Quidditch travels to first national tournament

Senior keeper Shane Ritz looks for a teammate to pass the quaffle to during this year’s Eagle Cup. Ritz has been on the team for four years and is the vice president of the organization.
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Senior keeper Shane Ritz looks for a teammate to pass the quaffle to during this year’s Eagle Cup. Ritz has been on the team for four years and is the vice president of the organization.

The USI Quidditch team spent 14 hours in a car together on the way to its first national tournament.

“We were sort of forced to have an incredibly late start (driving) on Friday,” coach Keller Stevens said. “But we didn’t want to have anyone miss class.”

The team left Evansville around 4 p.m. and did not arrive in Texas until 6:30 a.m. Saturday. Their first match was set to start at 9 a.m.

The team participated in the Consolation Cup, which was hosted by Texas State Quidditch at the Bobcat Soccer Complex in San Marcos, Texas.

The tournament is for teams who missed the opportunity to play in U.S. Quidditch Nationals.

“We were very excited to be there,” Stevens said. “It’s just a really big deal for us.”

This was the first time USI Quidditch participated in a national tournament and had the chance to interact with teams from places like California and Florida.

“The day started out a little bit groggy of course,” Stevens said. “It (definitely) showed in our first match, but by the time our second match came around, we were back on our feet.”

The university faced Texas A&M University, Marquette University, Rollins College and Sam Houston State University.

Stevens said the second match was better after the coaches took players to the side and discussed the need to focus.

The team wasn’t at full capacity for the tournament either because some players could not get off work, but Stevens said it was more than they had hoped for.

They ended up with enough players to “make a presence,” he said.

Utility player Jayden Hayes made the trip down.

The junior is a beater, chaser and seeker on the team.

He said he felt the tournament went well despite having less than a full team, which in Quidditch is 21 members.

“We still pretty much held up our own,” he said. “We still were scoring on the people who were at full capacity.”

The weekend went quickly, he said. There wasn’t a moment when he wasn’t having fun.

Hayes joined the team this year after his suitemate invited him to a practice.

“I never in my life would have ever thought I would do Quidditch, especially in college,” he said. “(Quidditch) was dumb for me, from what I thought about it.”

He said once he came to a practice, he realized it was more aggressive and active.

He said people should give it a shot and stop being judgemental.

After a couple practices, Hayes connected with his teammates. He said it’s normal in the Quidditch community to easily connect with people.

“As soon as you start cutting up with somebody, they’ll start cutting up right back,” Hayes said.

Hayes said all the teams at the tournament were nice and sincere.

He said even in his position as beater, which is supposed to be the most physically aggressive, he found easy-going people.

He and a beater on the opposing team discussed his tattoos during a mid-game conversation.

Stevens said the conversations are an important part of participating in tournaments.

“Networking is an incredibly important thing in the Quidditch community,” he said. “It’s important what teams you know.”

Knowing multiple teams helps the USI team gain opportunities to compete in future tournaments, which continues to be the team’s goal.

Two veteran players will graduate this year, he said, but he hopes the team continues to improve.

Stevens is not positive he will continue to coach the team next year, but said he would at least stay on in an advisory position.

“The people who have been recruited are very enthusiastic,” he said. “We are still very confident with moving forward.”