By Andy Marmer, Austin Wallace, David Sager, and Christopher Dewing
After a one–year absence, the US Quidditch Cup returned to the Southwest as Texas Cavalry took home the championship, defeating Texas State University – San Marcos 80*-60 in the finals. Augustine Monroe, Kaci Erwin, Shelby Manford, Martin Bermudez, Freddy Salinas, and Aryan Ghoddossy have now all won multiple national championships, with Monroe and Ghoddossy taking home their fourth titles.
Cavalry proceeded smoothly through its bracket, failing to play a snitch–range game the entirety of the second day until the final matchup. Texas State relied on clutch seeking, winning each of its bracket games prior to the semifinals over the University of California Los Angeles, District of Columbia Quidditch Club, and Bowling Green State University on a snitch catch.
The championship match was a concentration of modern quidditch and took to the extreme themes commonly seen all day. Both teams slowballed and were perfectly content to let their chaser game take a backseat to the beaters and seekers fighting over a game-winning 30-point grab. Even in the first couple of possessions, Texas Cavalry played slowly, with its off-ball chasers dropping back for a reset at the first sign of pressure. Texas State, meanwhile, showed more willingness to drive and use its bludgers offensively.
Cole Travis, beater for Texas Cavalry, was key to neutralizing Texas State’s beaters, coming up with multiple point–blank bludger catches in the first 17 minutes. However, as Gabe Garcez stepped on pitch, Monroe transitioned from keeper into his beater role that is so feared in the Southwest and throughout the US to anchor Cavalry’s snitch on pitch game.Once the seekers were released, the quaffle game essentially stopped, with only two goals scored after that point. With half the game at a standstill, focus turned to the beater play, which was skillful and incredible, if more nuanced than watching an end–to–end rush. Rookie Christian Rodriguez was electrifying early on, driving untouched through the bludgerless Cavalry defenses. However, he was soon neutralized by his own team’s tactics.
Both teams’ seekers got their fair share of time to go at snitch Garcez, but despite their constant efforts, close chances were scarce before the second handicap came into force. Garcez, familiar with both team’s seekers, was able to fend them off and display why he earned the most coveted game slot of the season. After Austin “Springs” LaFoy could nt make good on one-on-one time, Texas Cavalry beaters cleared the way for Josh Andrews to get to work in a strikingly empty field. Within moments, a second diving effort resulted in a skilled left-handed grab right before Andrews hit the dirt. After a long deliberation, the referees awarded the championship to Texas Cavalry.
This game featured an eight–minute stretch where Texas State’s Stephan Freeman-Vigil walked the quaffle around the pitch for nearly the entire time, punctuated only by occasional passes to his teammates and a sequence where he fell down next to a Cavalry chaser, got up, and continued walking. Despite Cavalry having no bludgers on quaffle defense for the majority of the eight minutes, there were no attempted drives during the whole period. Overall, there were only a handful of possessions in the last 13 minutes of the championship game, where a standard game would feature 20 or more in the same timeframe. While this game displayed both team’s immense skill, it was far from exciting for anyone but the most knowledgeable and tactics-focused fans. Especially for casual fans coming from other sports, the expectation is that quidditch runs through the ball that scores. This final seemed to subvert that in favor of a game where neither team even pretended to value quaffle points, and could lead to strengthened calls to reexamine the rules governing the flow of the game.
To get to the finals, the first day of the tournament went largely as expected, with 10 of 12 Pod One teams topping their pools. The exceptions to this were Lone Star Quidditch Club, a Pod Two team considered a favorite by many who topped its pool with four wins by the maximum point differential to capture the No. 1 seed entering bracket play, and RPI Quidditch, a Pod Two team that narrowly beat Pod One’s Maryland Quidditch.
Only one Pod Five team, the Silver Phoenix, and three Pod Four teams, Central Michigan Quidditch Club, the University of Rochester Thestrals, and the University of Texas at San Antonio. The Boise State Abraxans were the only Pod Two team to miss bracket, narrowly losing a tiebreaker to the Silver Phoenix and Crimson Elite when each team finished 2-2 in pool play behind Mizzou Quidditch.
