Blues need to improve before Varsity

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Defeated, but not disheartened, the Blues Lacrosse team returned home from Cambridge with only one thing on their minds: vengeance at Varsity. After a friendly match against Loughborough was washed out the previous week, the Blues hadn’t yet managed to step foot on the pitch in 2008, with practices moved from the waterlogged pitches to the athletics track seriously impeding preparations. With a 10-1 defeat to their Varsity rivals in the Parks last term, the away match looked a tough prospect. From the first whistle both teams showed hunger for the ball, but it was the Light Blue aggression that paid off. The ball was turned over and a quick succession of tidy passes saw the ball in the back of the Oxford goal. Not to be intimidated, however, the Dark Blue attacks responded quickly and Oli Valner beat her defender in a one-on-one, darting into the fan to slot the ball past Cambridge’s imposing goalkeeper. However, after this quick retaliation Oxford struggled to maintain pressure and some sloppy marking resulted in soft goals for the home team. With key players able to convert even an inch of free room into a swift goal, Cambridge only needed to hold a solid defence and move the ball quickly to keep the visitors out of the game – which they did. Despite committed defence from Rosie Price and determined man-on-man marking by Claire Strauss, the Oxford goal was peppered with shots. After a time-out was called, the Dark Blues attacked the centre draw more decisively, but each time an attack looked promising, the ball was turned over. At half-time the Blues had a significant deficit to pull back, with the score at 7-1. In the second half, captain and goalkeeper Els Sobczyk was showered with yet more shots from Cambridge. Despite the hard work done by Emma Readman and Alex Carruthers to bring the ball up into the midfield, the Light Blues were vigilant in defence, and continued to convert opportunities. Doing all she could to lead from the back, the scoreline would surely have resulted in a far wider margin had Sobczyk not stood up to the occasion as she did. Leah Templeman also shone, working hard at both ends of the pitch and managing to place a second shot in the Cambridge goal. The last quarter of the match saw the same mistakes and faltering play that Oxford had shown in the first half. Despite competing hard on all around the pitch, each attack ended with Cambridge in possession. When Cambridge bizarrely called a time-out with a 15-2 lead and just one minute left to play, the 16 girls in dark blue did not need a team talk to realise that serious work would need to be done before the Varsity match in 7th week. But, with absolutely nothing more to be lost it was in the final minute of the match that a glimmer of hope tentatively shone on Oxford’s horizon. After refusing to accept passive defeat, Sobczyk rallied the team and urged a final burst of energy to prove a point. Though irrelevant in the context of the game, when the attacks cut through the fan, allowing Valner to charge past her defender and score the final goal of the match, the Dark Blues had proved to themselves that giving up was not an option. With the cumulative score from the two BUSA matches reaching 25-4 to Cambridge, the Oxford Lacrosse girls will undoubtedly need to pull out all stops in training in the next five weeks to ensure that the crowds at Varsity will have something to cheer for.by Stephanie Hardwick

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