By: Ardin Lo
This season, Cal Quidditch maybe had its best year ever, finishing 19-7 against some of the best teams in the nation while developing a young roster that looks to the future. Under new captains, sophomore chaser Connor Hughes and junior beater Amanda Mosler, Cal Quidditch started the year off strong with a solid recruiting class. Through tabling and selling merchandise, Cal was able to draw over 100 people to the first event: Capture the Flag on Memorial Glade. From there, a core group of about 50 players regularly showed up to practices over the next month. By October, Cal was ready to test their new lineup against some local community teams.
On a rainy Saturday in October, Cal Quidditch hosted the Silicon Valley Vipers and California Dobbies in a scrimmage at Hearst North Field. This was the first time new members would play a competitive match and the first time returning members would have played in months. With the rain pouring down, Cal was able to defeat the Dobbies, a local Berkeley community team, and narrowly lost to the Vipers on a snitch catch. It was cold, wet, and muddy but fun was to be had.
As the team developed more chemistry and new members began to understand the game more, the team began to find competitive success. Through November and December, Cal Quidditch went 7-1, with their only loss coming to the Silicon Valley Skrewts in overtime on a snitch catch. During this run, Cal defeated Stanford Quidditch at the annual “Big Sweep” Tournament, modeled after the Big Game, by 100+ points in each of the two games. At the Silicon Valley Showdown in December, Cal posted an especially strong showing, going 4-0 against the Long Beach Funky Quaffles, Silicon Valley Vipers, Provo Quidditch, and the Rain City Raptors. Spearheaded by the strong beater play of captain Amanda Mosler and rookie Tristan Moss-Vazquez and the driving of star keeper Ryan Pfenning, Cal was able to pull off its strongest tournament showing of the season. This was due in large part to the efforts of starting seeker, Ryan Brown, and Jake Stanton who combined for 4-0 in Snitch on Pitch (SOP) situations. A notable moment came when Stanton, the former captain, dramatically pulled the snitch to win a close game against the Silicon Valley Vipers, 150*-100, avenging their earlier loss in the season.
As the calendar rolled over to 2017, the team set their sights on the USQ West Regional Championship, held in Peoria, AZ in hopes of earning a bid to US Quidditch Cup 10. With two convincing 150+ point victories against Stanford and the Vipers at the San Jose State Tournament (NCQC @ SJSU) held in Spartan Football Stadium, Cal Quidditch directed their focus to Westerns. Captain Connor Hughes led the way with a variety of long-range scores and keeper Ryan Pfenning continued to add to his highlight reel of signature dunks and defensive tackles.
However, the team was missing their star female beater and former captain in Amanda Mosler who had run off to Argentina to study abroad. Cal Quidditch found their new captain-in-training in Owen Egger, who had shown tough physical and mental resolve throughout the year to develop his quidditch game. Newcomers Kyle Berquist, Michael Seraydarian, TJ O’Hanlon, Camille Moore, Jordan Tate, Tristan Moss-Vazquez, Darius Dastur, Rose Joseph, Nicki Mayes, Moose Chavez, and Quincy Stivers had all come into their own by this point in the season and had fully integrated within the team. Returning chasers Maddi Erdall, Maddy Montgomery, Ryan Brown, Jonah Phipps, and captain Connor Hughes were in top form while returning beaters Dylan Stover, Jorge Bugarin-Tello, Tina Tagliaferri, and Sami Wilson had upped their game and were ready for Arizona.
After a long 13 hour drive to Peoria, Cal Quidditch arrived to the 2017 Western Regional Championship as a Pot 1 team, looking to qualify for US Quidditch Cup 10. However, early losses against the Fighting Farmers of America, an Arizona community team, the LA Gambits, and UCLA left the team on the outside looking in. This led Cal Quidditch to be regarded as “underwhelming” by writers and left many wondering whether Cal would qualify at all. As Cal worked its way through the bracket, they were able to turn it around with convincing victories over Sun Devil Quidditch and San Jose State. This set up a second showdown with the Fighting Farmers of America on Day 2 in which Cal pulled out a close 180*-160 victory. As the bracket would have it, Cal Quidditch would face the Fighting Farmers for a third time, now with a spot to Nationals on the line. The tournament format had allocated 9 bids for the West Region out of the 20 attending teams. Cal and the Fighting Farmers would duel it out for one of the final bids.
