A lot happened at US Quidditch Cup 10. Today, I’ll be covering what it was like to play again and be a part of NorCal quidditch on the national stage.
Cal vs BearSharks: Punching Out of Their Weight Class
As you may have heard in my dip into the pool, I thought that Cal just had to focus on beating the Pot 4 and 5 teams beneath them because they couldn’t punch out of their weight class, especially against a Pot 2 team like the BearSharks. While I maintain that BosNY should have been a Pot 1 team, that assessment included their whole roster.
However, while BosNY was missing Dillmann and Iadevaia, Cal was also missing Connor Hughes, he of the golden locks and promising political career. This put Cal in a position to upset, but nothing was guaranteed. For my professional assessment of that game, check out this US Quidditch Cup 10 recap.
My totally biased opinion: I’M SORRY I EVER DOUBTED YOU, CAL. THANK YOU FOR THE MOST EXCITING GAME I WATCHED ON DAY ONE. MY LOVE FOR YOU IS AN ALL CAPS LOVE. SOMEDAY I WILL KNOW ALL YOUR NAMES.
Looking back, that was probably NorCal quidditch’s statement win that weekend. I’m glad I was there for it. Go Bears.
Oh, and fun fact: Cal Quidditch caught Gabe Garcez, Snitch of the Year and game breaking anomaly… twice. I better not see any more bitching about how Cal is overrated again. I will come for you.
Final Score: Cal 160* – 130 BosNY
Minnesota: The No Win Must Win
I went into this game thinking this was a beatable Pot 3 team for us. I look back on this game still thinking that. They played a good game and they beat us, but I think we beat ourselves. We needed to play a mistake-free game and we didn’t. It happens.
I didn’t play in this game but I wasn’t upset by that. This was the game where we needed to exceed expectations and I didn’t feel like I was up to the task. I was at Peak Pessimistic Liz after this game. If we couldn’t beat our Pot 3 team, one that had fallen to Pot 5 Baylor, did we even deserve to play on Day 2?
As much as my internal monologue was screaming these thoughts, I never voiced them to my team.
Final Score: Minnesota 110* – 60 Skrewts
Maryland: Out of Range But Out of Time
It’s over a week later and the thing I remember most about that game is walking from the bench to the scoring table, gawking at the score, and then running back to the bench, pinching myself and not wanting to jinx what I saw: a 40 point lead against the Mid-Atlantic Regional Champions. Proving that he can do more than just catch snitches, Forrest was perfectly placed for some great behind the hoops goals to get us that lead.
Peak Pessimistic Liz was silenced by that scoreboard, never to be heard from again for the rest of the weekend. While my faith in my team’s chances of continuing the Skrewts Day 2 streak was stronger than ever, I still didn’t believe in myself. I let Caroline sub ahead of me without protest, my reasoning being that she’d played less than me this year and deserved the spot more than me. But really, I wanted to not screw up. I didn’t want to be the one to blow the lead.
Eventually, Maryland adjusted to what we were doing and took back control of the game. But damn, it felt good to give them a scare.
I got onto pitch right as the game was ending. The snitch was on pitch, the game was going to go to whoever caught the snitch, and we needed to get bludger control back yesterday. I didn’t even get my hands on a bludger before Maryland pulled.
But if there’s something I learned how to do in my first three years of quidditch, it’s how to find a moral victory in a loss. We were a Pot 4 team with a 40 point lead against a regional champion when we were playing our game. We just had to learn how to do that all the time.
Final Score: Maryland 110* – 90 Skrewts
UCLA vs Texas: A Referee Interlude
Because tournaments never run on time and schedules always have to be adjusted on the fly, the Skrewts’ next volunteer slot wound up happening right before our next game. Ra and Martin had been doing plenty of work as refs and players already and needed rest before playing Baylor.
I, on the other hand, was sitting on an unused referee membership. I wrote about never reffing again, but that probably provoked St. Quidditch. Our refs needed rest and a game like UCLA vs. Texas needed good referees. So I sucked it up and put on my ref pinney.
I hate to admit it, but it felt good to ref again. I’ve been ARing since my second tournament. I’ve been on the receiving end of shitty beater play. I know what to look for. Luckily, there was nothing shitty to look for in that game. It was clean and neither team complained about officiating.
Every game should feel that good for a ref. If it did, I’d be willing to break my last taboo more often and don the stripes on a more regular basis.
Fun fact: Jim tuned in for all the Livestreamed Skrewts games on Day 1 even though I didn’t play in them. Then he turned in for this one so he could watch me ref. Most Supportive Quidditch Widow ever.
Baylor: Southwest Sportsmanlike West
I had two thoughts when we drew Baylor in our pool: 1) at least Gabe Garcez can’t be a snitch in any of our games and 2) if we had to draw a Southwest team, at least it was one from Pot 5.
This was my first time playing a Southwest team and these kids represented their region well. It was easily one of the cleanest, most sportsmanlike games I’ve ever been a part of. I love meeting teams of nice college kids and Baylor definitely just got added to that category.
That being said, this game was way closer than I would have liked. But we did win, leading to the three-way tie between us, Baylor, and Minnesota that meant that one of our teams would be the only 1-3 team to make Day 2.
Final Score: Skrewts 90* – Baylor 40
RPI: Maybe I Don’t Suck at Quidditch
I’ve been playing quidditch for four years now. My internal monologue for most of that time has been some variation of please don’t let me fuck this up. Not the most confidence inspiring mantra, and I think that’s showed in my play over these years.
