Steinhardt junior Katelin Martinez originally signed up for Quidditch tryouts thinking it would be a way to connect with other Harry Potter fans. What she soon found out was that Quidditch was much more of a competitive sport than an expression of Hogwarts fandom.
“It’s terrifying, but you get used to it after a while,” Martinez said. “It’s a way to face your fears head-on, I guess.”
Martinez has even suffered from a torn ACL playing Quidditch. However, while she might not have found a group of Harry Potter aficionados, she did find a tight-knit community united by a passion for a sport still relatively in its nascence.
“Every Saturday we would practice and have lunch together,” Tisch senior Jimmy Banta said. “I think that’s the part I’m definitely gonna miss the most, the community.”
Like every other team, the NYU Quidditch team saw their season unexpectedly cut short due to the coronavirus outbreak. It was an unsatisfying end to a near-perfect season. The team had won the Northeast Regional Championship for the first time in team history, and they had yet to suffer an official loss when they heard the news. It was not like the news was unexpected, the official confirmation came soon after NYU announced its transition to remote-learning, but the expectations did little to cushion the disappointment.
“It was tough because it was my birthday, we’re in quarantine,” Steinhardt senior Sydney Montague said. “I didn’t go to nationals last year because I was studying abroad. And so it was my one chance to go to nationals with NYU gone.”
Nationals offered an opportunity to test themselves against the other elite colleges across the country. Despite its growing popularity, Quidditch is still a burgeoning sport, and the bonds between players transcend their school allegiances. At nationals last season, the players from James Madison University — a team that NYU eliminated — came up to talk to them about recruiting and how to grow the program. The Quidditch community offers a unique balance of competition and camaraderie the players cherish.
“It’s a pretty small community,” Banta said, “so you get to know all the Quidditch people in a way that if you’re playing a really popular sport you can’t.”
The season ending prematurely is particularly disappointing to seniors like Montague, Banta and Stern senior Frank Minson, the team’s primary tactician. Minson, who also plays in semi-pro leagues during the summer, was one of the team’s biggest proponents of adopting a more aggressive, pressing style that produced the undefeated season.
“It’s strange to think about because it’s been such an integral part of my NYU life,” Minson said. “But I’m happy about the people that I met. I’m disappointed that I’m not going to be able to compete with them one last time, but it’s not like I’m never going to see them all again.”
And there are no shortage of memories, both on and off the field, that Montague and the team can look back upon. There are the lunches after practices, the practices in the snow that devolved into snowball fights, the memorable win over Tufts in mud and heavy rain to capture the team’s first regional championship. Even the more aggravating parts of being on the Quidditch team, like the early morning meetups at Penn Station for tournaments, bonded the team over their mutual annoyance.
“As college students, getting together that early on a Saturday was an experience,” Banta said. “It was always brutal, but it was nice how we made it work and always found humor in doing it.”
Martinez is less enthusiastic about her thoughts on those early morning meetups.
“Just going to Penn Station in general is such a soul-sucking experience,” Martinez said.
The players have also been keeping close tabs on the Elo-based simulation of nationals. Ran by The Eighth Man, the premier Quidditch-related publication, the simulation has rated NYU as one of the better teams in the tournament. After a 110-20 demolishing of Virginia and a 30-point win over UC Irvine and Sam Houston State University, the team is currently in the finals against the University of Maryland.
“[For] all the people who were looking forward to nationals … the simulation is really great because it keeps the community together,” Stern junior Nathan Rey said.
Paying attention to the simulated nationals is just one of the ways the team has kept in contact during quarantine. In fact, many players think the one positive they can take from the season cutting short is how it made them appreciate the connections they formed as teammates.
“In a weird way, I think it brought us together because there’s been a lot of thanking in general, especially from the seniors, about how great the season was and how nice it has been to spend our time with each other,” Martinez said. “So it was a moment of sadness, but also a moment of appreciation.”
A version of this article appears in the Monday, April 20, 2020, e-print edition. Email Kevin Ryu at [email protected]