Photo by: Photography by Ali Markus http://photographybyalimarkus.com/
Written by: Nathan Digmann
This article is part of the “History of…” series curated by The Eighth Man and US Quidditch. The series highlights the individual histories of teams that qualified for US Quidditch Cup 10 to help both players and spectators get to know the story behind the teams. Head over to this link to read more.
I still remember my first quidditch tournament. Almost everyone does. Seeing the intensity of the sport firsthand was incredibly memorable. For myself and the other new recruits, it was an awesome tournament in which we had a blast. The experience was different for us than it was for new members of other teams. It was our first time in quidditch interacting with other teams and other players. There was a noticeable negative side to those interactions that was clearly present. Other teams interacted as acquaintances, maybe even as friends. Our team, on the other hand, was known as an adversary to most and that was very clear. No one had to tell us how our team was viewed by others; it was evident. Our team’s leaders at the time tried to frame the distinct animosity as if we had rivalries in order to not scare us away, but it seemed like we were ‘rivals’ with nearly every team we played. It’s crazy looking back on it, as I and many others on Marquette now have friends from other teams in every tournament we play. Back then, everyone avoided us. We learned at that tournament that Marquette Quidditch had a reputation. Because many people that have been around this sport for a long while have at some point seen this reputation, I feel it is necessary to address where it came from before continuing with the history of our program from an internal perspective.
Marquette’s poor reputation at the time was due to a particular intensity our team brought to its games that many considered to be unsportsmanlike. As a newer team, Marquette also lacked a complete understanding of the rules. This, coupled with a cocky attitude that came from our initial success in that 2012-2013 season, caused many in the quidditch community to view the team in a negative light. Our inability to attend national tournaments we had earned bids for in the following two seasons (for logistical reasons), giving USQ only a few week’s notice to offer our bid to other teams, only increased this negative perception.
Early Marquette teams inarguably rubbed the quidditch community the wrong way. Marquette’s reputation over the years has since changed, but it still overshadowed most accomplishments on the field until recently. In this way, the history of Marquette Quidditch is uniquely interesting due to the endless amounts of drama that has followed the team over the years.
Nonetheless, we will be attending US Quidditch Cup 10 in April. Four years ago, Marquette Quidditch competed in Kissimmee and failed to live up to hefty expectations. Four years later we will be competing again. Many Marquette players have been waiting their entire playing career for this, as no current members competed with the team the last time Marquette attended a national championship. We are a new team with a different story. Whether we lose every game or make a magical Cinderella run, we are a far different team from the founding iteration of our team.
Year 1 (2011):
Marquette Quidditch was founded in 2011. Our founders, Curtis Taylor and Shane Anderson, gathered friends and acquaintances to create the team. The first group had 16 members, mostly athletic freshmen, and the team experienced moderate success in the fall before traveling to New York for World Cup V.
During World Cup V, Marquette was leading Middlebury College in bracket play 40-10 before the game was stopped. It was revealed that the schedule had been inaccurately posted and the two teams were not actually supposed to have been playing each other. The game was cancelled. Marquette lost in bracket play to Michigan State after injuries contributed to the game falling back into snitch range. Middlebury of course ended up winning the tournament, their fifth championship in five years.
Year 2 (2012-13):
Marquette surprised many in their second year with a dominant fall semester and the regional championship trophy in the program’s second year. Though highly athletic, the team garnered a reputation for the unsportsmanlike play. As a result, in the regional championship game, the crowd was nearly unanimously cheering for their opponents, Bowling Green State University.
The team collapsed in the spring semester due in large part to lack of funding and conflicts within the team. Though a favorite entering World Cup VI, with some pundits picking Marquette as tournament finalists, their play struggled and ultimately Marquette lost to Kansas Quidditch in the first round of bracket play. The team was shorthanded throughout the tournament, and the 22-hour drive to Kissimmee in a cramped passenger van left them exhausted. Following the season, many of the members departed due to graduation or a lack of interest in continuing to pursue the sport after losing faith in the team. Only four members from the 2012-2013 season remained the following year.
Year 3 (2013-14):
Nothing comes easy for a club with four returning members. Luckily, recruiting was strong in the fall as over 50 people attended tryouts. A full roster of twenty-one was chosen, and the team was able to attend one tournament prior to the Midwest Regional Championship. For a team with seventeen new members that practiced very little, earning a bid to World Cup VII should have been impossible. Through a combination of raw skill and fantastic luck, the team ended up earning a bid in a dramatic overtime game against Minnesota Quidditch. The score was 40-10 in favor of Minnesota when the Marquette seeker came running back onto the pitch with snitch tail in hand. There was no snitch grab in overtime, and Marquette was able to pull out a 10 point victory as time expired. Marquette’s fall season ended with a respectable in-range loss to Kansas in the quarterfinals.
To many this seemed like a great step in the right direction for a club that was clearly rebuilding. Sadly, the spring semester again took a turn for the worse. As a freshman on the team optimistic to show what we could do on the national level after a spring of practicing, I remember being dismayed as we held a team meeting to discuss whether or not to attend just weeks before the event. We had already started purchasing plane tickets, booking our hotel rooms, and were looking into rental cars. However, logistical confusion led to hotel costs being far more than anticipated. Suddenly, we didn’t have the funds to cover the tournament, and a team vote confirmed that we would not be attending.
After the collapse in the previous spring season, it was clear that building the club to a sustainable level hadn’t yet been achieved. This was the first of back-to-back years in which Marquette decided not to attend World Cup.