From the start, Cal came out firing and quickly gained a 50-0 lead due to the precise beating of Jorge Bugarin-Tello, Nicki Mayes, Darius Dastur, Tristan Moss-Vazquez, Dylan Stover, and Sami Wilson. The beater core continued to carry the team, opening lanes for the keepers and chasers, as well as halting the Farmers offense. Keeper Ryan Pfenning was spectacular in the game, showing off his high-flying dunks along with precise passes to Maddy Montgomery, Quincy Stivers, and Rose Joseph for key goals. Although Cal faced a huge size disadvantage against the Farmers, they were able to turn it to an advantage, using their speed and agility to score. When the dust had settled and Moss-Vazquez pulled the snitch to end the game, Cal had handily won by a score of 150*-50, earning a bid to Nationals.
Over the next two months, Cal prepared for Quidditch’s biggest stage in US Quidditch Cup 10, held in Kissimmee, FL. 60 of the nation’s best collegiate and community teams would compete for the title and Cal was slotted as a Pot 3 team based on their performance over the season. In their pool, Cal Quidditch was joined by Bowling Green State University, the BosNYan Bearsharks, University of Virginia, and Tribe Quidditch. Writers and experts had predicted Cal Quidditch to go 1-3 on the first day, falling to the Pot 1,2, and 4 teams in Bowling Green, BosNYan, and Virginia, and not qualify for Day 2 of bracket play in their tough pool.
After two long months of preparation, the day was here. As Cal Quidditch boarded their planes to Florida, captain Connor Hughes and recently healthy chaser Ardin Lo were delayed due to midterms and flight maintenance. As the rest of the team settled in for the night in Kissimmee, Hughes and Lo were grounded at the San Francisco Airport, figuring out their flight situations, as their flight had been delayed by 8 hours.
With Cal’s first game at 9 AM against the 13th ranked BosNYan Bearsharks, they were faced with a predicament. Since captain Connor Hughes was stranded in Denver on a layover and former captain Amanda Mosler was in Buenos Aires, it fell to the new freshman captain, Owen Egger, to rally the team for their biggest match of the day. The team began to warmup on the fields of Austin-Tindall Park and was soon joined by Ardin Lo who had finally made it to Florida 15 minutes before the “Brooms Up” against BosNYan. Cal faced a tough task ahead of them, with half of BosNYan’s roster coming from last year’s Quidditch Club Boston, the reigning national champions. BosNYan boasted the largest starting lineup of any team in the tournament with 3 players over 6’2″ including star quaffle carriers and defending national champions Tyler Trudeau and David Foxx.
The Golden Bears stepped up to the challenge and played toe-to-toe with BosNYan, trading goals in a fast-paced game. Michael Seraydarian, Jonah Phipps, and Ryan Pfenning played a physical game that matched up with the bigger Bearsharks and Maddi Erdall played a key role in scoring timely goals set up by the great beating play of Dylan Stover and Jorge Bugarin-Tello against BosNYan beaters Kyle Jeon and Stanford Zhou. However, the Bearsharks were able to answer every Cal goal with punishing drives down the middle by Trudeau, Foxx, and David Gindes, using their size to overpower the Cal defense. They were aided by the accurate beats and acrobatic catches made by beater pair Kyle Jeon and Stanford Zhou. It is important to note though that BosNYan was missing their best female beater, and one of the best in the game, in Leeanne Dillmann. Eventually, game-changing snitch, Gabe Garcez of Baylor, came on pitch, and the game would be decided by Cal’s seeker by committee of Ryan Brown, David Cadena, and Pfenning. After 7 long minutes on pitch in which both teams traded goals, David Cadena, a second-year chaser, former wrestler, and now converted seeker dove under the taller Garcez’s arms and pulled the snitch to cap off Cal’s biggest win in program history.
