Ladies Lax Snatch Light Blue Varsity Victories

It was an impressive double win for the Blues and Kingfishers in an exhaustingly dramatic encounter with the Other place in the bog of Parker’s Piece on Saturday.

Alana Livesey Amelia Duncanson Blues Ellie Pithers Jo Hall kingfishers Lacrosse laura plant Varsity

Cambridge supporters were left virtually without fingers yesterday after one of the most nail-biting Varsity matches in history, but the lax girls came out on top, edging to epic muddy victories in both the Blues’ and the Kingfishers’ contests. The Blues beat the old enemy 9-6, and a foray into extra time saw the Kingfishers snatch a win 7-6.

The Blues match was tense from the off, the girls looking slightly jaded after Friday’s rescheduled knock-out win over Warwick, and finding it difficult to penetrate a solid Oxford defence. Co-Captain Laura Plant sought to inspire the team with some powerful drives in the midfield, all the more remarkable for the fact that she had landed on English soil only a couple of hours earlier after flying back from an England tour in America, but the girls failed to convert possession into goals.

Attack movement was dynamic despite the by now knee-deep mud, with Angel of the North Alana Livesey holding up the midfield and adding some aggression to Cambridge’s game. Some linking play with feisty fresher Isy Foster looked promising, but shots on goal were slow to emerge. The breakthrough came when persistent darts into the hole from impish Welsh international Ellie Walshe finally paid off, seeing goals come from free positions after Oxford were penalised for dangerous checks to the head.

Oxford responses to Cambridge goals were lightning fast, however, and their counter-attacks were terrifying in their intensity. Speedy midfield player Lucy Andrew repeatedly exposed holes in the Cambridge defence, and well-placed shots from Emily Dally, later named Oxford’s Man of the Match, struck fear into the hearts of the Cambridge supporters. Oxford looked like they could go all the way.

A hastily called Time Out allowed Cambridge to regroup with some stern words from Co-Captain Anna Harrison, and they began to play with renewed determination. Georgie Pritchard stepped up to the plate, filling the very big shoes of missing star player Georgie ‘the Hurt-locker’ Hurt who was on tour in America, and kicked into gear with two beautifully aimed shots that eluded a floundering Oxford goalkeeper.

The drama didn’t end with the goals, however; Pritchard’s overly-exuberant celebration boshed compatriot Livesey on the head, drawing inordinate amounts of blood from her temple from a cut which later required stitches. Livesey seemed unfazed by her Bride of Dracula appearance and played on with a Beano-esque white plaster on her forehead, setting up Laura Plant, who netted a couple to steady the nerves of the shivering spectators. The final whistle was a relief to all, and the Taittinger came out (courtesy of beloved fitness coach Wellsey, currently on a stag weekend in Las Vegas) to be sipped genteelly (specifically NOT sprayed).

There were relieved smiles all round in the Cambridge camp as the Kingfishers’ match in the morning had also seen them inch to victory.

Tension had been heightened by the agreement that this Varsity match would also determine the outcome of the knock-out match of the BUCS League, which was due to be played last Wednesday but was cancelled after heavy rain. This added element of gravitas meant that both teams had a jittery start –all the possession was with Cambridge, but the girls were unable to capitalise and get ahead.

Goals from Co-Captains Ellie Pithers and Amelia Duncanson, and a superb low shot from Jo Hall, were matched almost immediately by Oxford counter-attacks, and at full time the score stood at 6 all. The Varsity score had been decided, but the girls played on into extra time to reach the Quarter Finals of the BUCS League against Nottingham 2nds. Sheer determination saw Ellie Jeffreys fight her way through four Oxford players to place the ball in the bottom left of the goal, sending her team mates leaping in the air in ecstasy.

An excruciating final two minutes of possession play taunted Oxford into playing piggy in the middle, but try as they might they couldn’t rescue the ball from a calm Cambridge attack. The final whistle was like manna from heaven for an emotionally-drained crowd and a physically-drained team – a spray of cava finished them off.

In other lacrosse action, the Men’s Blues also met with success defeating their opponents 14-9 in a hard-fought encounter, although the other light blue teams were more unlucky. The Mixed team suffered a rather heavy defeat and the Men’s Seconds also lost to a strong Oxford squad. This didn’t stop all the squads from partying together, however, and they even went as far as to risk a Danger Cindies, taking on the Saturday night locals with their exuberant dancing displays and anti-Oxford chants of ‘Away in a manger’.

As Lauren York, Kingfisher talisman put it yesterday afternoon: ‘Nothing feels as good as beating Oxford.’

Photos by Lottie Unwin