Mid-season Review – Hockey

As the BUCS season reaches its half-way point, evaluates how the university hockey teams have performed so far

Photograph by George Lowther

Photograph by George Lowther

If the Hockey Club were to set themselves a New Year’s resolution, it would surely be to avoid a case of déjà-vu. The men’s first team have spent the past two seasons trying to shed the ‘underachievers’ tag, while the hitherto undefeated women’s firsts will also be hoping for a brighter 2010.

“The men’s firsts are underachieving at the moment,” admitted Male President Rob Newton. “We’re determined to ensure that this doesn’t happen for a third year in a row, else we might have to lose the ‘underachievers’ tag and be ‘not as good as we think we are!”

Having picked up only one BUCS League win this year, against Durham on the opening afternoon, the firsts find themselves in a depressingly familiar situation – bottom of the standings and playing nowhere near their potential. However, with only a one point deficit to overhaul and four fixtures to make a difference, the firsts’ thought aren’t resigned to League 3B just yet.

“We’ve been unlucky with injuries and availability,” added Newton. “I haven’t played for five weeks and won’t play until after Christmas, Billy [Walsh, the former Captain] has been unavailable through seminars and on Wednesday, for our biggest game [a 2-0 defeat away to Durham fourths] we only had eleven [players], which isn’t going to do much!”

Hockey 1st v Durham 4th, 14/10/2009, Photo: Justyn Hardcastle

Rob Newton scores for York firsts against Durham on the opening day of the season. Photograph by Justyn Hardcastle.

While the misfortune of persistent injury troubles has been a major factor in the team’s erratic form, there is a belief that more can be done to coax the best out of the squad. To this end, the club have brought in a new coach, Roz Ramzi, to help with training and match preparations in the New Year. Ramzi has been involved with the City of York first team for 30 years and recently returned from an England Veterans team tour to Hong Kong.

“He’s what the club has been really missing this season and I’m confident that the change will make for an upturn in the men’s team’s fortunes,” said Newton.

Another bullet point on Ramzi’s brief will be to sustain the unbeaten start to the campaign enjoyed by the women’s firsts. They lie well-positioned in third, with two wins and three draws to their name in BUCS League 3B, and an immediate return to the division above remains within their compass.

UYHC Female President Sophie Hossack accredits their bright start to the seamless integration of freshers alongside more established names. “50% of the women’s firsts are now made up of freshers, with notable and consistent performances from Rachael Faustino and Emily Lucas,” she said.

“We now have a new goalkeeper for the firsts in Beanie Usher, who has played fantastically and it’s exciting to know she’s just starting her university hockey career.

Nouse Sport-Womens Hockey-Sam Newsome-20091111_MG_9278

Laura Pepper in action for the women’s firsts in the 1-1 draw with Newcastle thirds on November 11th. Photograph by Sam Newsome.

“This season has seen a new and challenging schedule for the women’s side of the club. With both teams competing in the Yorkshire League at the weekend, a new pressure and commitment has been needed, and the girls have stepped up to the mark fantastically.”

Another side well-placed for an assault on the title are the men’s seconds, although they need to win all their remaining matches following last Wednesday’s agonising 4-3 home defeat against Leeds Met. Consequently, this week’s return fixture against our Yorkshire neighbours has assumed a critical importance, but Newton believes that with input from the team’s leading players, glory beckons.

“They’ve missed Duncan Sills, probably their most creative player, who is out for a month with an ankle injury. However, they have goalscorers in Adam Tyrell and Adam Douglas, who will be important if they are to gain promotion,” he said.

Meanwhile, the newly-formed men’s thirds have exceeded all expectations and currently sit top of their Yorkshire League – “they’re far too good for it” according to the President – thanks to the contributions of an enthusiastic bunch of freshers. These newcomers have helped establish a new record membership for the Hockey Club of 95 and cemented their positions as one of the most influential sports clubs on campus.

Womens' Hockey 2nds vs York St. John's - 2.12.09 - Photo: Jason Lozier

York St. John’s defenders can only watch as the women’s seconds fight back from 2-0 down to win 4-2 on December 2nd. Photograph by Jason Lozier.

The influx has also helped the women’s seconds, who enjoyed the highlight of their season last week when turning around a two-goal deficit to beat local rivals York St. John 4-2. The team currently occupy a mid-table position in League 6B and should be safe from relegation worries on current form.

“The seconds have shone this term, thanks to the incredible influx of freshers,” said Hossack. “Rachael McMillan, Rachel Knighton and Sally Warrington have impressed and the side is growing in confidence, something shown by the latest results.”

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