The win was Cal Quidditch’s first triumph over a top 15 team and proved how far the program had come. Riding off the high of defeating the BosNYan Bearsharks, the Bears looked to continue their winning ways against 7th ranked Bowling Green State Falcons. However, Cal met its match against the excellent beating and chasing combo of Max McAdoo and Daniel Daugherty. Cal stayed in snitch range for most of the game with the driving of Pfenning until BGSU was able to pull away in the quaffle game. Cal fell by 90 points but still remained in good position to qualify for bracket play on Day 2. Next up was Tribe Quidditch, a community team based out of Arkansas. Although the game was a blowout win, Cal suffered critical losses during the match in beaters Darius Dastur, Dylan Stover, Sami Wilson, and keeper Ryan Pfenning. With four key players out, Cal was still able to beat Tribe by 130 points with rookies Quincy Stivers, Jordan Tate, and Michael Seraydarian stepping up to the plate. Cal now faced the question of whether they would be able to win their final match against Virginia with a depleted squad and earn a bid to Day 2.
Four hours later, Cal stepped onto the pitch to face the University of Virginia Quidditch team with essentially a berth to Day 2 on the line. Both teams came in confident and it was a back and forth battle from the beginning. With starting keeper Pfenning out, the responsibility of running the offense fell to rookie backup keeper Jordan Tate and experienced 4-year veteran Jake Stanton. The two traded places in running the offense, creating driving opportunities and making timely passes to keep Cal in a solid position. As the best snitch in the game, Gabe Garcez, came on pitch again against Cal, the two teams settled in for a long slugfest.
Veteran beaters Tina Tagliaferri and Jorge Bugarin-Tello along with second-semester newcomer Camille Moore stepped up to the plate in face of injuries and led the Cal offense while holding down the defense with timely and accurate beats. As the game progressed into the night, former water polo player and now starting keeper Jordan Tate rose to the occasion by making a series of plays including his signature one-handed catches, elusive drives, and blocks to distance Cal and put them up by 60 points. With Pfenning out (sprained ankle), Tate never came off the field, staying in the entire game and leading the Bears to a commanding lead. After thirteen physical minutes of SOP, star seeker David Cadena once again caught Gabe Garcez to end the game with a final score of 160*-70. Cal finished Day 1 with a 3-1 record, surpassing all expectations, maybe even their own.
For their first game on Day 2, Cal unluckily drew Quidditch Club Boston, the reigning national champions and #1 ranked team in the nation. Boston had only lost one game in the past two years and boasted three Team USA players in Harry Greenhouse, Max Havlin, and Jayke Archibald. QC Boston’s lineup also included two Cal alumni in former captain Salvador Sanchez and Isabella Leon, both now facing their alma mater. Regardless, Cal was overmatched from the beginning by QC Boston’s aggressive beater defense and fastbreaks and eventually fell 160*-10 with Tate scoring Cal’s lone goal. However, Cal had much to be proud of, going the farthest since their Sweet Sixteen run five years ago. The BosNYan Bearsharks rebounded from the early loss and made a deep run into the Final Four, proving that Cal Quidditch could compete with the best teams in the nation.
As April closed, the Bears faced the final challenge of winning the Northern California Quidditch Conference Championship, a title currently held by the Silicon Valley Skrewts, a South Bay community team. Off the pitch, Cal Quidditch helped to elect captain Connor Hughes as one of 20 senators to the Associated Students of the University of California (ASUC) Senate. The entire team rallied, campaigned, and changed their profile pictures for Hughes over the span of two weeks. When the final results were tabulated, Hughes had gotten enough votes to become an ASUC senator. The team succeeded. However, due to the heavy workload that comes with being a senator, Hughes stepped down from his position and rising sophomore Kyle Berquist was chosen to be co-captain and help lead the team.
