The Castle Battle
UNIVERSITY SQUARE, BRIGHTVALE
A light breeze blows across the grassy fields of Brightvale, making for a comfortable autumn day. Most of the trees have golden leaves, and the nights are just slightly chilly. The folks at the Western Brightvale farms are busy with the abundant harvest; comparable to that of Meri Acres Farm. Hundreds of bushels of various staples such as wheat and corn along with many fruits and vegetables are fresh and ready for market.
Of course, autumn also means that classes at Brightvale University are in session. Intelligent Neopians from all across Neopia travel here to study at the University. These scholars are studying quite hard, not only for personal development, but also to compete against their archrivals at Meridell University. However, academics are not the only area of fierce competition. Both schools participate in a variety of sports, the most popular being Yooyuball.
This intense competition between these two Yooyuball teams has earned the moniker "The Castle Battle". Such a showdown has attracted the attention of many Neopians and, naturally, has garnered the attention of us at the Neopian Times. Our correspondents living in Meridell and Brightvale have told us that the fans are extremely rowdy and loud during the match, thus, recommending that we bring sets of earplugs. They have also spoken to us about cheering for the home team, Brightvale, if we do not have a preference. Otherwise, the fans just might throw things at us for being on the "wrong side."
We make our way through Brightvale University. Everywhere we look, there are pictures of a Weewoo named Woody. Woody was a normal Weewoo that the Brightvalians had adopted for their mascot many years ago. We pass by all of the lecture halls, each of them enormous and castle-like. The stadium is situated right at the heart of the school, surrounded by the many halls. There is already a long line of students heading in the same direction. We stop to ask a couple of students what this particular match means to them.
"Revenge! We have not forgotten our defeat last year! We will not let those Meridellians live that down! Go Brightvale!" shouts a Purple Eyrie who seems too excited to give his name.
Brightvale had suffered a humiliating defeat the previous season; the score was Meridell 6 - Brightvale 1.
"I think it is an enjoyable event that represents a long history between the two kingdoms. It is also great to poke fun at King Skarl when he makes those silly faces at our team when we score," says a Green Buzz named Kalie who is studying Neopian Anthropology.
We ask how this season was different from the previous season. The Brightvalians seem confident that they will win this time.
"The return of our right forward, Alexis Pyer for sure. She was battling a torn ligament when the Yooyuball racket shattered her knee last year. She's fully recovered now and we really need her. Her backup, Tylen Kain... well, I guess he's alright but he still needs some further development. Unfortunately a game of this caliber tends to be a little rough on newer players," a speckled Lupe named Rainier, a second year studying Journalism and Sports Management replies. He is currently a sports writer for The Brightvalian, the University newspaper.
Our interviews are soon cut short by loud drumbeats. We turn to see the Brightvale University Marching Weewoos, led by someone dressed up as Woody the Weewoo. The identity of the Neopet in the costume is unknown to even the fans. However, the mascot draws quite the attention it proceeds through the crowd, giving countless high-fives and free hugs.
Deafening cheers from the crowd resonate as the band marches their way into the stadium. Trumpets, trombones, and tubas join the drums as the band plays the University fight song, The Weewoo Warrior. The band continues onto the pitch while everyone else heads up the stairs into the stands.
As everyone takes their seats, vendors could be seen and heard as they crawled up and down the stairs in the stands. The aroma of cotton candy and popcorn begins to flood the air.
"Cotton candy! NeoCola! Get it right here!" they shout.
Suddenly the fans erupt in thunderous cheers as the starting lineup darts onto the pitch for some last minute warm-ups. Immediately following are loud boos and jeers as the Meridell Knights rush their way onto the pitch ready for their warm-up drills on the opposite side.
The jeering subsides and the crowd seems to return to their chatter. Soon, when the warm-ups end, the announcer – a red Grarrl—steps up to a podium with a megaphone.
"Good afternoon fans! Welcome to the Home of the Brightvale Weewoos and to Weewoo Stadium!" booms the announcer.
The crowd once again explodes in cheers. On the pitch, the players all line up, with the Knights lining up in front of the Weewoos.
"Now first we will introduce the starters for our visitors, the Meridell Knights..." says the announcer in a quieter voice. This draws jeers from the crowd.
"At left defender, a Kougra from Meri Acres Farm... Crelessa Tyren... At right defender, a Korbat from Illusen's Glade, Rupert McWerthy... At left forward, a Cybunny from Neovia, Gracey Crantz..." In between each announcement, soft boos echo throughout the stadium.
"At right forward, a Blumaroo from Roo Island, Vixy Kirs... and at goalkeeper, a Gelert from Faerieland, Berie Derne. Here comes the head coach of the Knights, a Yellow Bori, Fikas Kyuri."
More boos ensue from the crowd.