That’s what I was thinking when I was sent onto the pitch during our game against RPI. We didn’t need to win. We just needed a better point differential than Baylor and Minnesota. We almost always play close games, so it was doable. We just needed Baylor to lose to Maryland (which they eventually would) and to not lose by more than 60 points.
That’s what I was thinking when I did fuck up by getting beater tunnel vision and losing my bludger as RPI was driving into score.
“Watch the quaffle,” Sam reminded me when he got the ball back. Not in a Liz, you suck way, but in a you can do this way.
What followed was the best shift of quidditch I have ever played in my life.
We got control back and I kept it the whole time I was on the pitch. I was my longest shift all year. RPI kept sending their female beater to get my bludger, but instead of being intimidated or losing my ball, I beat her and sent her back to hoops. I noticed her trying to push me away from the hoops to give her team a chance to score, told Miles what they were trying to do, and then kept it from happening. Hey, I thought, maybe I’m good at this.
Then I made the best play of my quidditch career.
I beat RPI’s female beater as she came for me again, caught my ball after it bounced off her, and then immediately turned to beat the chaser driving in to score. Canceling out my mistake at the beginning of my shift would have been reward enough. But hearing the bench and the crowd (shoutout to Anteater Quidditch and Funky Quaffles for sticking around to watch us) cheer for me because of how I was playing instead of just trying to encourage me? Playing quidditch never felt as good as it did in that moment.
We lost, but we kept our point differential low and Baylor lost to Maryland. We made it to Day 2 in the most Skrewt way possible: squeaking in as the only 1-3 team.
Final Score: RPI 100 – 60* Skrewts
UCLA: End of the Dream on Livestream
We made it to Day 2. I played on Day 2. There is film of me playing on Day 2. If you had told me last October that these were things that were going to happen, I probably wouldn’t have quit.
While I didn’t have a transcendent ohmigod I’m good at quidditch moment that morning like I did the night before against RPI, that’s okay. I played well enough until Zach Chiu landed on my arm and permanently mutilated it. I kid; it was a very minor hyperextension and I’m fine. (Shoutout to Livestream commentators Chris Beesley and Sequoia Thomas for trying not to say my name until they knew I was okay so that Jim wouldn’t worry while he was watching from home.)
I didn’t leave that game thinking that I was lucky to have not screwed up. I left thinking that I had done my best and that it was good enough.
Did we play our best game that morning? No. On Saturday night I was just happy to play on Day 2. But when we found out that UCLA was our first opponent, I wanted more. They were a team we could beat. Not because I think they’re bad or anything; we just know them and how they play. Sure, we’d have to face Texas State if we did it, but what a way to go out.
Unfortunately, we didn’t play our best game. Last October, I would have been thrilled to play on Day 2 no matter what the circumstances. This April, I keep looking back at that game and the things we could have done better.
Final Score: UCLA 160* – 80 Skrewts
Damn It Feels Good to Be a Skrewt
I would have never felt the highs and lows of that weekend if it wasn’t for my team. I can’t thank them enough for giving me a home after college, being supportive of me during my sabbatical, and ultimately welcoming me back and letting me be a part of this squad so that I could live the dream of making it to and playing on Day 2. No, scratch that, they didn’t let me come back. They made me feel like I’d never left.
As Sam Harris has drilled into my head, I am a Skrewt now. (But he can’t make me forget where I came from.)
Time to Silence My Biggest Critic
When I got benched at South Bay Spookfest in the fall of 2014, I coped with it in two ways: volunteering more and being self-deprecating about being bad at quidditch. The former was because I wanted to be relevant and make up for not being able to play, but the latter has been nothing more than an ugly defense mechanism. If I convince everyone that I’m bad at quidditch, they won’t have high expectations and I won’t disappoint anyone. Flawless logic.
I don’t know if I convinced everyone, but I definitely convinced myself. I didn’t realize how much that mentality was holding me back until Saturday night against RPI. Thinking that I was good at what I do, wanting to fight for every minute I could instead of just being happy with touching the ball a few times… I forgot how good that felt. I want to feel that way all the time. (Even if that means stealing minutes from Caroline. #sorrynotsorry, friend.)
Sunday morning, I traded my Skrewts jersey for a volunteer shirt wanting more. I wanted to feel like I did against RPI and UCLA. I wanted to know how much better I could be with a full season of practice and a better opinion of myself. As happy as I was with my performance, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much better I could have been.
I had a moment of hating everything that made me quit all over again, realized how unhealthy that was, and then replaced that fire that threatened to consume me with one that could fuel me instead: one more season.
So, call this a dumb non-retirement announcement. I can’t quit until I get (at least) one more complete season in. Whenever I do finally hang up my cleats, I want to know that I left everything on the pitch. I don’t want to wonder about what could have been.
It was great bonding with and cheering for Cal Quidditch instead of seeing them as the competition. They’d be my favorite college team if I didn’t already have one. That being said, I fully expect to face off against them at the NCQC Championship next month.
They’re everything a college team should be. They work hard, play hard, stay out of trouble (and by trouble, I mean shitposting on IQAF and Quidsecrets), and focus on their own business. I’m still awed by how they managed to recruit their way back into relevance and two back-to-back Day 2 appearances after missing World Cup 8.
(Has any other college team managed something like that? I’ll have to look into it for the college/community split article I’ve been burning to write.)
Watching them campaign for Connor Hughes while he was running for (and ultimately won) a seat in the ASUC Senate was a joy to watch as it took over my social media feeds. They probably get hella good grades because that what Berkeley kids do. They’re a credit to their school and to the sport as a whole.
Cal Quidditch is what the future of this sport looks like. Period.