Women's Varsity Report 2013

by Mabel Li
Team: Emily Peach, Mabel Li (Captain), Adele Tee, Madeleine Sava, Emma Schlee, Lauren Crichton (reserve)

After a year of preparing for the biggest match on the Oxbridge squash calendar, the women's team arrived in London on the 15th of Feb for a restful night before taking on the Cambridge women's Blues on the 16th. Although the squad had an excellent track record of winning past Varsities, this year presented its challenges with 2 highly seeded Oxford Blues squad players being unable to participate in Varsity 2013. Nevertheless, the women's squad arrived on Saturday morning at the Royal Automobile Club in high spirits, looking forward to defend our title.

Varsity 2013 kicked off with Lauren Crichton (reserve) and Emma Schlee (5th string) going first on court against Victoria Sawyer and Anna Drummond respectively. Unfortunately, despite fighting for every point, Lauren and Emma lost 0-3 and 1-3 respectively. Next up was Madeleine Sava (4th string) and Adele Tee (3rd string) against Kirsten Mcaskill and Aly Hemingway. Victory appeared to be within reach, with both Oxford players initially leading comfortably with 2 sets each. However, luck was not on our side, and both matches closed with a nail-biting 5-setter finish in favour of Cambridge. The final 2 players on court were Mabel Li (2nd string) and Emily Peach (1st string) against two strong returning Cambridge Blues players, Francesca Ritchie and Rebecca Palmer. Both players gave their best shot, and it briefly appeared that Emily could turn her match around with an extremely close match-point in the 3rd set, but it was not to be and Cambridge sealed their victory with a 5-0 win.

This may be Oxford women's Blues first defeat in 7 years, but I am confident that the team will emerge stronger for the next meeting with Cambridge. Being a witness of how far each Oxford player has come since joining the Blues squad, and of how the team has come together despite the good and difficult times during this season, I am very proud of the dedication and resilience shown by the Oxford team, but at the same time Cambridge has shown admirable perseverance and improvement from the previous year that the Oxford players can certainly learn from. Until then, the team congratulates Cambridge for winning Varsity 2013 and looks forward to meeting them again in 2014.

Finally, I would like to thank the coaches (Jonah, Ian, Jim, Ben and Julie) and senior members of the club (Nick and Mike) for their guidance and support throughout the period, the sponsors Aberdeen Asset Management and Dave Sheriffs for making Varsity 2013 a success, the RAC for hosting the match, and the squads from both universities, without whom the entire event would not be possible.

Final score: Oxford 0-5 Cambridge

Men's Varsity Report 2013

by David Phillips
Team: Nelson Fung, Yuan Hao Sum, David Phillips (Captain), Alex Portz, Owen Riddall, Andrew Lindsay (reserve)

Following the brave but disappointing result of the women before us, the men.s Blues were determined to retain the Varsity trophy which had been won in such magnificent style in 2012. Arriving in London the day before the match in order to place together the final pieces of our meticulous preparation at the courts at the RAC allowed us to acclimatise to the club.s unique climate and atmosphere. A minute.s silence in memory of our beloved Dana Singh gave us more than enough motivation to represent OUSRC with spirit and pride.

Leading the team out at numbers 6 and 5 respectively were promising freshers Andrew Lindsay (Jesus) and Owen Riddall (Brasenose). Showing no sign of nerves, Andrew got off to a flying start, setting the pace and taking control of the .T.. However, his opponent dug in and cleverly clawed his way back to take the opening game. At 8-1 down in the 2nd, Andrew.s chances were looking bleak, but his raw tenacity shone through as he stormed back to level the match at 1-1. With momentum swinging his way early in the 3rd game, a nerve in Andrew.s thumb unfortunately forced an injury time-out and initiated a dramatic turn in the match. Andrew could do little to recover and eventually relinquished the reserves. match 3-1.

