With three short blasts of a whistle, the Richmond Spiders' quidditch World Cup hopes came to an end. Despite a 2-2 record in one of the toughest pools, the Spiders just missed qualifying for bracket play by only a point differential tie breaker. As the bruises started to form and the reality of the situation sunk in, I couldn't help but wonder how I got to this field in Florida playing a sport on a broomstick and why I constantly subjected myself to everything quidditch demands.
My quidditch journey started a week into freshman year as I wandered through the aisles of the freshmen activities fair looking for something to get involved with on campus. At one of the last tables in the room, Richmond alumnus Jeff Hunt handed me a small piece of paper advertising the sport and the first practice. Little did I know, taking that paper from Hunt was basically a sign on the dotted line to selling my soul.
That Friday I went to my first quidditch practice and never looked back. I quickly learned how to run comfortably with a broom between my legs and catch passes one-handed. But beyond the fundamentals of the game, I started to learn how important quidditch would become to me.
Just a few months after my first practice, the team and I headed north for the fifth International Quidditch World Cup in New York. A 1-3 performance showed me what it would take to succeed as a player and as a team, and I held on to those lessons all second semester as the team and I got better and better, finishing the season with a tournament victory and a nine game winning streak.
When August rolled around and I was elected to one of the three captain spots I really began to understand how much needed to be put in to make quidditch run. Both sports clubs officials and the International Quidditch Association require tons of paperwork for every game and season. Three practices a week constantly need to be planned and re-planned. Rosters and cuts for each game and tournament had to be made.
Then there was all the on-pitch work: getting the team ready, training the new players and staying focused on qualifying for the World Cup, a new requirement in the increasingly competitive IQA.
In November, the team did just that. The Spiders clinched a World Cup spot in a three-game series against the University of Virginia that came down to the wire before freshman seeker Dan Waddell made a diving catch of the snitch to win the third game. The team filled the months after qualifying with a massive fundraising effort to afford the weekend trip to Florida. A few games and tournaments in between November and April gave inconsistent results, and neither the team nor anyone in the IQA really knew what to expect from the Spiders at the World Cup.
And that brings me back to the quick whistle at the end of our fourth game. That day I watched my team stand up to the soon-to-be world champions. I saw them rally around a fellow captain and key player in sophomore Julia Baer, who suffered a devastating injury. I witnessed a never-say-die attitude that led to quick adjustments against the University of Southern Mississippi and a miraculous come-from-behind win against Ohio State University. And while the fourth game, a loss to Tufts, didn't bring spot in bracket play, it did bring reason to the work the team had put in all year.
The Spiders may have fell short in their goal of making the playoffs at World Cup, but they did things so much bigger. They grew as a team and as individual players beyond anything I ever expected of them. They proved to themselves and maybe a few others in the IQA that they are a team capable of making some noise in the future. And perhaps the biggest thing of all, it cemented a place in my heart as one of the biggest weekends of my life.
Contact staff writer Jeremy Day at @firstname.lastname@example.org