Leading up to their first tournament of the spring semester, the players on Miami University’s Quidditch team had only one thought: They had to beat Michigan.
This would be their first time playing the University of Michigan since falling to them in the semifinals of the Great Lakes regional competition last fall. This time, they’d be playing on home turf.
Miami’s team set up two pools for the eight teams traveling to Oxford for the tournament on Saturday, Feb. 22 at Cook Field. Michigan wasn’t in Miami’s pool, but it was very likely that the two high-ranking teams would face off in the championship game of the tournament.
But due to delays, a shortage of referees and injuries, the fated game was not to be.
Within the first match of the day, there was a 30-minute delay after a Michigan player broke his collarbone, landing him in McCullough-Hyde Hospital. From that point on, all of the games were pushed further and further back. Some matches had to wait because the only qualified head referees were playing for other teams.
But Miami came out of the gate strong in all three games, including their first one against a competitive Ball State University. Senior chaser Katie Rauch said the team knew this game would be the hardest in their pool, but it didn’t stop them from defeating Ball State 110-20.
“Sometimes we start out really slow, so it was good to get some momentum going and get back into it,” Rauch said, “because it was also our first game of the semester.”
Miami kept up their energy in the second game against BearTrain, Michigan’s b-team. By the end of the first three minutes, Miami was up 40-0.
The match created an opportunity for newer players to get experience on the pitch. First and second-years threw themselves into the game, tackling other chasers and beating out other beaters to create easy scoring opportunities for Miami. Most of the players have only played in one other collegiate tournament, letting the more seasoned Quidditch players compete in regional matches.
“It's a good time, especially in games like that, to get some of our newer players playing time so they’re used to what a tournament is like,” Rauch said. “That way, they're more confident going forward.”
After rookie seeker Shaun Hogeback caught the golden snitch to end the game, Miami led 200-20 against BearTrain.
Their final match of pool play pitted them against Ohio University (OU). The game had been pushed back so far at this point that they decided it would be the last pool game before they created the brackets.
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OU pressured Miami from the start, snagging the quaffle and two out of the three bludgers from the first call of “Brooms up!” But Miami quickly retaliated, and by the end of the first 15 minutes, they led 90-30.
Shortly after the 15-minute mark, junior keeper Hayden McClary barreled into an OU player on the verge of scoring, knocking her and one of the goal posts to the ground. She went down hard, the goal post landing on top of her as her head smacked the turf. After the athletic trainer checked on her, an ambulance was called to Cook Field, where EMTs secured her neck in a brace and rushed her off to McCullough-Hyde.
Senior beater Liz Jonas was unsurprised by the need for medical assistance.
“At least once a tournament, in my experience playing Quidditch, an ambulance is always called,” Jonas said.
The delay took over 45 minutes. The game concluded quickly afterward, with junior seeker David Sorkin catching the snitch in a scant 37 seconds. Miami won their third and final game 120-40.
But by that point, several other teams had left. They forfeited their bracket positions in favor of starting the long drive home, exhausted from a full day of playing and suffering minor injuries themselves. By the end of the day, only three teams remained: Miami, Illinois State University (ISU) and Michigan.
The second and third seeds, Michigan and ISU, then took each other on. The winner would play Miami in the championship. But at the end of the first match, with Michigan coming out victorious, the coaches told senior head coach and chaser Jackson Cleaver that a majority of their team just didn’t want to play anymore. They also had a long drive home, plus several injuries to contend with.
Disappointed, Cleaver and the team accepted Michigan’s forfeit, wishing they’d had the chance to win the home tournament the way they’d wanted to.
"It's frustrating, because we were playing so well that day and I was so sure that we were gonna beat Michigan," Cleaver said. "I was very positive that we were gonna have the upper hand at match and really show them what Miami ‘s made of, but we didn’t even get that chance to have that game."
Despite not having the opportunity to play their rival, Cleaver is still proud of how the team performed and is excited to see what they will do at nationals.
“I think we have a really good shot at nationals, and I'm very happy with the performance we put up. That was one of our best tournaments yet,” Cleaver said. “We’re ready to show them we deserve to be the number one seed in the Great Lakes, and that Miami is not a team to be looked down on.”
Although it’s unlikely Miami will face Michigan in any national matches, the competition will still be high. But after putting in the work at home, the Quidditch team is ready to take on any team from the Great Lakes or beyond.