In a match which shredded the nerves and caught the imagination York’s only Premier League competitors, the Women’s Fencing Firsts lost their season opener in almost unfeasibly dramatic circumstances last Wednesday. Now attention turns to remaining competitive across the course of a gruelling season; a task that will be made more difficult by the BUCS Northern Premier League calender.
With Captain and PhD student Louise Highton missing against Birmingham the pressures of coupling Post-graduate study with high level sport were underlined from the off. With the outstanding performer from their first match Katharine Gracey also liable to miss future fixtures due to PGCE commitments, their first year in the BUCS Northern Premier division could prove an uphill battle.
Club President Becky Ellis remains upbeat about the team’s prospects, and with good reason given their impressive display of team spirit and talent last week, but she is also practical about the difficulties that league scheduling poses: “If you’ve got matches at one o’clock in Edinburgh then its always going to be difficult, especially when half of the fencing club are post-graduates.”
In the BUCS Southern Premier Division fixture problems are less pronounced as they play a whole season’s fixtures in two intensive weekends. Tellingly the established names in the Northern Premier are not keen to adopt such a system.
Next up for York are two testing fixtures against Manchester and reigning BUCS champions Edinburgh before four consecutive away ties that could make or break their season. A promising group of Freshers will hopefully augment an already tight-knit team and provide a bulwark against scheduling clashes for those matches.
Should York’s season be scuppered by circumstance outside of their control it would be a difficult pill to swallow for a side that gave everything to have a tilt at the top teams last year.
They experience the difficulties of inadequate facilities and a lack of funding everyday. Hopefully problems of personell will simply be another factor that they take in their increasingly assured stride.