In the words of Eleanor Roosevelt, “a woman is like a tea bag – you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.” There is no doubt that the university women’s lacrosse squad are a feisty bunch, on and off the pitch. But the true test of whether they sink or swim will be on Saturday of 6th Week in Hilary, when the Blues and Swifts face the Tabs once more. The Blues had a fantastic season last year. Midway through the season we were placed strongly in the BUCS South division, but academic pressures prevented the second half of the season finishing as strongly as we’d hoped. Though it was not our highest placing, the final fourth place was representative of our fight and determination in a very competitive league, with strong performances both home and away against Durham and Cambridge.
The 2014-2015 season was also extremely successful for the Oxford Swifts, whose performances gathered momentum as the season progressed. Early losses to Cambridge and Loughborough shocked the girls into action, and hard work and intense training allowed them to reverse the scoreline with Loughborough, securing a ten-goal win. Success followed success, as the Swifts beat the York 1st team in the BUCS knock-out cup, weathering a strong fight back from York to clinch victory.
Buoyed by such success, a confident Swifts side met their Varsity counterparts eager to make up for the two league losses earlier in the season. Though down 7-2 with 11 minutes to go, fantastic attacking play allowed them to claw back a five-goal deficit and eventually steal a win in the last 15 seconds. The match was indicative of the ‘never-say die’ attitude that characterised the entire Swifts’ season.
Unfortunately, the Blues were not as lucky. Though energised by a comprehensive victory over powerhouse Birmingham at Uni Parks just before, the team were consigned to a disappointing 15-5 loss.
The build up to next year’s Varsity is already in full swing. Just under a month ago, the squad reconvened for six days of pre-season. Captain Katharine Bailey and her Vice, Jane Lee – the pair that go by the name ‘BaiLee’ – started the season off with a bang, introducing new training and fitness regimes. The third day of pre-season saw the alumnae match and the return of past captains Hellie Kellett-Clarke and Beth Denham. After an heroic hour of battle, the old girls had it, winning 9-7.
Two weeks later, the Blues came face to face with three of their toughest opponents: Durham, Loughborough and Nottingham. After beating Loughborough 5-4 and Nottingham 11-2, the Blues came up against the BUCS reining champions, Durham. Unfortunately the intensity of the first two matches got the better of them, and with tired legs the final score was 1-5. The team showed so much potential, especially given this was the first time they had played together.
This potential was really put to the test last week during the first BUCS games. The Blues met Bristol away in what turned out to be a tough battle of the teams’ defences. The final score 2-7 did not reflect the hard work of the Oxford team, who just could not seem to get the ball into the back of the net. Most Valued Player India Kary fought hard in attack, scoring two goals for the Blues.
The Swifts journeyed up to Warwick for their opening game of the season, and came away victorious with a 19-8 win. MVP Jen Ehr, last year’s women’s Blues rowing cox, played out of position in attack and scored two goals.
With so many Freshers in the side, most of the warm up was spent on communication and getting to know each other’s games. This paid off, the defence performing particularly well against Warwick. The phenomenal scoring rate was due to the Swift’s fantastic ability to retain possession, as well as the clinical finishing of the forwards.
Up next the Blues are playing Exeter, whilst the Swifts are playing Loughborough’s seconds. Both are tough competition for Oxford and will prove a great challenge.
This year, the squad is aiming high and hopes for a double win at Varsity. The Blues have sever- al key international players in their starting line-up, who will be invaluable in rais- ing the standard of the team as a whole through their immense experience.
Likewise, the Swifts have taken on some talented new players, who will be instrumental in the team’s development. Both teams are striving for top two in their BUCS leagues, followed by a double shoeing of the Tabs at th end of February