Cal Quidditch looked to close their historic season at the NCQC Championships held at Stanford’s Wilbur Field. Due to their performance over the year, Cal Quidditch was slated as the #1 college team and given a bye in the first round. However, since the tournament took place two days before finals, the Bears entered with half a roster and many unproven players looking to make an impact. Cal once again drew Stanford in their second round matchup and easily dispatched the Cardinal by 100 points with key players stepping up including TJ O’Hanlon, Sonny Carlton, Connor Carroll, and Joe Tomlin. However, senior and former captain Jake Stanton, playing his final collegiate Quidditch tournament, injured his right wrist during the game and was unsure about his status for the rest of the day. Regardless, Cal found itself facing the Silicon Valley Skrewts in the final in a best-of-three series for the NorCal crown.
In the first game, Cal traded goals with the Skrewts, with still gimpy Ryan Pfenning and new captain Kyle Berquist leading the charge. Berquist stepped up in the keeper role, with a variety of agile scores and on-target passes. However, the Skrewts kept pace with keeper Andrew Covel, chaser Chewy Shaw, and beater Willis Miles IV with seeker Forrest Stone eventually pulling the snitch to put the Skrewts up 1-0 in the series. Cal would need to win the remaining two games to take home the title.
The Bears were determined to win the championship and it showed in Game 2. Chasers Maddy Montgomery and Maddi Erdall executed their roles brilliantly in playing tight defense, forcing critical turnovers and scoring timely goals. However, the Skrewts half-court defense held with female beaters Shirley Lu and Elizabeth Barcelos anchoring the back. Eventually, Berquist and Pfenning broke through with numerous fast break opportunities and converted key passes from the now left-handed Jake Stanton to pull out of snitch range. Once again, seeker David Cadena pulled the snitch to win the game with a final score of 140*-70 and setting up a winner-take-all game three.
Game 3 started off similarly to the first game with both teams alternating goals and pushing to a 50-40 draw, in large part due to Berquist’s defense and offense, as the snitch came on pitch. During this time, beater Sami Wilson, who would eventually play chaser due to Maddi Erdall’s injury, along with Tina Tagliaferri opened lanes for captains Berquist and Egger to drive through. With SOP, Cal employed the famed “Cavalryball” strategy of slowing the offense down to a crawl so the beaters could focus on snitch game. Cal eventually employed a double male beater set of Darius Dastur and Jorge Bugarin-Tello who were instrumental in beating and tiring out Skrewts seeker Forrest Stone. As the game wore on, with the score deadlocked at 70-60 for 15 minutes, all of the attention was focused on the seeker game. Skrewts beaters Willis Miles IV and Andrew Covel had begun to snipe beat the Cal seeker duo of David Cadena and Connor Carroll, taking them off the snitch for minutes on end, but the substitution of Joe Tomlin gave Cal new energy in the beater game. Eventually, fatigue wore on both teams and all beaters and seekers had to be substituted. With the game approaching 35 minutes, Cal put in the lanky Ryan Pfenning as seeker, and Ardin Lo and Tina Tagliaferri in at beater for fresh legs. A minute later, Skrewts beater Andrew Covel missed a long shot, Pfenning took his one chance, wrapped his long left arm around the snitch and pulled to give Cal the 90*-70 victory and the title of “Best Team in Northern California”.
The title proved vindictive for the Cal team and for former captain Jake Stanton, finally claiming the NorCal crown after four long years and exiting on top. His #3 jersey will be retired at the end of the season for his contributions to Cal Quidditch, by dedicating time and effort to transform Cal from a recreational club to a nationally competitive program. Overall, Cal Quidditch had capped off their season with a successful NorCal campaign and looks ahead to next season. With only one graduating senior in Stanton, who plays Cal’s deepest position in male chaser, and chasers Ardin Lo and Rose Joseph playing Major League Quidditch over the summer, the team only looks to get better next year.