Cherwell can reveal the Blues football squads ahead of this year’s Varsity matches on 25 March.
Captains Alex Urwin and Maddie Hooper have both confirmed the players that they will hope can play their part in doing the double for the third year in a row.
Urwin is one of six returning Blues in the men’s squad, alongside his likely centre-back partners Sam Hale and Cian Wade, midfielders Laurence Wroe and Wulfie Bain, and last year’s Varsity hero Dom Thelen.
There are few surprises among the women’s squad, as Hooper has largely opted to keep faith with the side that sealed the Bucs Midlands 2B title two weeks ago.
Her side are undefeated in 2018, and have the opportunity to seal the double on Wednesday in the Midlands Conference Cup final against Oxford Brookes – victory in that game would mean seven wins out of seven since the turn of the year.
The men’s side face an important game of their own on Wednesday. The Blues will play Cambridge for the second time in a matter of weeks, and, after a 1-0 win last time out sealed the league title for the Light Blues, Oxford will be desperate to make a statement of intent before Varsity.
Hooper herself will form part of a formidable defence, alongside Claudia Hill and Lucy Harper. The trio acquitted themselves well in last year’s Varsity against an impressive Cambridge attack, and have all impressed this season.
Indeed, Hill and Harper recently faced off in the inaugural Hassan’s Cup final; and despite a dominant performance from Harper – who scored a thirty-five yard screamer – it was the Saints’ Hill that prevailed.
However, Oxford’s key player will undoubtedly be Sherona Forrester.
The Jamaica international has been a huge addition to the side this year, and her quality has been felt whenever she has played.
In the men’s fixture, Urwin faces a difficult decision regarding the identity of his goalkeeper.
Sean Gleeson, an unused substitute in the past two Varsities, has been the first-choice stopper this season, but is coming back from injury.
Meanwhile, his understudy, Harry Langham, has made few mistakes while deputising, conceding just twice in his three recent starts.
Dom Thelen, playing in his third Varsity, will be the key man up front, and will hope to repeat last year’s match-winning heroics: he scored one and set up another in Oxford’s dramatic 3-2 victory.
This year’s Varsity will be the first since 2012 not to feature last year’s man-of-the-match, Michael Moneke. The centre-back was an influential figure in his time at Oxford, but this year’s settled back three of Urwin, Wade and Hale will do their best to ensure that his presence is not felt.
As Cherwell reported in January, this year’s double-header, which will again be held at The Hive, Barnet, sees the men’s match played before the women’s fixture.
It will be the first time in a major sport that the women’s match has formed the second half of a double-header.
The men’s game will kick off at 2pm, with the women’s match to follow at 5pm.
Men’s Squad: Sean Gleeson (Exeter), Jamie Shaw (Hertford), Leo Ackerman (Somerville), Laurence Wroe* (Pembroke), Cian Wade* (Green Templeton, vice-captain), Sam Hale* (Worceseter), Mo Eghleilib (Harris Manchester), Wulfie Bain* (Brasenose), Dominic Thelen* (Wycliffe Hall), Till Wicker (St Catherine’s), Takahiro Tsunoda (Wolfson), Jack Witt (Hertford), Alex Urwin* (Exeter, captain), Tom Faktor (Pembroke), Harry Langham (Wadham), Matthew Naylor (Merton).
Women’s Squad: Anna Garcia (Magdalen), Maddie Hooper* (LMH, captain), Isabel Stainsby (New College), Claudia Hill* (Linacre), Sherona Forrester (Linacre), Louise Nolan* (Wadham), Kiah Rutz (Kellogg), Lucy Harper* (St. Peters), Helen Bridgman (St Hugh’s), Ellana Slade* (Trinity), Brigid Lahiff (Regent’s), Erin Robinson (Oriel), Katie Plummer* (Wadham), Beverly Leon (Green Templeton), Mary Hintze (Trinity).
* denotes returning blue.