ASU Quidditch team flies to success

A Quidditch game begins when the referee calls, “Brooms down. Eyes closed. The snitch is loose.” As the referee calls, “Brooms up,” the players rush into action.

ASU Quidditch players have honed their skills to react to this familiar phrase at the drop of a hat — or quaffle — leading them to a win at the inaugural Occidental Quidditch Invitational.

The tournament celebrated the release of the latest Harry Potter film, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1.” Teams from UCLA, USC, Occidental College and Moorepark College faced off Nov. 20 at Occidental College in Los Angeles.

ASU battled UCLA for the championship, winning 100-30.

“The most recent tournament was great,” team member Duston Mazzella said in an e-mail. “Not only because we won, but also because the other teams seem to be improving a lot, making our competitions better.”

Mazzella, a photography and art history sophomore, joined the team last year.

The ASU team joins more than 150 recognized Quidditch teams at colleges and universities across the U.S., proving this sport isn’t just for the magical world of Harry Potter.

Muggle Quidditch was invented at Middlebury College in Vermont in 2005 and has since grown internationally.  The term “muggle” refers to a person who does not possess magical powers.

The fictional sport of Quidditch was first seen on the ASU campus in October 2008 and has since undergone a complete makeover.

The original team was only able to meet a few times and rarely had enough people to play a full game, said Alexis Bristor, a filmmaking practices major and also the current ASU Quidditch captain.

“I took over the club last year as a freshman, basically starting everything from scratch,” she said.

One of the first things Bristor accomplished as captain was petitioning the Residence Hall Association for new equipment money. With the $500 she received, the team was able to purchase all new equipment.

Bristor’s love for Quidditch started early in her freshman year when she stumbled upon the ASU Quidditch Facebook page.

“I saw that they needed a new person to take over and I figured why not?” she said.

Working from the ground up, Bristor has compiled a team of 15 talented players —adding 10 more players to last year’s number — and reworked the team’s game plan.

“Just being able to get 15 people to Los Angeles makes me feel accomplished,” she said. “Let alone coming back as champions for the second time.”

In April, the team brought home its first championship title after beating Moorpark College and three other schools in the Southwestern Cup. This was the first Quidditch tournament held at Moorpark College, a school about 45 miles northwest of Los Angeles.

Players now meet twice a week to work on endurance, position and skill, with an early morning run at least twice a week.

Engineering sophomore Willie Jackson stumbled upon the Quidditch team practicing on broomsticks as he was walking back to his dorm one day. Bristor invited him to join in on the practice and he had a blast.

“Quidditch is one, if not the best thing that has happened to me during my college career,” he said. “It gives me a place to socialize and have fun.”

The basic rules of Quidditch involve seven players: three chasers, two beaters, a keeper and seeker, Bristor said. As one of the chasers, her goal is to get the quaffle — a volleyball in Muggle Quidditch — through one of three vertical hoops. Each goal is worth 10 points. The goalie, or keeper, defends the hoops.

As a beater for the team, Mazzella gets to enjoy both the offensive and defensive side of the game. The beaters use the bludgers, dodge balls, to knock opposing players out of the game.

“The experience is really surreal,” Mazzella said. “I love every moment of it.”

When a player is hit by a bludger, he or she must drop whatever ball he or she is holding and touch his or her goal post before re-entering the game.

“This simulates the way the bludgers affect the players in the books,” Bristor said. “The bludgers cause actual damage and usually knock players off their brooms.”

The seeker’s job is to catch the golden snitch, which instead of a tiny golden ball with wings is carried in a sock tucked in the back of a “snitch runner’s” pants. The snitch runner, like the referee, is not part of either team and serves as a secondary official in the game. Generally the snitch runner is a good long distance runner who is good at hiding, while dressed in gold from head to toe.

“The sport is full contact, so it gets pretty brutal,” she said. “The only real contact rule is that players cannot harm the snitch in any way.”

The ASU Quidditch team managed to get through the most recent tournament without any serious injury, save for the loss of one broomstick.

“It is really a feat because those brooms are sturdy, thick and really strong,” Bristor said.

Reach the reporter at amoswalt@asu.edu