Oxford University Netball Club had much to celebrate last Sunday as they recorded a historic double Varsity win on Cambridge’s home turf.
Kicking off proceedings was the second team match, between the Oxford Roos and Cambridge Jays. Despite Oxford retaining most of the possession, due to too many missed shots Cambridge were ahead by one goal after the first quarter. Oxford went into the second quarter with a renewed calmness and clear intention to do some damage. Far more patient play paid dividends with a frustrated Cambridge unable to turn over much ball. GS Annabelle Trotter had a particularly outstanding quarter scoring a risky long-distance shot with less than five seconds to go, leaving the Roos up 13-11 at half time.
The third quarter saw the Roos come into their own, with far more consistent shooting from the nippy pairing of Trotter and Captain Becky Waller. Lumbering defence by Cambridge allowed WA and Player of the Match Libby Stephens to sneak through some punishingly cheeky feeds to the shooters. At the defensive end, the circle looked far more confident, with Grace Buck and Ailsa Keyser swapping to play GK and GD respectively. Buck, returning from a long-term knee injury sustained at the 2012 Varsity Match, stole several rebounds from the Jays’ shooters with Keyser flying around the midcourt to make a series of sparkling interceptions.
The fourth quarter saw a strong fight back from Cambridge, and a return to some nervy play by the Dark Blues taking the score to a tense 25-25. However, following some solid defence by Jenkins and a memorable clean interception from Waller, Oxford won back the lead.
Showing a maturity and consistency which has been lacking in previous years, the final score was 30-27, with the 13-strong Roos squad deservedly ecstatic at their first win over the Jays in five years.
The appetite of the strong Oxford supporting contingent had been whet following the tense hour of play. Raring to go for the Blues match, there was a real energy within the crowd, which was bolstered by members of Oxford’s rugby, basketball and korfball clubs fresh from their own games.
Clearly feeling the pressure, the Blues’ match began at a blistering pace, with WA Sascha Eady getting away with some signature risk-taking feeds straight to the towering figure of GS Natalie Redgrave, who converted easily, helping to a 12-9 lead at the break.
Coach Trish Kilczynski asked the players to keep calm, but apparently her words didn’t quite ring clear – with balls flying off the baselines of both teams going into the second quarter. The contest between Club Captains Sarah Godlee (GA, Oxford) and Chloe Maine (GD, Cambridge) was scintillating, with both players fighting for every single ball, and Godlee winning several contact calls allowing her to score with a cool finish which has come to be expected of her over a standout year. The Cambridge GK, who had an extremely hard job against a shooter many inches taller than her, fought hard under the post, but any turnover she made was swiftly won back by Oxford’s defence and brought swiftly back to the attack.
Trailing by 7 points at the half-way stage, the Light Blues appeared to run out of steam in the second half and the match finally slowed down a little. Oxford’s quick-flowing ball movement and pace killed any chance of a comeback, building them a 10-goal lead. The final quarter saw Godlee move back to GA, shooting goals from all around the circle. Knowing they had the lead, the defence began to take some more risks, with fresher McLaren stealing several flys and England international Layla Guscoth making some incredible blocks on the shot: a feat that is rarely seen at this level. This athleticism and her command of the circle in partnership with Beaumont earned her the Player of the Match award from the umpires.
A slightly anticlimactic end to the final quarter saw Oxford extend their lead and maintain their high quality netball, the final score a magnificent 53-35. With a two-goal extension on last year’s record-breaking winning margin, and a positive fighting attitude instilled into the club by both captains, there is much to indicate that this is a new era for OUNC. With Captain-elect Eady taking the reins in Trinity Term, and Redgrave, who famously “doesn’t lose at Varsity” staying for another season, the Light Blues must already be dreading their return to Oxford for the prestigious Varsity Match next year.