ASU Quidditch off to the world cup

This weekend, 20 ASU students will travel to Randall’s Island, New York City to compete in the fifth annual Quidditch World Cup, a 100-team, 2,000-athlete affair put on by the sport’s governing body, the International Quidditch Association.

This is far from some sort of Harry Potter fantasy camp.

Quidditch, believe it or not, is a legitimate sport. Inspired by the J.K. Rowling series, the game originated at Middlebury College in Vermont in 2005 and has since grown to over 300 teams across the United States and abroad — including a squad right here in Tempe.

The ASU quidditch team first took to the field in the fall of 2009 under the direction of Alexis Bristor, now a junior and ASU’s captain. The program has grown considerably in size and talent since its inception and is now on the brink of its first-ever Quidditch World Cup appearance.

“The first semester we generally had eight to 10 players on a good day,” Bristor said. “Now, we have 35 to 40 people on the team.”

The Sun Devils play the game pretty well for a bunch of muggles, too. ASU is currently ranked 14th in the world and boasts an 18-1 record all-time, with the team’s first loss coming Oct. 29 against NAU.

But even in the face of their recent defeat, the Sun Devils remain confident as they make final preparations for this weekend’s tournament.

“It’s a lot of pressure trying to go into the World Cup having an 18-1 record,” Bristor said of the good that came from the loss. “If we were to lose our first game ever at the World Cup it would be really demoralizing, I think.”

ASU is set to compete for the cup in the D-I division, which consists of 60 squads separated into a dozen pools of five. On Saturday alone, the Sun Devils are set to face off against No. 82 Delaware Valley Dragons, No. 40 SUNY Geneseo, No. 29 University of Florida and No. 28 University of Ottawa.

For the Sun Devils, the opening whistle couldn’t come soon enough.

“We’ve all been training a lot, practicing a lot,” said junior Johnathan Ross, a chaser and one of the team’s original members. “I’d say the morale’s at an all-time high. Everyone’s just really excited at this point. We’ve been talking about this and planning it since spring of 2010. It’s been a long time coming.”

And considering that the Sun Devils haven’t yet played a team beyond the west coast, much less in a World Cup, ASU knows that the trip is sure to provide plenty of learning opportunities.

“We’ve never faced the majority of these teams, so we don’t really know what to expect,” said sophomore Tom Black, a chaser. “We’re going in optimistic.”

In order to be competitive among schools that have several years of World Cup play under their belts, Bristor knows that two particular factors — the Sun Devils’ depth and conditioning — are sure to play an enormous role in ASU’s success this weekend.

“You can sub in and out,” Bristor explained, “so against teams that only have ten players, that’s really great for us because we can outlast them easily.”

While the Sun Devils do expect to be in serious contention to win the cup, they also realize that this tournament is an important opportunity to gain respect for both the ASU quidditch team and the west coast as a whole.

“I’m expecting to leave the tournament with people knowing that we can play quidditch as good in the west as they do in the east,” Ross said. “We’re going to go out there and show everyone that we’re a force to be reckoned with.”

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