As an exotic alternative to the more traditional English summer sports, the popularity of volleyball is on the rise across the UK, and Oxford has proved to be no exception to this trend.
Trinity Term sees the Oxford University Volleyball Club (OUVC) hosting their annual Volleyball Cuppers competition. Currently under swing, the competition has seen some ferocious volleyball played so far, with one of the highest team participation numbers in recent years. This year, 18 teams are tousling for the title, with squads from colleges and University departments hosting players with a range of experience from Blues to absolute novices.
Coming into its fourth week, the competition is in its round robin stage, with teams in pools of three playing each other for the chance to reach the knock-outs. So far, four teams have clawed their way to the top of their pools, with MathsPhysics, St Hugh’s, St Antony’s (team name 4-1-1) and Oriel securing their place in the play-offs. The two winning teams from the remaining groups are under contest and will join the play-off line up along with the two highest scoring non-qualifying teams.
Hot teams to watch out for this season include St John’s College and Z-Rex (from the Zoology department), who are old favourites on the Cuppers’ scene, both being consecutive champions in the last two annual tournaments. They are accompanied this year by some fiery newcomers, with MathsPhysics and St Antony’s making particularly good debuts so far in the season.
Edward Hall from the Oriel volleyball team, reflecting on his cuppers experience so far, commented, “It’s been really fun to pick up something new, I played a bit of volleyball at school but it’s cool to put a proper team together and learn some technique.
“I’m more of a rugby man myself, and while I don’t entirely get the non-contact deal, it definitely makes up for it with the chance to wear my rainbow beater and Top Gun aviators – Cuppers has been such a laugh and it’s one of those sports everyone’s familiar with but doesn’t get a lot of press. It’s definitely made me think about trying out next season.”
The summer Volleyball Cuppers is an opportunity for everybody to experience Oxford volleyball, whether undergraduates, post-docs, fellows or academic staff from any department or college, and OUVC is hoping that it will increase volleyball’s profile as a university sport.
Eleanor Whitchurch, captain of the Balliol team told Cherwell, “It’s one of those sports that you ideally really want a court and a net for. I’ve tried to book places out, but it’s been a nightmare. Iffley especially is really maxed out.
“It would be great to see the University and colleges provide more support in terms of facilities so it’s easier to start up new college sports. Even so, I’m really looking forward to just rocking up and giving it a shot. Volleyball is one of those sports that you can kind of pick up even with a ball in the park and it still be really good fun.”
With four weeks left to go, the Cuppers title remains very much up for grabs, and if the play thus far has been an indication of the quality of games to come, the finals held on Sunday 21st June at Iffley should be well worth a watch. The summer games brings the volleyball year to a close, with the anticipation that turnouts in Michaelmas will see some new recruits inspired by Cuppers fever.