Meanwhile on court 1, Owen was locked in a titanic battle with an opponent nearly ten years his senior. Despite controlling the majority of the gameplay, Owen found himself 2-1 down with no room for error. Yet the long and arduous exchanges in the opening few games were not for nothing. Owen had invested well and his dominance meant that his opponent had been forced to do a considerable amount of running, which started to take its toll at the climax of the match. Turning the screw in almost sinister fashion, Owen stayed patient in yet more long rallies. Both players were close to breaking-point, but Oxford.s number 5 did not relent, and pulled off a marvellous 3-2 fight-back.

This gave a monumental boost to Oxford as number 4 Alex Portz (Somerville) took to the court against the wily Cambridge captain Jack Styles. The match started at a blistering pace with both players trading mighty blows which would not have been out of place in Manila. Indeed Alex was wearing a shirt that he boasted was blood-stained, though his mother later revealed that it was the result of a sweet potato incident. With the match at 1-1, Alex muscled his way to an early lead in the 3rd game, before fatigue started to take its toll on both players. Errors became more frequent, and it was the experience of the Cambridge player which saw him sneak ahead. With Spartan mind-set, however, Alex was by no means finished. Having raced to a 6-5 lead in the 4th, he made one error too many which was cruelly exacerbated by some fortune for Jack, firstly by framing a backhand volley winner after a gargantuan rally and then hitting a rolling nick off the serve to set up a final match ball.

Following Owen.s lengthy match on court 1 was captain David Phillips (Queen.s), who found himself in a ferocious encounter with the 2012 Cambridge captain. The match started at high pace, with the movement of both players being tested to the extreme, David clinching it 9-6. This high-paced start took its toll in the 2nd game, however, as David found himself 6-1 down. But by slowing the pace considerably and frustrating his opponent, the Oxford number 3 battled back to give himself game ball at 8-6 to take a 2-0 lead. A number of heavy exchanges followed as the experienced Cambridge player held his nerve to level the match at 1-1. The crowd were aghast at this seemingly pivotal moment, but roles were reversed in the 3rd game. This time at 7-8 down, David saved 2 game balls before taking the game 10-8, from which point the reliable fitness of the Oxford captain shone through in the 4th as he relaxed into a more aggressive style of play and eventually triumphed 3-1.

Number 2 Yuan Hao Sum (Balliol) had a considerable task on his hands, and was actually on court at the same time as David because of the length of the matches at numbers 5 and 3. Sum.s initial attempts of inflicting a quick torture on his opponent did not succeed, as he quickly found himself 0-1 down. But with steely gaze, he was experienced enough to realise that a change of plan was necessary. Sum pulled out all the stops, varying the pace, staying patient with improved length and width, and trying to move his opponent to all corners, but unfortunately to no avail. The Cambridge number 2 was relentless and levelled the overall score at 2-2.

Almost as a sequel to the previous year, the 2013 Varsity Match came down to the final tie between Oxford.s Nelson Fung (Hertford), winning his 6th Blue, and undergraduate Dr Harry Leitch of Cambridge, winning extraordinarily his 9th Blue. Nelson did everything in his power to halt the onslaught that Harry threw at him. Surprised by the early barrage of hitting in the 1st game, Nelson dug deep and pushed ahead at 5-3 in the 2nd. With few fingernails remaining on the hands of a capacity crowd at the RAC, Harry.s power and experience was too great, and despite winning the hearts and smiles of the audience in the final game, Nelson nobly perished 3-0, meaning that Oxford agonisingly lost the match 2-3.

The efforts of those involved, and of the non-playing members of the squad (Alex Roberts and Tim Luetchford), could not be faulted. The squad would like to thank the coaches at the Oxfordshire Health & Racquets Club, Jason Martin and Ross Gore, as well Jonah Barrington and Ian Thomas at Millfield School . they combined to give us as full and meticulous a preparation as could be hoped for, so we are very grateful. Senior Treasurer Mike Sauvage, Senior Member Nick King, Alumnus Bill Johnson, and President Madeleine Sava were also superb and irreplaceable in the running of the club on the day and throughout the year. And finally many thanks to the club sponsor Dave Sherriff and Varsity Match sponsor Aberdeen Asset Management, without whose support our experiences and memories would not have been possible.

Final score: Oxford 2-3 Cambridge