The build up was over, the whistle blew to start the Women’s 2018 Varsity match. The girls exploded into a sprint for the ball. Reached first by our own Charlotte Newman, the ball was flicked back to Oxford to begin the first attack in their possession. In a matter of seconds the ball was stolen by Cambridge, who then proceeded to counter down the pool, taking Oxford with them. Oxford’s defence pressed tight, it was clear already that the strength of both teams was a close match. Just 21 seconds into the game Oxford committed a major foul, leaving Cambridge in an un-ideal man-up. The tabs didn't waste this advantage — Oxford’s strong and intelligent defence didn't quite cut it, and the first goal of the match was scored by Cambridge Captain Ella Erwin.
39 seconds down on the clock. 1-0 to Cambridge. The crowd was screaming for Oxford. The next 8 or so attacks from both teams ended with a sharp steal, a near miss of the goal, or, for Cambridge, usually a powerful save by Oxford’s unbelievable goalkeeper Alice Fisher. With less than two minutes left of the first quarter, Anna Szyszko drops the ball into pit where it’s grabbed by Captain Lucy Wright who scores a flawless back-shot. 1-1, the game is equalised and the first quarter is over.
Not long into the second quarter, Oxford’s Ruby Sedgwick makes a drive towards the goal with the ball, picks it up and smashes it into the back of the net. The crowd goes wild, cheers travel from all directions, Oxford had finally gained the advantage they wanted. However, Cambridge soon sprung back into action, scoring another goal, this time with even players, making the score 2-2. Again, it was clear this was going to be a close game… or was it? Halfway through the second quarter, Anna Szyszko scores a powerful goal for Oxford. Excitement fills the room: the team, the crowd and even the lifeguards are cheering at the top of their voices. On the next attack Oxford quickly steal the ball and Emmie Mediate gives her everything in a counter attack. Finding herself without a defender, she received an unbelievably long pass from the other side of the pool and in one smooth motion slammed it past the Cambridge goalie and into the net. Then, the next attack for Cambridge is stolen again by the Oxford powerhouses. The arc was set up, the press by Cambridge was aggressive, tight and strong but this was never going to stop Emmie from scoring another goal against the Tabs.
An incredible plethora of goals in the second quarter meant the blues finished the first half of the Varsity match 5-2 up.
Cambridge’s first attack in the third quarter was cut brutally short by a tackle from Charlotte Newman. Charlotte sprinted with the ball away from every nearby tab, calmly faked a shot at the goal as defenders approached, and scored. The game became heated and Cambridge scored a goal on their next attack. But, in no time at all a strong and smooth goal from Lulu Vulpe-Albari took Oxford up to a fierce 7-3.
The fast-paced, aggressive match began to take its toll on the blues. Cambridge scored three more goals, bringing the score to a very tight 7-6. Oxford still had the lead, but with more than two minutes left on the clock, the Varsity win was still very much up for grabs for both teams. With 60 seconds left, and no more goals, Oxford’s coach, Dom McLoughlin called a timeout. They talk tactics for slowing down the game and holding procession of the ball for as long as possible. They focus on a strong defence and a safe attack. The teams swim back out as the mental and physical intensity of the game reaches its climax. The whistle blows, 60 seconds began to race down on the clock. Captain Lucy Wright and Vice Jodie White pass the ball between them on the right wing under Dom’s instruction for the last 20 seconds, Cambridge frantically trying to steal.
In what felt like a fraction of a second, the timer buzzes. No goals had been scored. The game was over. Champions Oxford cheered with excitement, Dom and the team on the bench leapt into the pool. The blues held each other in the water, jumping and splashing with overwhelming joy.
Oxford take the win for the first ever women’s finale. A historical moment for both teams, and an unforgettable achievement for the Oxford women.