In 2010, the Tufflepuffs nearly found themselves atop the Quidditch world, announcing their loud and proud presence in the community by finishing second at the World Cup.
Following a gap season that saw a number of upperclassmen graduate and the team’s early exit from the 2011 Cup, the Tufflepuffs have been poised and looking forward to starting a promising season.
With their play this weekend, it looks like that promise may be fulfilled, thanks to flawless pool play and a rugged semifinals match in the Massachusetts Quidditch Conference’s season?opening tournament held this past Saturday at JFK Memorial Park.
Attending the event were eight conference teams from seven schools, including Tufts, Emerson, Brandeis, Smith, Boston University, Harvard, the Boston Riot – a second team hailing from Emerson – and UMass Boston.The teams were split into two pools of four, and the Tufflepuffs began testing their mettle with round?robin play against Emerson, Brandeis and Smith.
The large participation in the tournament is a harbinger of the increased popularity of “Muggle Quidditch,” as the sport is known, which was invented in 2005 at Middlebury College.
As implemented in the Muggle world, the sport’s rules incorporate many changes compared to the sport found in J.K. Rowling’s book series.For example, catching the snitch – a golf ball in a sock in the waistband of a gold?clad cross country runner – is worth only 30 points, making it so that the team that captures it does not automatically win the game.
Tufts’ first opponent for the day was Emerson, coincidentally one of their historically most formidable opponents in the conference. Early on the odds looked grim, as Tufts went down 20?50 to start the match.
“Every year we get a whole new group,” senior co?captain Howard Levine said. “We knew Emerson would be difficult, so we told them to try not to treat this as a measuring stick for where we are.”
In the blink of an eye, this measuring stick went up a notch, when senior seeker David Meyers surprised Emerson by collecting the Snitch, earning his team the 30 points it needed to end regulation and tie the game, sending the game into overtime and giving Tufts a chance to overcome a team that has had their number recently.
“We emphasized playing smart, focused Quidditch,” Levine said. “Our beaters were really great at neutralizing their best players.”
In the extra period, freshman seeker Nicholas Ryder sealed the deal for the Tufflepuffs with a second snitch capture, securing the win in the team’s toughest challenge out of their three?game pool play.
“They’re one of the best teams out there, so it was a big win for us,” Meyers said. “We’ve played them several times in the past, and they’ve beaten us often. To beat them back, and, as a young team, really felt great.”
The rest of pool play went as well as the Tufflepuffs could have hoped, with a dominating 170?0 victory over Brandeis and an almost equally dominating performance over Smith, at 140?30.Meanwhile, Boston University came out of pool B with a matching 3?0 record, and moved into the semifinals along with the Tufflepuffs, Emerson and Harvard.
In the next round, Tufts played against a tough opponent in Harvard.Keeping pace with the talented squad, Tufts ultimately fell when, with the game tied at 50, Harvard caught the snitch, ending the game and giving the Crimson a final 80?50 edge. Emerson overcame Boston University 80?60 and won the tournament overall, beating Harvard in the finals 110?40.
But the young Tufflepuffs are content nonetheless.
“So far we’re 3?1 for the season, which is a good way to start off the year,” Meyers said.
“We’re really happy with the way things went, and we played a great game to the very end,” Levine added. “Our team was very good. We have more depth than earlier years, especially with our talented freshman and sophomore core.”
The team has earned a temporary reprieve, with its next tournament taking place Nov. 3 at UMass Boston before attempting to qualify for the World Cup through the Northeast Regionals meet held Nov. 17?18.