The blue-clad team is lined up side by side, eyes closed. Brooms lay on the ground.
The “snitch” runs away to hide. The referee screams “Brooms Up!” and the Quidditch match begins.
Kelder Monar, the team’s seeker and a junior at UNC, runs after the snitch while holding a broom between his legs.
His $3 game broom, a 3-foot-long regulation broom from a magic shop, is decorated with lime green and silver duct tape and spray painted light blue. The handle is bamboo, making it lightweight and easy to carry.
“Neither one of my brooms (practice or game-day) is comparable to a Nimbus 2000, or Firebolt, or a Cleansweep or a Comet or any other kind of non-Muggle broom,” Monar said, referring to broom models in a sport played by flying witches and wizards in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series. “They just don’t fly.”
Students playing “Muggle Quidditch,” or Quidditch for non-wizards, is a phenomenon which began in 2005 as an intramural sport at Middlebury College in Vermont and only recently reached Chapel Hill.
A group of Harry Potter fans and Quidditch aficionados started UNC’s team, “The Old Well Wizards,” this fall and proved their worth when they beat N.C. State in October by a score of 160-70.
The team will take on Duke University, N.C. State and UNC-Greensboro this weekend and they said they hope to maintain their winning streak.
“We have a lot of talented players, so we’ll definitely take the win once again,” freshman Erica Konczal said. “Duke looked awful, weak and pathetic,” at a tournament last week, she said.
Konczal said playing Quidditch for the first time was the happiest day of her life.
She plays chaser for the UNC team, tasked with scoring with the quaffle — or deflated volleyball in the Muggle world.
Jay Goss, another chaser for the team and a member of UNC’s varsity fencing team, described the game as capture-the-flag meets dodgeball, where players throw the quaffle ball through three hula hoops taped to poles that serve as goals. Meanwhile, the seeker runs after the golden snitch — played by a non-affiliated student — to end the game. That’s the part Harry Potter plays in the books.
Goss said his toughest job is to watch out for the opponent team’s “beaters” who throw “bludgers” — or deflated dodgeballs — at him to make him return to the team’s base before rejoining to the game.
“If you’re a pro, then you can block the beater’s throw with the quaffle and you can keep playing without getting out,” he said.
A quaffle score counts for 10 points while a snitch capture only counts for 30, as opposed to the 150 awarded in the magical world.
Each team has three chasers, two beaters, one keeper and one seeker.
The Old Well Wizards practice every Monday and Thursday evening at the Lincoln Center because there is not a campus field that follows the International Quidditch Association’s dimensions rules for a 48 yard by 33 yard pitch.
The association is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting the game of Quidditch and utilizing the game to inspire young people to get out of the library and lead more physically active and socially engaged lives.
Players have to run, throw, catch, dodge and block — all while holding a broom between their legs. But Goss said he likes to get creative.
“I like to use spin moves to change direction quickly when I have the quaffle and someone is defending me,” Goss said. “It can get you open shots pretty nicely.”
But he said it takes more than just physical skills to excel as a Quidditch player.
“There’s some strategy, of course,” he said.
For Monar, who plays Harry Potter’s position, Quidditch means more than just running after the snitch and dodging deflated ball attacks.
“Besides just because it’s fun, we also play because it’s a small way to relive a part of our childhood,” he said. “When there are fans all around you cheering for their blue-clad team on broomsticks, it does remind me of a game at Hogwarts.”
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