Women's Varsity Report 2012
by Madeleine Sava
Team: Aly Hollington, Vicki Ormerod, Mabel Li, Dana Singh, Madeleine Sava (captain), Sara Nawaz (reserve)
The women's Blues team consisted of only two returning Blues players this year; Aly and Vicki. The rest of the team's lack of experience, however, did not deter the girls and we set off on the Oxford Tube to London in high spirits confident that we would retain our trophy for the sixth consecutive year.
With nerves starting to set in, we arrived at the prestigious Royal Automobile Club before our Cambridge opposition, enabling us to secure our favourite changing room. Our promptness and efficiency in getting to the courts reflected our professional attitude and focus, which would be all the more evident when matches got underway. A couple of bananas and energy drinks later we stepped into the 'bear pit', where we warmed up to play the best squash game of our lives. With fire in our bellies and the faces of family and friends apprehensively looking down on us, there was no doubt that we were, as a team, ready to be unleashed. Ready to give it everything. Was all our hard work in training sessions worth it? Would the fitness pay off? Did the motivational team talk go in? We were about to find out.
Sara stepped on to court as reserve with hunger in her eyes. Her impeccable fitness and ability to sink the ball into the back corners overwhelmed her opponent. Sara took no prisoners and won convincingly 3-0. At the same time, captain Madeleine took a racquet to the head on the next door court. This blow did not phase her but in fact made her fight harder. After a quick pep talk from former six time world champion Jonah Barrington, Madeleine stepped back on court and hunted every ball resulting in the next two games being won 9-0. The final score was 3-0. Madeleine was awarded Oxford's Woman of the Match.
The Oxford women's team definitely started as we meant to go on. Next to play was Dana at number 4. Her opponent was a tennis player who had an excellent forehand volley but was unable to hit a single handed backhand. Dana was quick to realise this and played most balls hard and low to the back left corner where her opponent found it impossible to return. Dana's focus was evident and impressive. She had been keeping her speed around court secret from all of us in training but showed it when it mattered most, in her varsity match, where she won 3-0. Our number 3 Mabel played beautifully and with technical prowess. Her movement around court was something many could learn from. Unfortunately, her opponent was better on the day and Mabel went down fighting, losing 3-0. There were many moments of hope in the match, where it looked like she was going to get it back and she should be congratulated on the squash which she displayed. I have no doubt that next year she will come back a lot more aggressive and go on to win.
So, at this stage in the day tensions were running high with the top two still to play and Oxford winning 2-1. We only needed Aly or Vicki to win to retain our champion status, but we did not get complacent, as their number one from last year was now playing number two, as Cambridge had acquired a new number one in the form of a dangerous looking fresher. Vicki stepped on court sporting her signature blue head band. This would be her 5th year playing in squash varsity so she was used to the nerves, the crowd and the uncomfortably hot court. She knew exactly what to do and the team had no doubt that she would deliver. Vicki had a shaky first game where she was finding her feet against an opponent marginally less fit than Vicki. After losing the first she turned it around and went on to win the next three very convincingly. Vicki's perfect touch when it came to drop shots was also something to be commended.
Last but not least came Aly's time to shine, after playing in 5 previous varsity matches at number one, this would be the last time she would step onto court representing Oxford. And what a truly superb game she played. Her determination and drive was like no other. She did not let her opponent in and did not give her any chances. Aly's experience and consistency proved itself in this match. The crowd watch in amazement. Aly went up 2 games to love and at this point she knew that her opponent was now faced with the difficult task of climbing Mount Everest. She also knew that her opponent was going to come back for one last attempt at victory and she should not let her game slip. Aly went on to win, rather comfortably, 3-0. Her match was the best I have witnessed her play, her movement around court, her placement and eye for the ball were impeccable. Sadly this was Aly's last year playing for the Club. She has been the backbone of the women's side and will be truly missed. Playing in six consecutive varsities, which Oxford has won, is a real achievement and one which should be noted. Her commitment and love of the game sets an example for all to follow.
I am so very pleased to say that the final result was a 4-1 win to Oxford. This means that Oxford retain their victorious title for the sixth year in a row. We have no intention of letting this winning culture stop any time soon. I am unbelievably proud of my team. The rest of the day consisted of G&Ts and watching the boys' Blues team play in an extremely well fought win against Cambridge. The day was truly special and I can say that the wins for Oxford were followed by appropriate celebrations at the Oxford and Cambridge Club.
