Celebrating the magic of competition, Middlebury Quidditch hosts fall classic

By MIGUEL ESPINOSA

While a crisp, chilly air confirmed the presence of fall on campus, the shouts, cheers and music emanating from Battell Beach signaled the arrival of another yearly event: the Middlebury Classic Quidditch Festival. Wizards and witches from RPI, UVM, Harvard, Brandeis, Skidmore and Burlington journeyed to campus on Saturday, Oct. 5 to participate in the Harry Potter-inspired sport. 

Food trucks serving tacos, Ethiopian cuisine and ice cream assembled by the Quidditch fields. One booth produced butterbeer, a popular Harry Potter beverage resembling butterscotch. Children could take part in Quidditch workshops, observe potions demonstrations and have their faces painted. 

A spectacle of such magnitude was certainly appropriate for Middlebury, considering it is the birthplace of quidditch. 

In 2005, students Xandel Manshel ’09 and Alex Benepe ’09 began playing the first games of Quidditch to fill their Sundays. Consistent with the “Harry Potter” universe, they donned towels as capes and carried broomsticks between their legs. 

Quidditch — invented by “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling — was first played at Middlebury in 2005.

The gender-inclusive sport quickly expanded to intramurals on campus and once word reached other colleges, those schools created their own teams as well. CBS News, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today even captured the game’s rising popularity, which in turn, accelerated its growth. Since 2007, teams from across the world have participated in the Quidditch World Cup. 

While unofficial and much smaller in size, the Middlebury Quidditch Festival offers players the opportunity to visit the hallowed grounds that gave birth to  the sport. It’s been 14 years since Quidditch was founded on Battell Beach, but the keys to winning the game have always remained the same. 

A good Quidditch team possesses speed, physicality, and, most importantly, teamwork. Confined within a 60- by 36-yard pitch, two teams of six must gain as many points as possible by kicking or throwing a volleyball, known as a “quaffle,” into one of three hoops located at the opposite end of the field. Getting the quaffle through a hoop earns 10 points. 

To score points, a team must kick or throw a volleyball called a “quaffle” through one of three hoops on the opponent’s end of the pitch. Only three players, called chasers, can handle the quaffle.

Doing so is more difficult than it sounds. 

Each team carries a keeper to guard the hoops and three chasers, who are the only players allowed to handle the quaffle. The quaffle isn’t the only ball in the mix; three dodgeballs, or bludgers, can be picked up and thrown at opposing players. Only two players per team, called beaters, can use bludgers. Any player struck by a bludger must run back and touch their defending hoop. If that player is holding the quaffle, then the quaffle must be dropped. 

Finally, each team has one player, called a seeker, who must chase and grab a yellow Velcro tail, attached to a runner called a snitch. Snitches are released at the 15th minute of the game. Catching the snitch gains 30 points and ends the match. 

Middlebury won all its games at the festival in group play. The blue and white downed RPI (120–90) in its first match, UVM (190–70) in the second, and Harvard (160–100) in its last. In all three games, Middlebury seized victory by taking the snitch. 

Middlebury’s most lethal performance would come against Brandeis in the tournament semifinals. Brandeis maintained the best record in the second pool of quidditch teams, but was not as dominant, only winning two of three games. 

The hosts began by scoring seven unanswered goals, or 70 points. Middlebury maintained a clear height advantage at the chaser positions, enabling it to attack Brandeis’ hoops creatively. Long passes connected across the pitch, which on several occasions set up the Panthers for easy fastbreaks and lay-ups. 

Offense, however, only presents half the story. 

“Throughout the match, we maintained very consistent blunger control, which allowed us to effectively repel their offense and bolster our own,” Sam Lyons ’21 said. 

Our semifinal game against Brandeis was just a display of how well our team can play when we are all communicating and mentally on the same page.

-Ian Scura ’19.5

Brandeis would only score one goal, while the Panthers would respond with five more. By the 18th minute, the score was 130–10 Middlebury. The semifinal ended once Brandeis caught the snitch, settling the match at 130–40. 

“Our semifinal game against Brandeis was just a display of how well our team can play when we are all communicating and mentally on the same page,” Ian Scura ’19.5 said. “I also think our team just really hit our groove by the end of the day, and people were finding the right cuts.” 

Because the tournament was running behind schedule and Middlebury’s championship opponent, RPI, faced a long drive home, the two teams agreed to play a time-capped 15 minute match. The time-cap prevented the possibility of snitches and seekers from entering the game. 

The two schools fought a tough, back-and-forth battle in which the scoring deficit never grew larger than 20 points. RPI’s chasers speedily attacked Middlebury’s zone and boasted competitive length. As a result of their scrappiness. players from both teams collided several times in front of the hoops. Defensively, crucial blocks and turnovers were made on both ends. The game ended at 50–50. 

“Because the classic is an unofficial tournament, at the end of the day, what we’re really all there for is to play Quidditch and have fun, and I think the ‘final’ embodied that spirit as well as a fully competitive game would have,” co-captain Abraham Beningson ’21 said.

“I would have liked to see how we would have fared against RPI, but we’ve had that opportunity at official tournaments recently and will have it again soon,” he added.

 

In Quidditch, each team has one seeker on the roster. A seeker’s responsibility is to grab a yellow velcro tail attached a runner called a snitch. Successfully grabbing the tail awards the players’ team 30 points and ends

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