Oxford’s Netball Blues team were victorious on Wednesday in a thrilling game against a strong Loughborough team, which extended until the final seconds of extra time. The final score stood at 58-57. The game was evenly matched throughout. Loughborough’s impressive shooting accuracy put pressure on Oxford’s defence but in open play the Blues had brilliant pace, intercepted well and found crucial space.
In the first quarter Loughborough had a strong start but Oxford kept responding to their challenges. Alexandra Shipley, Oxford’s centre, kept the Loughborough’s defence on their toes with her skilful dumpy passes and speed, not surprising for the fresher who has won the cross country cuppers race. The second quarter was weaker for Oxford; they started the second phase of the game one point down and ended it with a two-point gap, 22-24, behind their opponents. Loughborough’s goal keeper played well with multiple missed shots just before half time frustrating the Oxford attack.
In the third quarter, Oxford resumed their attacking play with power and a flurry of goals came in quick succession. The goal attack and goal shooter combination of Zara Everitt and Madeline Oshodi, worked very well and was key to the Blues’ success. The pressure applied by Oxford caused Loughborough to make mistakes and tensions rose as the visitors reacted aggressively to the Blues’ challenges. Oxford ended the third quarter with a four-point lead at 38-34.
The final section of the game was incredibly dramatic, with ten minutes to go the score was equal and the volume in the Iffley sports hall rose as supporters and team mates urged Oxford on. With a game so closely matched for fifty minutes, the closing minutes were no different. Substitute wing defence Ellie Peel ignited pace in the centre of the court in the second half of the game. Oxford were down three points but composed shots brought the score to 45 all with one-minute left. This then reached 47-47 with fifteen seconds remaining. From the restart Oxford surged down to court and made a shot on goal, the ball entered the net as the final buzzer went. To the disbelief of jubilant fans, the goal was deemed to be played after the game was over.
The two teams would now play two smaller extra halves of seven minutes each. Changes to their wing defence and goal keeper appeared to be a tactical move to provide an energetic defence. The Blues went into the final seven minutes one point down at 51-52 but as the game had shown thus far, such a small points gap could be closed within seconds. Oxford’s goal keeper, and vice- captain, Kirsty McCann impressively blocked an attempt at goal from Loughborough and the score was once again tied. With one minute to go Oxford were up two points and they needed to keep possession, after a resurgent goal from the opposition Oxford scored again in the last 30 seconds of the game to bring the score to 58-57, just before the final buzzer.
Oxford were extremely resilient throughout the match in a game which could have been easily won by either side. Whilst there were phases of the game in which Oxford went a few points down this never lasted long and they kept composed and took shots accurately when it mattered. This win was testament to the Blues’ brilliant communication and team unity and their impressive composure when there was intense pressure, never letting fatigue set in. Wednesday’s win brings Oxford into the last 16 of the BUCS midlands conference cup, they will play Birmingham in two weeks’ time.