Cherwell spoke to the current women’s Blues captain at OUHC, Megan Cottee, about her role as captain and her season so far.
When did you start playing hockey?
When I was in year four, so I was 11.
Did you try any other sports? What was it that drew you to hockey specifically, and what made you keep playing?
When I started, I was at a school that had only just allowed girls in as it used to be a boy’s school. They didn’t really have any sport for girls. So, I started out doing a lot of individual sports when I was little, so like, swimming, running, tennis, things like that. They eventually got in a female sports teacher, and she played hockey, so she introduced hockey to the school and to me. I just stuck with it. And still do it now.
How did last season go for the Women’s Blues?
Last year we were plagued by ACLs and injuries. The Captain at the start of this season was Rachel Diggin but she tore her ACL in the first game. I took over from her, so it has been quite a complicated start. Last year, we got relegated from the Premier Division in BUCS where we played against the best teams in the country. That league is basically divided into two, and you’re either in the top six or you fight to stay up every year against the bottom three. We went down unfortunately, but it means that this year, it’s a bit more exciting because we can actually win games and our whole aim is to get promoted back up. On Saturday we played in the National League, and we had a pretty mid-season, finishing middle of the table. This year we’re hoping to finish a little bit higher, but staying up in that league is not an easy thing to do.
Do you find high turnover, intrinsic to a University squad, a difficult thing to deal with? Losing and gaining players each year.
I think this year has been particularly interesting. In my first year, I was part of a pretty new squad – I didn’t know that because I was a fresher, but it had very little remaining Blues. In second year, the squad pretty much stayed the same which I think is quite rare. That was really nice, and we were actually able to build without restarting things but even then, we got a new coach, so everything was different in terms of tactics and training. This year we lost essentially our entire squad and I think there are only three or four of us who played in the 2023 Varsity. It has definitely impacted the squad but at the same time it’s just the nature of university sport and I think that the start of our season is normally not great anyway, as we start to pick it up later in Michaelmas. I think it has its pros and cons.
Reflections on last year’s Varsity; how did it go? Did the cancellation affect you or the team’s performance?
Last year we lost 1-0, which was a big frustration as Cambridge got very lucky and basically pulled off a small-margin victory. To be fair, it tends to be quite an even test against Cambridge, and it has swung from side to side consistently, especially in recent years.
Are you a returning blue?
This would have been my third year as a blue, but unfortunately, my injury may change my personal season.
Are there any specific goals for this season?
The main goal is getting promoted back up to the Premier Division. Definitely. I think that’s pretty achievable. So far, we’ve beaten Cardiff pretty convincingly and drawn against UCL. This means we’re in the top three teams currently. What we want and need is to have an unbeaten run in BUCS, so that’s our main goal. On Saturdays, the standard has increased quite a lot – a lot of the teams that got demoted are very good, and the teams that got promoted into our league have basically been climbing for the last five years. Now knowing that and how hard the last four weeks have been, staying up on Saturday is in itself a pretty big achievement. They’re quite different ends of the spectrum, getting promoted and not getting relegated.
What has been your best win with the Blues?
Obviously winning Varsity in my first year is an experience you can’t replicate anywhere else.
But my most memorable game was probably when we played Loughborough. We actually lost 1-0, but Loughborough essentially pays their players to go and play hockey there and have the entire GB squad in their team. We held them to 0-0 until the last minute but that for us was a huge achievement when we’d been going to Exeter and losing 10-0. So that was probably my favorite game of them played even though we didn’t win.
What would you say is the worst defeat?
I mean, that 10-0 scoreline was pretty tough, and we had a severely depleted squad with concussions, broken fingers and toes, and then ACLs like mine. It’s definitely the worst loss I think I’ll ever have in life.
Will you stay captain now or will the mantle be passed on to another player?
When Rachel Diggin got injured, she wanted to stay so she basically did all the admin. I was Captain on the pitch, but I think I’m going to take a step back and probably take up a coaching role. I’ll pass the baton onto the two vice-captains who are both very capable people, so they’ll probably co-captain together for the rest of the season, Alice Jackson and Lotti Knights.
What is the best thing about being a Captain?
I’d say the relationships you form with people. In hockey we have like a 4-week preseason, so I’ve been with the girls for a while now. This year I really like I’ve rarely been fully at the end. You really get what you put in, and it’s interesting to manage people and care for them a lot more closely than you might if you don’t have as much responsibility.
Any key players to watch on the team or rising stars?
All three of the freshers that have come in have been very good, such as Izzy Dowling. Holly Smith has been our solid centre-back for a long time, and she has improved every season. Alice and Lottie are also both great players, which is why they are my vice-captains.
Where can our readers watch you play?
Iffley Road Sports Club, every Wednesday and Saturday.