The Oxford team carried a lot of momentum into this year’s Varsity match, having recently secured 1st place in the BUCs Premier South, and were aiming to secure a successful season by reclaiming the trophy after last year’s defeat in Cambridge. There were many returning faces from the previous year including Joe Ortiz, Seh Woon Neo, Dominic McLoughlin and keeper Luca Rottoli, however four players as well as new coach Petar Momcilovic were playing in their first varsity.
The game began with an exchange of goals from both sides that would set the precedent for the entire game. Cambridge came out with a very high press, however Seh Woon Neo would present an unsolvable issue playing in the hole for Oxford, scoring two in the first quarter while new addition Richard O’Halloran fired in from the outside of the arc. Cambridge were equal to Oxford for most of the quarter however and even went into the break ahead 4-3 due to some strong outside shooting.
The next two quarters followed this pattern, with neither team able to open up more than a single goal’s lead. Joe Ortiz kept the Cambridge pit attack quiet and even contributed a goal of his own in the second, however Cambridge continued to find success from the outside. At the other end of the pool Neo and Richard continued to work as one-two punch in attack with Neo piling on four goals and Richard a further two. By the third quarter Neo and fresher Saul Blankstone’s work in pit attack had begun to tell with the major count leaning heavily in Oxford’s favour, creating further opportunities for Oxford chances as Josh Silverbeck and Richard looked to connect during the man up periods.
Despite the fourth quarter seeing two Cambridge players wrapped, the Tabs opened up the first two goal lead of the game at 13-11 with 2:30 left on the clock. An intense passage of play saw several successful Oxford steals leading to a man up goal for Richard and an equalising goal with 30 seconds left to play from Neo and even a narrowly missed chance in the dying seconds for Oxford to seal the game. The final score was 13-13, however in a break from tradition the captains decided to finish the game with a penalty shootout. Mention should also be given to Gianfranco Messina, Nick Corbett and Patrick Isaacs all of whom made major contributions off the bench and, as they had all season, proved the depth of the squad and allowed for the Oxford team to wear down Cambridge.
Varsity hero Luca Rottoli (who would then go on to save two penalties in Oxford’s semi-final game vs Durham) saved two of the Cambridge penalties while Joe Ortiz, Richard O’Halloran, Freddie North and Seh Woon Neo all scored - securing the win for Oxford.
This win and the following run to the BUCs championship semi finals capped off a fantastic season for the team which secured full blues for the first time this decade. A major thanks should go to coach Petar Momcilovic who has had a massive influence on all our games (due to his calm and reassuring demeanour) and is due most of the credit for the team’s success.