Great Year For Nascent Handball Team

Cambridge team destroys all opposition apart from GDBO.

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The Cambridge University Handball Club entered their first University Championships this week, and after smashing their way into the knockout rounds, were bravely beaten in a tight game with subsequent winners Oxford.

The strong 5th place finish rounds up an astonishing debut season for the Blues, with the Women’s team already having won this year’s Varsity match and the Men’s team only narrowly missing out in Varsity against the University Champions.

Having a ball

After soaring through their regional qualifying group with the highest goal difference in the tournament, the Blues came into the National finals with a much tougher group draw including Imperial, one of the favourites, Nottingham, and Manchester. An excellent, tight early-morning win was recorded against Imperial, with the Blues coming through 7-6. The Blues followed through with strong victories against Manchester and Nottingham, with the results especially pleasing given the absence of key players Winter and Strühl through injury and travel. They finished the day with a disappointing result against a weaker Coventry side, the result of tiredness following a hard day’s play.

Feeling blue

The second day of the tournament started with the Blues rounding up a top-place finish in the group with a victory against Warwick in which they rarely came out of second gear. That all changed in the last 16 however, when a truly imperious display from our own Mercedes – Bentz, resulted in us dominating our Bath opposition. Bentz crashed in a number of 9-metre shots, outmanoeuvring their defence seemingly at will with some glorious footwork and dribbling. Briant scored a sensational lob shot, jumping into the 6-metres with an olympic-like spring before delicately lifting the ball over their keeper and in off the far post. Sandberg was a constant threat on the right wing – which deserves special praise given his natural right-handedness should have closed off the shooting angle. Needless to say, such trivial things as shooting angles were dismissed without concern as he grabbed his goal from the wing.

Left-handed Hoffman scored two excellent goals as well, making space by coming off the wing and attacking inside before finishing with some strong shots.  The performance was also characterised by some excellent defending. Their pivot was subdued nearly to tears by the combined efforts of ‘Papa Bear’ Ortmann and the quick-tongued matador Vazquez Garcia, and whenever they did break through, they were met with cheers from the Cambridge bench as their attempts were blocked by the reckless Herculean bravery of Johannsson or the superb agility of Frémont. Their backs were beaten down attack after attack by the sheer power of Labonte and Linkesch, who bullied them mercilessly, suppressing their creativity. The Blues defensive prowess showed as they ran out 12-3 winners.

Gotta handball it to them

The quarter-finals against Oxford was a tense and heated match. They had an excellent defence and keeper, but all defensive barriers broke down in the face of a hulk-like performance from Linkesch. Having been on the opposing side many-a-time in training, nothing quite compares to the fear experienced when being run at by Linkesch’s freight-train size and power, and the Oxford side quailed whenever he came running in for a 9-metre shot. The Oxford attack was expert, with some extraordinary feeds into the pivot from their backs providing them with a number of goals. Oxford carried a 3-goal lead for most of the game, but the Blues pegged them back in the final 5 minutes and closed the gap to a single goal. In the nervy final moments, the Cambridge bench were on edge – but then the whistle went, and the Blues went out. Oxford went on to win the tournament against Loughborough in the final.

A 5th-place playoff against Bangor was again won by the Blues with the team rarely being tested. A solid display was orchestrated by Benedek at the back, and zu Ermgassen rewarded the team for their endless patience with a goal from the wing.

The victory ensured Cambridge’s 5th place finish at the tournament – an outstanding achievement given the age of the club.