Year 4 (2014-15):
The team took advantage of having a solid core of veteran players and competed well in the fall semester. At the Midwest Regional Championships, Marquette qualified for World Cup 8 before losing to Ball State University, a team far more competitive and advanced. As we continued to improve, team culture shifted and our organizational structure began to improve over our logistical issues of the previous years. It was also the beginning of the team looking into becoming more than a group of athletic kids on the field. We started to understand that we were falling behind in some areas strategically, and began work to catch up to our rapidly improving rivals in the Midwest region.
With a commitment to improving, the team was able to attend a few tournaments in the spring. Though the team worked fairly hard to improve, their efforts proved to be fruitless, as Marquette fared very poorly at the annual Glass City Tournament in Toledo, Ohio. The weekend showed us that we weren’t structurally prepared to compete on a national level, and a 180-10 loss to a top-tier Midwest team, Blue Mountain Quidditch Club, showed us just how far away we were from being a legitimately competitive team. We had discussed our potential decision to attend World Cup 8 as a team in a meeting following the Midwest Regional Championship, and many expressed disinterest in the event. The team’s leadership did not make the decision final until immediately after losing at Glass City. With this being the second consecutive year backing out of World Cup just weeks before the tournament, the quidditch community was outraged. While we attempted to explain our decision through a public statement, the team continued to be seen in a negative light. As someone that was a part of the decision not to attend and was criticized heavily for it, I feel the need to say that I stand by our decision. Few from that team have regrets, as it was nearly unanimous that if we chose to attend the tournament, our club would now be in a much worse place. We should not have waited until the last minute to back out, but as a team completely disconnected from the community, our motivations for playing were solely about competing to succeed and building toward greater things for our own program’s future. It was clear that attending World Cup 8 would not develop our talents on the field nor provide an encouraging, or enjoyable, experience.
Year 5 (2015-16):
With a majority of the previous year’s team returning and the organizational and financial stability from not having attended the previous year’s World Cup, the team finally started to come together on the field. Members also started to break down the metaphorical stone wall separating the team from the rest of the quidditch community, as some players partook in fantasy tournaments for the first time. The club successfully hosted its first ever home tournament, and the team earned its first tournament championship since Midwest Regionals two years earlier. Marquette came into Midwest Regional Championship as one of the favorites after an undefeated fall campaign, but underperformed and failed to qualify for the US Quidditch Cup – the new national championship series – amidst challenging conditions, including a blizzard and wind gusts in excess of 40 miles per hour. These conditions resulted in a multitude of crucial injuries sustained by integral parts of our team. Unfortunately, these injuries were sustained by integral parts of our team, including the entire starting line and several more players. On the bright side, though physically and mentally broken, it seemed like relations with other teams had improved greatly over the fall semester. Though we lost, it wasn’t the end of the world, as in our minds we felt as though we earned respect as a program.
Learning from the experiences and the culpability of both sides, our team focused on the future. We had a fairly successful spring semester, despite losing many players injuries and personal matters. The team was able to travel to a national tournament, Consolation Cup, to compete with other teams that had not qualified for US Quidditch Cup.
It was a substantive team-building experience because for the first time since Marquette Quidditch’s founding year, the club was in a state in which it was able to successfully travel across the nation. We ended up losing a close game in the tournament’s semifinals, but we had shown that our competitive presence wasn’t to be ignored. Our experiences at Consolation Cup, as well as the hard work of the club’s leadership, allowed the club the strength and solidity to move forward into the fall of 2016.
Year 6 (2016-17):
This was a year of change with large shifts in leadership and continued improvement to the structure of the club. We geared recruiting toward building a larger, more athletic talent base, and though very young on average, there is now a solid mix of veterans and rookies slowly removing ourselves from our more controversial past. It has created a natural blend of friction and harmony in which we are dedicated to push forward. Our players understand our history, but thankfully a large group of younger players have yet to experience the hostility that followed their older counterparts through the early portion of their careers. Prior to the season, even more members partook in fantasy tournaments and the newly formed Major League Quidditch, a summer league where our players were able to bond with players from other collegiate teams. This played a large part in continuing to break down the stone walls between our team and the rest of the quidditch community. From a personal level, this has been my first year in quidditch in which I felt that Marquette had normal relations in the community.
We attended five tournaments during the fall season in attempts to develop our predominantly younger players. With our team’s relative inexperience, we entered the Midwest Regional Championship as an a long-shot to qualify due to a perceived history of inconsistency. We struggled against teams we were supposed to beat out of range, yet showed glimpses of brilliant potential.
As a team relentlessly trying to break free from its history, whispers were heard at Midwest Regionals about this group’s ability to potentially break the metaphorical curse that had been cast upon our program by our four year streak of terrible luck. By a combination of pure will and hard work we were able to secure a bid to US Quidditch Cup 10. Our team had come full circle, and a new culture has been created through the effort of a new generation of players.
Melissa, a senior, had this to say: “Being a new player and not knowing anyone on the team, I was welcomed with open arms and everyone was really good at including me in things. Our team encourages each other to reach out and befriend players from other teams. At tournaments, current players on our team know many other players and introduce them to us which makes us feel more welcome in the Quid community. The team is going strong this semester by holding each other accountable to be at practice and putting in 110%. Many of us worked so hard last semester to get the last spot for nationals, it would be a waste to throw it away.”
At the risk of overhype, this year has been coming for a long time, and it’s the next step to a better future.