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3 October 2012

Magic-themed sport will sweep you away

Junior Sean Beloff leads the team in an Ultimate Quidditch drill at a practice last week on the IM fields. Ultimate Quidditch is similar to ultimate frisbee, but is played with Quidditch balls. For Muggle Quidditch, underinflated volleyballs and dodgeballs are used. Lauren Lennox // Contributing Photographer 

Popular English author J.K. Rowling’s books may have some UM students dreaming about the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but playing Harry Potter’s favorite sport is no longer a fantasy. Quidditch is a muggle-made reality on campus – and beyond.

“When I came to UM and heard a Quidditch team was starting, I was very excited to be able to play,” said senior Matthew Ziff, who has played  chaser, beater and seeker on the team. “But over the last couple years, something cool happened: Quidditch outgrew Harry Potter. Some of our athletes who aren’t big fans of the book came to Quidditch not seeing it as a Harry Potter sport, but as a challenging, full contact, co-ed sport.”

Since UM Muggle Quidditch was founded in spring 2010, the club sport, which includes a competition squad, has seen its share of success. Recently winning the Swamp Cup and going undefeated since the World Cup earlier this year, MQUM is now ranked third in the nation out of 764 teams, according to the International Quidditch Association website. The team’s season begins in October and ends in April with the World Cup in Kissimmee, Fla.

“We are looking forward to playing in the upcoming tournament,” Ziff said. “Our goal is to improve together as a group.”

The team practices on the IM fields on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays, which team leaders say is the best day for those who want to give the sport a try.

“We always welcome new people to come and scrimmage with us,” team captain Sean Beloff said.

To skeptics who doubt Muggle Quidditch is a sport, Ziff says to think again.

“You can’t judge us until you see it in person or at least try playing,” he said.

In addition to the team’s winning ways, two of its players  were picked to play on the U.S. National Quidditch team, which took part in the IQA Summer Expo Games in Oxford, England, before the London Olympics. Chaser Sean Pagoada and Ziff competed against Great Britain, Canada, Australia and France.

“It was an incredible experience,” said Ziff. “Being in the country where all this originated from was surreal.”