2018 was a year of success for the Oxford teams.
WOMENS: 7-6 to Oxford
MENS 1st: 13-13, Oxford won on penalties
MENS 2nd: 9-3 to Oxford
WOMENS: 7-6 to Oxford
MENS 1st: 13-13, Oxford won on penalties
MENS 2nd: 9-3 to Oxford
Women's Match report
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.
Men's match reports
MENS 1st TEAM
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.
MENS 2nd TEAM
Some of the greatest film series have been ruined by a third film: Godfather III, Matrix Revolutions and of course Shrek III, so there was understandable trepidation when Oxford 2s faced off against Cambridge 2s for the third and final time for the 2017-18 season, the two-previous league wins like a cryptocurrency in an internet-free zone: useless.
As the match approached, the tension lay heavy in the air, like a writer heavy-handedly forcing tension into a scenario. One man felt no such pressure, as he eased Oxford into the lead just 18 seconds into the match, Jonner Donner-Wittkopf expertly spinning his man and beating the ‘keeper. He was joined on the scorecard by Thomas Morcom, who doubled the Oxford lead going into the first rest period.
The relentless full-bath press of the Oxford, facilitated by a 6-man bench, combined with brilliant front-marking of the pit by Louis Waloschek and others, limited Cambridge to speculative shots from distance, and eased Oxford into a 5-1 lead at half time, goals coming from two previous scorers and the mercurial Barclay Bram.
The third quarter was a far tighter affair, as after two Oxford goals to open the quarter, the dark blues attack was quelled by a strong Cambridge defence. The highlight of the quarter was a Hail-Mary by the Cambridge keeper to their cherry-picker, who was unmarked on the 8m, being intercepted by the Oxford keeper and captain Jack Counsell, who flicked it back for an easy goal for Morcom. The quarter ended with the score 7-3, with Fergus O’Leary inked into the goal scoring ranks.
Oxford earlier in the season had let a 7-1 lead lapse into a narrow 8-7 win, so were very aware of Cambridge’s ability when the game breaks down to counter-attacks and counter-counters. With this in mind, the dark blues continued to dictate the play the way that had been bountiful for the previous three intervals; the full-press sealed as tightly as two of the flat Lego pieces on top of each other. The quarter was scoreless for the opening 5 minutes, and when Cambridge took a time out with 3 minutes remaining, only stupidity could allow a 5-goal swing. A man-up with 2.20 left was converted with aplomb by Bram, and then with 26 seconds remaining, Waloschek fired in his first to send the dark blues into rapturous applause and into the long night.
In the three years that this writer has played in the second team varsity, Oxford has never been stronger than in 2018 and debatably the scoreline was flattering to Cambridge. It was the perfect apex to a great season, and I’ll leave you with a Wayne Gretzky quote.
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”
Up the tics