The bracket seemed almost perfectly designed to set up dramatic matchups with storylines aplenty. Lone Star earned the top seed, looking for that elusive first title, opposite local rivals Texas Cavalry as the No. 2 seed. Quidditch Club Boston (QCB) entered as the No. 8 seed, setting up a possible quarterfinal between it and Lone Star, viewed by many as the top two teams with the winner destined to face the winner of a possible quarterfinal between three-time champion Texas Quidditch (UT) and perennial Southwest contender Texas State. However, the best laid plans often do not work as such.
Following an uneventful play–in round, the first hint of the drama to follow came in the Round of 32. Two lower seeds prevailed, with No. 17 BosNYan Bearsharks ousting Maryland Quidditch 110*-80 in a match that can hardly be considered an upset. However, what little drama unfolded in 15 of the games was made up for in the 16th. Despite the No. 7 seed Los Angeles Gambits assembling one of the greatest seeker units ever to come together with Margo Aleman, Eric Dreggors, Edgar Pavlovsky, and Tony Rodriguez, it was the No. 26 seeded Gulf Coast Gumbeaux who caught the snitch in both regulation and overtime to send the Gambits home early as Tad Walters played hero with both catches. Gumbeaux led early in the match before the Gambits pulled level at the end of the seeker floor and eventually led by 30 when Walters made his first catch.
The Round of 32 upset was only an appetizer for the drama about to unfold as two thrilling upsets, on the same side of the bracket, upped the tension in the Round of 16.
Bowling Green got revenge for its semifinal loss at World Cup VI and knocked out UT 110*-50. Trailing by 30 with the snitch entering the pitch, UT tried to defend the snitch, hoping to pull within 20 and win outright rather than in overtime. Instead, UT found itself knocked out on a snitch catch in the Round of 16 by a Great Lakes team for the second year in a row.
Lone Star entered the Round of 16 having yet to play a game within 100 points, and it left without having played a snitch–range game, falling 160*-80 to BosNYan. BosNYan scored the first 40 points of the game and maintained bludger control much of the way, leading to a Kyle Jeon snitch catch to give Lone Star its earliest ever exit from US Quidditch Cup.
Otherwise, the top seeds moved to the quarterfinals, though Mizzou Quidditch required overtime to get by Texas A&M Quidditch 160^-130*. Texas State and QCB each won by 60, including a snitch catch over District of Columbia Quidditch Club and the Lost Boys, respectively.
The quarterfinals again saw top seeds mostly prevail, as three of the top four seeds advanced to the semifinals. Cavalry beat RPI out of range 150*-50, while Mizzou knocked off Rochester United 90*-80 and Texas State beat Bowling Green 100*-60; however, all of the attention went to the Northeast, where BosNYan ended QCB’s bid to repeat as champions. Ironically, it was many players who helped build the QCB juggernaut that halted its dominant run in a 100*-70 BosNYan win. David Fox caught the winning snitch after QCB’s Harry Greenhouse and Stew Driflot failed to make a grab.
Yet again, the semifinal games resulted in the higher–seeded teams prevailing. Cavalry dominated its semifinal matchup, taking home a 120*-50 win over Mizzou Quidditch that fails to tell the story of how thoroughly the Texas squad controlled the pace of the game. The team built a lead and effectively slowballed in the chaser game, while maintaining bludger control for almost the entirety of the snitch-on-pitch game.
In the other semifinal, Texas State ruthlessly dispatched a BosNYan Bearsharks team that had already eliminated two of the tournament favorites, Lone Star and QCB, with a 200*-80 win. Injuries and fatigue proved the Bearsharks’ undoing as they could not hang with a deep Texas State squad, who dismantled the Bearsharks’ attempts to slow-ball with an aggressive beating game.
The dust has settled and Texas Cavalry is the champion of US Quidditch Cup, while Texas State is the first two-time runners up since Vassar College at World Cups I and II. One of the more wide open tournaments has concluded, and with the college-community split lingering, perhaps Cavalry’s win over Texas State ― a community team made up of former champions overcoming an ascending college program seeking its first title ― is the perfect symbolic end to an era.