"ANNND NOW THE STARTING LINEUP OF YOUR BRIGHTVALE WEEWOOS..." shouted the announcer.
The cheers burst from the fans in ear-splitting volume.
"AT LEFT DEFENDER, A MYNCI FROM MYSTERY ISLAND, ZANEY TREWER!"- the announcer pauses for roaring cheers - "AT RIGHT DEFENDER, AN ACARA FROM MARKET TOWN, YALEN QURY! AT LEFT FORWARD, A LUPE FROM COGHAM, JASSER TERRI! AT RIGHT FORWARD, ALEXIS PYER!" The crowd explodes for about a minute before allowing the announcer to continue.
"AND FINALLY, AT GOALKEEPER AND TEAM CAPTAIN, TARENCE VINES! LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, YOUR BRIGHTVALE WEEWOOS!"
The band begins to play The Weewoo Warrior again, despite the crowd noise almost drowning out the song entirely. The fans remain standing throughout. Coach Harris, a Green Lutari, makes his way along the sideline. He gives the team a short pep talk and sends them onto the pitch. Meanwhile, Woody could be seen jumping around and dancing to the fight song.
The referee, a Red Scorchio, leads the players toward the center of the field. The players then take their positions, The Weewoos in a 2+2 formation and The Knights in a 1+3 formation. The goalkeepers take their positions as well. The referee goes over the rules quickly.
"Now both teams, I want a clean game. Any violations of rules may be flagged. A red flag means you are out for the rest of the match as does two yellow flags. This will be a 90-minute match with a 20-minute break after 45 minutes of play. The first Yooyu will be a normal Yooyu. Any subsequent Yooyu types will be random." The Scorchio pulls out a stopwatch and starts the time. He blows his whistle, and the center trapdoor opens to reveal the first Yooyu.
Almost immediately, The Weewoos' Pyer, fields the Yooyu and dashes toward the goal on the other side. The fans are all on their feet shouting, cheering, and stomping about. "Let's go Weewoos, let's go!" they shout.
"Pyer with the Yooyu, she's maneuvering around the Knights. She's nearing the defenders. And... the Yooyu is stolen by Tyren," says the announcer.
The fans let out a quick sigh. Moments later they start making noise. The sheer volume of their shouts made hearing anything else impossible. It sounds like a couple hundred Crazy Techo fans are present.
"The Knights' Tyren attempts to pass... and it is intercepted by Terri! A total miscue due to the noise has caused Tyren pass before McWerthy is able to get open!"
Coach Harris could be seen smiling while Coach Kyuri scowls, shouting something at Tyren.
Terri quickly passes the Yooyu to Pyer who makes a second run at the Knights' goal. She shoots immediately after she dashes past the defenders. Her agility catches everyone off guard. Derne dives at the Yooyu, but it appears that Pyer's shot was just too quick for him.
"AND GOOOOOOOOAAAL! THE WEEWOOS ARE UP BY ONE!"
The score occurs in the fifth minute. The crowd roars causing the entire stadium to rumble. The celebration is short-lived though when Trewer attempts to block a pass to Tyren but suddenly loses her footing, fumbling a Fire Yooyu right into Tyren's Yooyuball racket. Vines is then caught off guard by the sudden dash toward the goal, and the Knights tie the game in the tenth minute. Woody the Weewoo expresses disdain by face-planting on the ground.
The score quiets the crowd by a small amount, but then they start chanting,"Wee-woo! Wee-woo! Wee-woo!" in an attempt to annoy their opponents.
For a while, neither side scores, quieting the crowd down. There are a few narrow escapes for both goalkeepers requiring some diving catches.
At the 38th minute, the Mutant Yooyu appears, causing all sorts of havoc. The Yooyu zips between the players, sometimes flying out of reach. Other times, it bounces into players on purpose, and then heads the opposite direction. Finally, the Yooyu decides to slow down, apparently tired out.
"Pyer is going after the Yooyu. She's almost got it..."- the announcer pauses.
The Knights' Crantz is after the Yooyu as well, and in that split second, the two collide head on. Crantz's racket snaps in half while Pyer lands awkwardly on her knee The two remain on the ground. Audible gasps filled the stadium as team doctors rush over to the scene.
Minutes later, Crantz sits up while Pyer is still down. Brightvale's team doctors wave for a stretcher. The crowd gives a standing ovation as the doctors transfer her onto the stretcher. She raises her right paw and weakly waves at the crowd while her other hand clutches her left leg. She appeared to be in tremendous pain. Still she manages to utter a few words.
"Win the game!" Although the crowd is loud, one could easily read her lips.
The first half ends without scoring. The greater concern for Brightvale is the absence of Pyer.
"Kain is just as much part of the team as Pyer. I understand that many doubt his skill. However, I never took this job to spend my days doubting. I want my players to have the same mentality. I want them to have confidence; I have confidence in Kain," Coach Harris says.