I would like to take this opportunity to give special thank you to our coaches at Millfield; Jonah Barrington and Ian Thomas. Their inspirational guidance and inventive drills have encouraged us work together as a team and pushed us to improve our game. Thank you also go to Adele Tee our 7th key member of the squad who was shouting encouragement from the galleries. This year our win was really a squad effort and she should be commended for her hard work put in over the season. We were most grateful to all those who turned out to support on the day, I am sure you would agree the atmosphere was electric. And final appreciation to our generous sponsors Stone King who helped support the Varsity Match this year.
The final score was 4-1 to Oxford.
Men's Varsity Report 2012
by Miles Jackson
Team: Nelson Fung, Simon Roach, Yuan Hao Sum, Miles Jackson (Captain), Tom Lowish, Dave Phillips (reserve)
Coming off the back of four straight Varsity losses, the Blues were out for revenge. Over the previous few weeks we registered strong wins against Loughborough, Nottingham and the RAC, and were quietly confident that the season's work would pay off. After a team dinner of mac and cheese and with the words of Bob Lee Swagger ringing in our ears, we assembled at Queen's Lane for the trek to London. Our early arrival allowed us to acclimate to tropical conditions at the RAC. We were boosted by the arrival of Jonah Barrington, former World Number 1 and six-time British Open Champion. After a quick lunch we settled in to watch the women take on a refreshed Cambridge team. Although the matches were tight, the Oxford women again proved too strong and registered their 6th consecutive victory. Something to aim for.
Playing at six, Dave Phillips was first on court. He started with Barrington-like ferocity and raced to a 9-0, 9-1 lead. Cambridge's tricky no. 6 then dug in and won the third game. Despite flirting with tiredness in the 4th, Dave's recent form was rewarded with a convincing victory in the 4th game. A prequel to next year.
In the meantime, Tom Lowish was locked in battle on Court 1. The players traded the first two games before Tom slipped behind in the third to go 2-1 down. The nervousness of the crowd was not helped by Tom's drift towards a ghostly-white pallor - a reminder of the dreaded plague that grips him during fitness sessions. This time, however, Tom clawed back to take the match into a fifth. Consistent width and length took him to 8-6 in the fifth before his crisp striking broke the ball. Despite a break that gave Cambridge a chance to regroup, Tom eased over the line in style, taking the match 3-2 and putting Oxford 1-0 up.
The next hour brought a dark patch for Oxford. On Court two, Miles Jackson was losing a mammoth first game against a quick Cambridge player who refused to make any errors. On Court one, Sum was struggling to impose his length and width on the tricky Cambridge captain. Despite huge support from the crowds - Oxford supporters outnumbering Cambridge by about four-to-one - neither Miles nor Sum was able to avert the slow march to defeat. Two defeats: 2-1 Cambridge.
At number 1, Nelson was revelling in his new-found Leitch-less freedom. Against the talented and experienced Mike Mackay, Nelson's immaculate length and touch was paying dividends. Nelson had been playing at an exceedingly high level all year and the team was confident that his form would carry through into Varsity. We were not disappointed. Although the games were tight, Nelson wrapped up a 3-0 victory.
That left Simon Roach playing for the match at number 2 against Henry Pelham, a very strong fresher from Cambridge. The importance of the match had been given additional spice by the Cambridge player's Tarango-esque performance when the two met in our BUCS league match. Despite taking the first, Simon fell away in the next two games as a combination of his shin-splints and Henry's backhand drop put him under pressure. 2-1 down - we were staring defeat in the face. A clash of legs in the 4th, however, bought Simon some time to regroup and from then he played almost flawless squash. With the already excited Oxford supporters becoming rabid, Simon forced his way to a 9-0 score-line in the decider: 3-2 in the match and 3-2 in the tie. Victory for Oxford.
Breaking a four-year losing streak, the trophy is now ours to defend. Success has many fathers, and this result was no exception. To Ross Gore and Jason Martin at Oxfordshire Health and Racquets and Jonah Barrington and Ian Thomas and the squads at Millfield School, thank you for your time and advice. To Mike, Nick and Bill, your support and guidance was indispensable. To Stone King, our sponsor, your generosity is hugely appreciated. And finally to non-playing members of the Blues squad, Rajnush, Sam and Alex, they were as much a part of this result as the six of us who played.
Next year can't come soon enough.
Final Score: 3:2 to Oxford