Student Blog: Playing in the Hockey Varsity match

SiobhanHockey"I trialled for the University Hockey team on a spur of the moment decision at the end of fresher’s week, a decision that has shaped a significant portion of my time at university and experiences that now make up some of my fondest memories of the last three years. As a member of the 'Blues' team I train three times a week and play matches twice a week against both local clubs and universities. Whilst the time commitment is substantial, I have found the structure it gives to my week helps me be more efficient with the time I have for tutorial deadlines and my course more generally. 

But more than that it has allowed be to get to know a large group of people from a number of colleges and on a wide range of courses. Many of whom I would never have met otherwise and who I am sure I will stay in contact with after I graduate.

This year was an especially challenging and rewarding one as part of the hockey club. In my year as president we had to facilitate a quick change of sponsor after the withdrawal of our original partners, organise a home 2nds and 3rds varsity and introduce a new team to the club (the mens’ 4ths team).

As for the hockey itself, we were a relatively young team, given half of the starting line up finished their courses at the end of the previous season. Whilst we gained a talented group of freshers we struggled to turn some excellent field play into goals; and three weeks before the Varsity match (the key fixture against Cambridge University) we had gone three months without a win.

At this point the increasingly frustrated team came together to decide how we were going to turn the season around. A change in focus from socialising as a team to really putting in some efficient and focused training sessions was required. With renewed determination, coupled with many a team picnic and lunch, we found that results started to go our way. When the day before the varsity match arrived we had won four and drawn two of the matches since that desperate team meeting.

A lot of people ask what makes the Varsity match so important. Part of it is the history; with the 2016 Hockey Varsity match being the 116th in the sport’s Oxbridge rivalry. But more than that, there is an expectation that your entire season, the hundreds of hours of training, wins, losses, have been leading up to this match. Particularly for the team this year, a chance to win the Varsity match felt like the chance to redeem a long and disappointing season.

The match itself was a very physical one, with multiple green and yellow cards awarded (in the main to the Cambridge side). The Cambridge team started strongly, however after 10 minutes on the defensive we were able to start gaining some control and put a goal past the Cambridge keeper. Unfortunately the 1-0 lead didn’t last long, and we broke for half time with the score at 1 a piece. Again in the start of the second half Cambridge dominated the play and there was a real panic seeping into our defence. Despite this, we managed to regain the momentum through multiple short corners (none of which we were able to convert). With the Cambridge team now the ones panicking we kept pushing and with two minutes to go our leading forward was able to clear up a scrappy bit of play in the opposition 'D' with a goal.

The game ended 2-1 to Oxford, and was one of the most special points of my time at university. For me it summed up one of the real joys of team sports, you get to share such amazing moments with a close group of friends."

By Siobhan Steward (3rd Year Biology)

Hockey is just one of the hundreds of optional sports and hobbies that students are able to take up during their time at Oxford University. Some Clubs and Societies, such as the Boxing Club operate as a University organisation, while many others are found at the collegiate level as well as University level. Generally, University-level sports team compete to a high standard but still have a strong social element, whereas college-level sports range from the semi-serious to the nowhere-near-serious, with inter-college competitions, known as 'cuppers', or college friendly one-off games being the main focus. Students are completely free to engage in sports of all kinds in their spare time as much or little as they wish, or ignore sports completely.


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