We ask how he thinks about his team's first half performance.
"We seem to be defending well, but I would like to see some more offense. It seems that we had a bit of a sluggish start, first goal aside. Our forwards need to be more aggressive in moving the Yooyu upfield. I will address all of these in the locker room."
We also catch up with Coach Kyuri.
"You know, I think we need to work on some consistency. Passing is sort of weak on our side right now and we really need to get something going in that area before Brightvale gets a chance to lead again."
During halftime, the Marching Weewoos line up and form a Weewoo shape on the pitch. They play several famous Brightvalian tunes such as Brightvale Sunshine and Wise Old King while casually dancing in a weewoo formation. Soon they clear out to make way for the second half.
Things are slow for a while – no scoring but a lot of back and forth between the teams. However, in the 52nd minute, Meridell's Crantz and Brightvale's Kain are struggling for a Robot Yooyu. Crantz swings his racket up to swipe the Yooyu but ends up smacking Kain in the chin. The referee blows his whistle and begins to consult with another side judge on whether to assess a penalty. The Yooyu happily explodes and then sits on the sideline, covered in ashes.
Meanwhile, the crowd screams for a foul.
"Give him the red flag!" some shouted. Woody joins the crowd by pretending to wave a red flag at Crantz.
After a few minutes of deliberation, the referee announces that the contact is incidental and there will be no penalty. Loud boos fill the stadium, echoing their disagreement with the decision. An electric Zafara then proceeds to toss several Baggusses onto pitch. Several crowd control officials approach him and remove him without incident. Meanwhile the referee halts the game until groundskeepers remove the smell of the Baggusses.
The game resumes with a Faerie Yooyu. Qury is guarding McWerthy while keeping her eye on the flying Yooyu. An incoming pass from Crantz seems to be right above his teammate McWerthy. McWerthy raises his racket to receive the ball. The Weewoos' Qury, not to be outdone, jumps up and sends the Yooyu flying in a different direction, right into Kain's racket. The two continue to struggle for the Yooyu until Kain tosses the Yooyu at the last second into Trewer's racket. Trewer, though a defender, quickly flicks her racket backwards at Derne. The Yooyu sails far above her head and into the net. The fans jump up and cheer.
"GOOOOAAAL! ZANEY TREWER IN THE 63rd MINUTE! WEEWOOS 2, KNIGHTS 1!" booms the megaphone. Woody does a flip through the air in excitement and lands it perfectly.
The next Yooyu happens to be a Darigan Yooyu, which seems to bother the Knights. None of them seem to be able to handle the Yooyu properly. The Weewoos seem to handle the Yooyu better, taking possession easily and going down the pitch for a straightforward score bringing the score to 3-1 Weewoos and a smile to the Coach Harris's face.
However, in the 80th minute, the Knights return the favor, with a Snow Yooyu, as Vines misjudges the speed of the Yooyu and dives too late to block the shot.
For the Knights, the last ten minutes are a race against the clock. It seems that the Weewoos are ready with a defensive plan, even involving maneuvers from their forwards. The crowd noise becomes a seventh player on the field, increasing the difficulty of communication between the Knights when they possess the Yooyu.
Soon it was the 89th minute and the Knights manage to steal possession of the Yooyu from Terri. Qury tries to guard, but suddenly trips and falls. By time she gets back up, Terri is inside the goal box. She takes a direct shot into the goal. Vines jumps into the air, trying to swat the Yooyu but also misses. He turns to watch as the Yooyu hits the top bar of the goal, hits the ground, and lands an inch outside the goal line.
A huge sigh of relief resounds throughout the crowd as the referee blows his whistle and signals the end of the match. Strips of confetti and fireworks fill the air as the crowd continues to roar in the tough victory. Five minutes pass and the experience is still quite surreal. After what seems like forever, the stadium begins to empty out.
We struggle to find Coach Harris but manage to catch up with him briefly after the match. We inquire about the second half performance.
"I am proud of our team tonight. I cannot say they did everything perfectly, but we pulled off a win against our arch-rivals. If I had to say something that we need to work on, I would say a more aggressive offense. A Darigan Yooyu will not always show up to save the day, not to mention there are plenty of other teams that are better than us at handling that Yooyu. Still, I am proud of our guys and gals! Rest assured we are celebrating tonight!"
Celebrating is also one of the traditions here at BVU. A big win over the Knights means a night of fireworks, music, and dancing until nearly dawn, or at least that's what a passing Quiggle tells us. We cannot stay for long as news doesn't wait. So next time there is a matchup between the Weewoos and the Knights, be sure to bring earplugs if you are not a fan of loud noises, and your loudest voice to cheer on either team. We advise sticking to the home team if you do not have an opinion, though. Reporting from Weewoo Stadium in Brightvale, this is the Neopian Times.