Lennard Lee of the OUSWPA asks a few post match questions:
So having emerged victorious from the Varsity match, how do you feel?
Drained! The game meant the world to the boys and they left everything in the pool. I’m incredibly proud of them. I think it will take a while to sink in, but it really is a fantastic feeling to lead a dark blue team to victory. And I know the boys will be feeling a little hazy after yesterday’s celebrations!
Compared to previous Varsity matches, what did you think of the 2014 varsity?
Having lost in Cambridge last year, its safe to say that I enjoyed varsity a lot more this year! The home crowd were great, and it is definitely a huge advantage to come down to Iffley feeling fresh, rather than drowsy after a coach journey. Technically, the biggest difference for me was the pool. Last year, we struggled with the shallow-deep pool in Cambridge. This year, it was a dream to play in the same double-deep pool that we train in, and the new floating goal set up (generously provided by sponsors) were a very welcome addition! In addition, the cambridge second team was very strong this year, and I think that the fast paced, tough, close match provided plenty of entertainment for the spectators.
What was your favourite shot(s) during the match?
Tough call! I really enjoyed Colin (our VC)’s shot early on. He received it in space on the wing, walked it in, and after what felt like an age the keeper dropped and colin placed it into the far corner. He has been great this year, and really deserved a goal.
Amusingly we had decided the night before that Guillermo, Charlie, or I would take penalties on the day. Pierre decided to ignore team orders, stepped up for the first penalty and slammed it in the corner. When Guillermo took a penalty later on (as planned!) - he missed! That shows what I know. He won’t mind me saying this, because he had a great game and scored three very nice goals himself to make up for it ;).
Most nail biting moment?
This is an easy one. Having gone into the final quarter 6-3 up and controlling the game, the pressure really built up in the last quarter. Cambridge smelt blood, and had a second wind that led to two goals in the final quarter. We held on well, and as the clock went down into the last minute we pressed them hard all over the pool. We got a turnover, and had the ball in our possession with less than 30 seconds to go. Pierre took it from the keeper and held it in our half in an attempt to run down the clock. The referee then gave a turnover for failing to advance the ball in the final minute! Everyone scrambled back to put bodies between the ball and the net, and both teams were clearly panicking. Fortunately, the cambridge shot was saved comfortably by Sammi in net, and the final whistle was the sweetest I’ve ever heard.
Did you have any members who had to overcome adversity to get to Varsity?
A number of players have been injured this season. JJ recovered well from a shoulder injury in time for varsity. Everyone made sacrifices to keep up training throughout the season in preparation for the match.
Best post-varsity incident?
Probably Niall hitting it off with the Cambridge social secretary over dinner, until she later transpired to be related to him! I’m sure the boys will be grateful for me not commenting on the state of affairs after the varsity dinner!
What did you do to make your team so successful this year?
We had a huge number of players trial this year, and a good group of guys training hard all year. There were also a good group of us rotated into the first team throughout the season as Ben gave people opportunities to play first team matches and prove themselves. We also introduced weekly 2nd team gym sessions on sunday evenings through michaelmas and early HT. I do think that these helped people gain strength and hold their own in the pool.
Last year we hadn’t really played with each other before the varsity match, so this year we made sure to play together before the day so that players were used to it. Over the three weeks before varsity, we put together a string of convincing away wins against other universities’ first teams (at birmingham, aston, and leicester), partly through organising our own Upolo matches, but also thanks to Ben (1sts captain) giving us some of the first team’s away Upolo matches to field our second team. This was pretty crucial, as it meant we had developed a game plan, and proven we could execute it against good opposition. We had faith in our plan on the day, and stuck to it.
Mike Proudfoot (the coach we all know and love) was also fantastic source of calmness and wisdom on the day as he controlled the bench and calmed the team during breaks and timeouts.
I have enjoyed it tremendously! I had good support from Colin, the vice captain, and the team really rallied together and worked as a unit to get the result we wanted. The long away days (and nights!) are tough, but Michael Weeks often shared the driving with me, and its always easier when you’re coming home with a win in the bag. I am incredibly proud to have had the chance to lead an Oxford team to victory against Cambridge, and I am certainly not exaggerating to say that it is a memory that will stay with me forever.
Anything you might consider doing different if you would do it again?
Yeah- we were all massively jealous of cambridge’s singlet’s on the day. We should totally have ordered dark blue vests with a big crown on! Thats my only regret - the team followed our plan to the letter, and gave it their all. I wouldn’t change anything.
Would you care to share with the alumni about possible future plans/directions for the club?
Given the second team’s huge improvements over the last two years, I would hope that we continue to invest in its development. One coached session a week (rather than the 2nd team captain leading the friday evening session) is the next logical step. I sincerely hope that the club continues to make funds available for the second team to hire minibus and pay petrol to drive to away games around the country. Mixed 1st-2nd team selection for 1st team Upolo matches is also a positive step for the seconds, and I hope that those 2nds players continue to play well and earn victories, vindicating the decision to mix the squads.
Finally, anyone you’d like to thank or mention?
A huge thanks to all those that came to watch the game and cheer us on! I’d like to thank Ben and Freddie (Treasurer) for their support of the second team in terms of training and financial support. I’d like to thank Will Middleton (the first team coach), because it was his game plan that I stole word for word and drilled into the 2nd team over our three buildup matches, and the varsity match. Of course, I would like to express thanks on behalf of the whole second team to Mike for dedicating his time and energy to the second team in the week building up to varsity, and for his guidance and expertise on the Oxford bench.