Quidditch captured the imagination of a generation of readers in the Harry Potter book and movie series — the title character flying through the air trying to secure a victory for team Gryffindor.
Now, Salt Lake City’s own Major League Quidditch team is chasing an ultimate victory of its own — battling through a tournament in Texas this weekend for a championship title.
There will be beaters, chasers and seekers — plus the requisite ”brooms” that all players must keep between their legs while charging up and down the field. But instead of using orbs and brooms with magical properties, the members of the 12 MLQ teams will be straddling sticks, tossing slightly deflated volleyballs, throwing dodgeballs and chasing the golden snitch — in this version of the game, ”a neutral party in a yellow uniform who uses any means to evade capture,” according to league rules.
The Salt Lake City Hive will have a slightly smaller roster than previous matches because of personal obligations for some of the players — 15 will attend, out of the usual 21. Team seeker Adam Western, who also plays for the University of Utah’s club squad, said the team will be traveling with its marquee players in a second consecutive appearance in the finals tournament. His job as seeker will be to grab the snitch, which carries the most points — 30 in regulation time and 15 in overtime.
Western didn’t attend last year when the Hive was swept out in two consecutive losses to the Washington Admirals after installing a new attacking plan heading into the tournament. He said his teammates are better adapted this year to the intensity of the postseason, when teams go all-out to win the coveted Benepe Cup.
“It was tough for us to take a loss like that, but it was the growing pains of people running a new offense,” Western said. ”We definitely learned from that.”
The Austin Outlaws and Boston Night Riders are heavy favorites in the tournament’s field of 12 and have ”top tier athletes,” according to Western, but the Hive will counter with possession and a more deliberate pace.
The league has 16 teams overall — from Boston; New York; Ottawa; Washington, D.C.; Cleveland; Detroit; Indianapolis; Rochester, N.Y.; Austin; Kansas City; League City, Texas; New Orleans; Los Angeles; Phoenix; Salt Lake City; and San Francisco — separated into four divisions based on region.
Salt Lake City will first face the Rochester Whiteout on Saturday. If the Hive is triumphant, it will advance to take on Austin.
Western said Rochester is dealing with injuries and absences of several elite players — an advantage for the Hive — but the team isn’t taking anything for granted in what he predicts will be a physical and “brutal” battle.
“It‘s definitely a win that we can get,” he said. ”But it’s not something that we’re going to be given at all.”