The Florida Quidditch team left Gainesville last week for the 2011 World Cup as a 21-member group with high hopes.
Monday, players returned with sore legs, hoarse voices and the title of second-best Quidditch team in the world.
After going undefeated in the pool and bracket stages, the team of UF students faced four-time World Cup champions Middlebury College for the title.
The finals game, held in Icahn Stadium in New York, started at 10 p.m. on Sunday. After a few yellow cards and with only a few minutes left in the game, the score was Florida 80, Middlebury 70.
"Everybody was cheering for us because nobody wanted Middlebury to win," said Hannah Pohlmann, 19, the team's vice president of tournaments.
The scene was magical. As the game raced on the pitch, the coaching staff snuck in players from the University of South Florida and University of Miami to cheer with them on the sidelines, said Pohlmann, a mathematics sophomore.
"It was dark, lights shining, the crowd was chanting my name," said Dre Clements, a 19-year-old chaser. "It was like something out of a dream."
A fan blared UF's fight song on his saxophone as most of the 1,500-member audience did the Gators chomp.
The team fed off of the energy in the crowd, said Clements, also a mathematics sophomore.
"Earlier in the day, my body was giving up," he said. "But during the game when the crowd was cheering, I didn't feel any of that."
In Quidditch, once the snitch runner enters the field, seekers on each team attempt to locate and catch him or her. The capture of the snitch awards that seeker's team with 30 points and ends the game.
Florida Quidditch's star seeker Alex Williams, who caught the snitch in every game but the final, lunged for it seconds after Middlebury's player got it, Pohlmann said.
The final score was 100-80, which means UF's club team was winning when the snitch was caught.
Despite the loss, the team is overjoyed at its success, team president Bridget Siegel said.
"I can't even describe the feelings with words," Siegel, 19, a religion sophomore, said via email. "Our team is more than just friends, we are a family. We felt closer than ever before with every game we won."
Afterward, the two teams hugged each other. Members of Middlebury told Florida that it was the toughest game the team had ever played.
"I have never seen our players push harder," Siegel said. "We gave them hell."
Back at UF, the team hopes its success will cause the university to officially recognize Quidditch as a sport.
"We proved ourselves," Siegel said. "No one will underestimate us ever again."