Cambridge goes to the wall in squash Varsity

Andrew Lindsay reports on Oxford Squash's overwhelming Varsity success against Cambridge

The Oxford University Squash Racquets club (OUSRC) Men’s and Women’s Blues claimed an emphatic 5-0 victory at the 2016 Varsity Squash Matches – the first time this feat has been accomplished in the club’s 91-year history.

The Dark Blues faced the Tabs for their annual showdown at The Royal Automobile Club, often billed as ‘The Home of Squash.’ The club features some of the warmest and most humid courts in the country, adding a further dynamic to an already intense setting, with a strong force of rivalling alumni and spectators cheering and hurling abuse from the balconies above three sides of the courts.

Retaining all five Blues from 2015, the Oxford women hoped to regain the crown from their Tab counterparts. In the first two matches, the reserve Anna Gibson (Exeter) and fifth string Kiki Warren (Balliol) were too strong for both of their opponents. Unfortunately, though, they won so convincingly that their matches had finished before a number of spectators had even arrived at the club! It was then the turn of the third and fourth strings, fresher Samantha Phey (Jesus) and the less fresh and rather more experienced Eleanor Law (New) respectively, to take to the courts. Samantha was again far too strong for her opponent, winning 3-0 comfortably, whilst Eleanor’s game proved much closer, although the 3-0 scoreline suggested otherwise. Second string Alysia Garmulewicz (GTC) and first string Emily Peach (Magdalen) were both competing in their final Varsity matches before graduating this year. Alysia lost the first game, but her fitness on the RAC courts paid dividends, wearing out her opponent to win 3-1. Captain Peach faced a gruelling 57-minute 3-1 victory against the Cam- bridge number one, including two games that went down to the wire (10-9.) This win earned an emphatic 5-0 victory for the Dark Blues as well the Women’s Performance of the Match for the Oxford captain.

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After last year’s narrow 3-2 Varsity victory, the Oxford men were hungry for more success, particularly given that they retained all 2015 Blues apart from the number one, who was fortunately replaced by a player of similar calibre in the world-ranked Phil Nightingale (Wycliffe Hall). The Blues entered the match in fine form, having dropping only six of 200 points in BUCS, and secured promotion to the Premier League the previous Wednesday with a 4-1 win over Sheffield.

Playing in the reserve string, Club President Andrew Lindsay (Jesus) appeared to have drawn the short straw in the opposition. He was facing the Cambridge captain, only not in the top five due to injury, who proved a confident and skilled opponent, showing no sign of his apparent injury. Despite some solid squash, Andrew fell 0-3, complaining about his own injuries as usual. Meanwhile, Jimmy Cetkovski (New) was up at five. With some sage advice from his teammates in between games,Jimmy sharpened up to control the game with some quality squash, taking a 3-1 win and justly earning himself Man of the Match. He also achieved a ‘bagel’ (where the opponent gets no points) in the third game.

Men’s Captain Tom Paine (Oriel) played at four. Numerous stoppages from a broken ball, then a lost ball and his bleeding opponent, ensured the crowd got their money’s worth. Tom took a 3-0 win after over an hour of play, the longest match of the day (although this may have been down to the interruptions).

Returning for his fourth Varsity, Owen Riddall (Brasenose) was tasked with putting the tie beyond Cambridge’s reach at number three. Despite the questionable decision to take a pre-match lunch, Owen seemed fuelled up and energetic enough to wear down his opponent over four brutal games before crushing the exhausted Tab in a comfortable fifth. His 3-2 win sealed the Oxford victory and ensured the trophy would return home with the Dark Blues.

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Alex Roberts (Merton) played in the second string after showing solid and substantial improvement for yet another season. It was fitting to see him take a commanding and quick 3-0 win over his Light Blue counterpart. Finally, the team’s newest member Phil Nightingale – an undergraduate fresher at 33 – played at number one. Trash talking from Phil’s opponent on OUSRC’s Facebook page led to calls from Oxford’s President to “make this bot cry”. The team were very disappointed with our 6’5” pro, who failed to do this. He did claim, however , a crushing 3-0 victory, including a ‘bagel’ in the 2nd game,limiting his opponent to a handful of points. This meant that for the first time in Varsity history, a side claimed a clean sweep of Varsity victories (10-0).

Many thanks from the club go to all players, families, alumni and supproters who made it such a special experience and a wonderful finish to one of the most successful seasons in the club’s near history.

To sum up with a quote from Alex Roberts, “It’s fair to say some Tabs got shoe-ed”.