Did you know KU has a Quidditch team? Do you know what Quidditch is? If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you do. This is a guest post from Doug Whiston, a senior from Quincy, Ill., who founded the Kansas Quidditch team during the fall 2010 semester. Doug plays the beater position for the team.
This past weekend, the Kansas Quidditch sports club traveled to Kissimmee, Fla., to compete in the sixth annual World Cup tournament. This year was the biggest and greatest tournament that the sport has seen in its young life. We’ve been competing all season just to get to this one weekend where we could showcase everything we had to offer and challenge other universities and community teams from all across America. We played teams from California, Mexico, Virginia, Michigan, Wisconsin and Texas, and showed them just how strong Kansas teams are and how seriously Jayhawks take their sports.
First, I’d like to explain quidditch. Quidditch is the sport adapted from the Harry Potter series and created by students from Middlebury College in Vermont. Seven players are required to take the field in a game, but a full roster allows for 21 players on a team. There are four positions: three chasers, one keeper, two beaters and one seeker. Chasers and keepers are the primary offensive positions and use a single quaffle (volleyball) to score points by getting the volleyball through one of the three opponent’s hoops. Beaters are the primary defensive position and use three dodgeballs to control the action on the pitch by sending opponents back to their hoops to tag back in before they may rejoin play. Seekers are in control of catching the snitch (a tennis ball hanging in a sock) from the back of the shorts of the snitch runner (a neutral player in charge of wrestling and evading the seekers). Each quaffle score is worth ten points while the snitch catch is worth 30 points and ends the game. The sport is full contact and tackling is encouraged, although tackling usually only occurs between the chaser/keeper position.
The Kansas quidditch team started the season by traveling across the midwest to five different tournaments in an 8-week span, including Keokuk, Iowa; Stillwater, Okla.; Olathe and Cincinnati. After the brutal stretch, we were injured, drained and exhausted, but we had qualified for the World Cup by defeating Loyola-Chicago 100-30 in our qualifying match. Even though we had qualified and amassed a record of 14-3, we had been largely overlooked in social media and through the Eighth Man, the main source of quidditch news and insight. This played exactly into our hands because we became the underdogs in matches, despite having a veteran team with many tournament victories and a regional championship the previous year.
Kansas Quidditch stormed into World Cup upsetting the top-seeded Southwest Regional Champion Baylor University after a snitch grab by freshman seeker Keir Rudolph gave us a 100-90 victory. We also won our other games against Tijuana, Cal-Berkeley and VCU in convincing fashion which gave us a perfect 4-0 in pool play and secured a top 10 slot during bracket play on the following day. Only 36 teams advance to the second day and Kansas received the number 8 overall seed, landing in Western Regional Champion #1 UCLA’s bracket and playing Midwest Regional Champion Marquette University. Kansas defeated rival Marquette University 120-70 to advance to the Sweet 16 to play Michigan State. Michigan State played a very similar style of quidditch to Kansas, a game focused on finesse, precision-passing and speed, but we prevailed by catching the snitch and securing a 60 point victory, 120-60, and punching a bid to the Elite 8 to meet UCLA. We kept up with them for the first 15 minutes of the game, but UCLA pulled away towards the end winning by a solid 140-60. UCLA went on to become the tournament runner-up, losing to the University of Texas-Austin in the Finals.
As my senior season with the team comes to a close, I could not be more proud of my team. We beat two regional champions and made it to the Elite 8, losing to a very clean and respected club that certainly earned a hard fought victory against us. We may not have won the tournament, but I’ll always remember going 6-1 at the World Cup and finishing the season with a 24-4 record, proving all of our doubters completely wrong and giving me an unforgettable experience and sense of pride to have founded an elite club made up of very talented individuals coming from different sports backgrounds to play quidditch. The trip was so spectacular and special to me that my only regret is that I have to leave my team after the season is over. The club has a bright future with many talented underclassmen developing and improving with every minute of playing time. I’m ready to begin my life after quidditch and school, but I’ll always remember the club we created and our chance to represent Kansas playing sports across America.
Photos by Jerry Wang Photography, used with permission