think it’s unique in that it does get to combine these two really important aspects of my life, and I have all these people surrounding me who also love Harry Potter but also love having this competitive sport to play.”

Real-life Quidditch, sometimes referred to as “muggle” quidditch, doesn’t abide by the exact same rules as those of the Harry Potter realm — after all, it’s a little difficult to find a flying broomsticks.

Despite the lack of magic, the brand of quidditch Cal plays is a close replicant. Seven players on the field are split into four roles: three chasers, two beaters, a keeper and a seeker.

The chasers try to throw a volleyball, or the “quaffle,” into three hoops, while the beaters and keeper use different methods to defend.

The seeker attempts to catch the “snitch,” a third-party player with a velcro tail attached to their shorts who runs to evade capture. If a seeker captures the snitch, the seeker earns their team 30 points and the game automatically ends.

On top of the rules, participants stay true to form by playing with a broom in their hands.

“Everybody is working together, but at the same time, everybody has very different jobs that they’re doing,” Montgomery said. “So the aspect of everybody working together is really cool when you feel it.”

Cal, currently ranked No. 10 in the country by The Eighth Man, enters this year’s US Quidditch Cup coming off of a championship at the Western Regionals in early March, where they finished with a perfect 7-0 record.

Over the course of two days at the Western Regionals, Cal beat schools such as Stanford and UCLA to win its first-ever regional title in the program’s history.

Cal is set to play their first game Saturday morning against the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, with three additional games scheduled throughout the afternoon. The opponents of those games have yet to be determined.

“It’s exciting because we’re coming off the regional title,” Lo said. “So were going in with high expectations, hoping to make a deep bracket run.”

As the team prepares for the US Quidditch Cup, sophomore co-captain Ardin Lo has focused on developing the group’s offensive plays and defensive schemes.

“We have specific drills and sets that we’re running and working on during practices,” Lo said.

To better understand their upcoming opponents, the players have each been assigned a different college to scout.

Preparing can be a little tricky, considering statistics and video aren’t widely available as major collegiate sports such as basketball and football, among others, but Cal remains adamant on heading into the matchup as prepared as possible.

“There’s teams from all over the nation that we haven’t seen play, so we’re trying to be as prepared as we can,” Egger said.

The tournament is made up of 64 teams divided into 4 flights, with each team playing four games Saturday within its flight.

On Sunday, teams will compete in a 44-team bracket. The teams that go 4-0, 3-1 or 2-2 on Saturday will advance. The teams which go 2-2 will face each other in the play-in round before entering a 32-team single-elimination bracket.

Tim Sun writes for Bear Bytes, The Daily Californian’s sports blog. Contact him at [email protected].