Joe Andreyev recounts the match that kicked off the 2016 London Varsity Series
The 2016 London varsity series opened with some flare on Friday evening as the capital’s two longstanding adversaries descended on the Olympic Park to battle it out in one of this year’s most highly anticipated games.
Both the UCL Men’s and Women’s teams had been building to this moment since last year’s result had erroneously ended in favour of King’s and captains Khan and Di Felice had given it their all in the run up. A pre-game warmup for the men against intra-university foes RUMS had been successful and the girls had been working tirelessly at routines with several new coaches over the course of the season.
The evening began off the field as UCL’s frenzied supporters poured into the ground ready to ignite and encourage their players into action. Chants filled the stadium as the handful of anaemic looking King’s fans retreated to the far corners of their stand as fast as their legs could carry them. The Phineas mascot stood poised on the sideline while the King’s lion appeared to be struggling with the concept of the whole affair, sitting dejectedly in the dugout. Social sec Joe Savidge, who had been on hand to emphasise the importance of the game to all club members ahead of time, darted around eagerly informing friends and family that the match was going to be “even bigger than Adam Knoetze’s Loop reputation.” Old boys and girls reminisced on their own experiences at previous Varsity’s but the consensus was clear. This was more than ⌗myUCLyear. This was our year.
As the digital clock flicked to 6pm the girls got underway with a quick paced display. Multiple failed attempts from the King’s forwards to steal past our defence were foiled with some fantastic individual performances of those who had stepped up to match the occasion. Dutch import Roze Schotel marshalled the defence and drove some powerful 16-yard hits up the pitch to the midfield and the UC ladies were unlucky not to catch wayward King’s on the break. However after a loose ball in the D, King’s miraculously put one past Nicole Hayes in goal to lead 1-0 at half time.
When pressed at the interval both umpires looked visibly shocked that King’s were in front stating their surprise at “a much more balanced game than last year.” Clearly King’s were at threat from a touch of hubris and UCL bounced back after the break with midfield maestros Emma Fairhead, Clemmie Holden and captain Serafina di Felice working a short corner that forward Cristiona Martin managed to slot home.
At this the UCL fans erupted with greater force than Mount St. Helens in 1980 and noticeably spurred the players on. Unfortunately the first part of the evening would then go to King’s as they somehow managed to get ahead once more with 15 minutes left to go. A nail-biting ending to a worthy display from the UCL ladies which they should be more than proud of, considering the King’s team play in the league above.
King’s captain Chloe Wilson did concede that it had not been their best performance after the game and that it had been “a much harder affair than last year, but we are proud to maintain our Varsity bragging rights for the third year on the trot.” With deservedly high spirits at such a close match the UCL ladies are happy to wait it out and said they will be happy to show them again in 12 months time who really is the best team in London.
The events of the evening left no surprises as why hockey had been chosen to open this year’s Varsity competition. With a tremendous display of skill and determination from everyone involved, hockey boys and girls streamed back to Stratford in raptures for a night to remember. Well done to everyone!
Image credit: Joe Andreyev