As the nights grow ever longer, the days ever colder and thoughts start drifting helplessly towards Christmas excesses, it seems an appropriate moment to reflect on the fortunes of York’s sports teams during the term to date. Inevitably, there have been ups and downs on the rollercoaster ride that is the BUCS League. But, then again, would we have it any other way?
Chief achievers this term have been the women’s lacrosse team, who have been racking up the goals at quite an extraordinary rate and inflicting humiliating defeats on some of their main rivals. They have surpassed the twenty point mark on no less than three occasions – against Keele, Sheffield Hallam and Northumbria – and sit well-placed in second position in Northern Conference 2A. The only blot on the copybook came in a narrow 12-7 reverse away to league leaders Durham, although many more opportunities lie ahead to bolster that all-important goal difference.
The men’s badminton squad have also enjoyed superb success, with fours wins from four in the BUCS League, including whitewash victories against Bradford and Leeds. However, last week’s hotly contested cup fixture against Leeds Met remains in dispute after both teams claimed to have won.
Arguably the most mystifying form of the season has come from the men’s football firsts, where an immaculate unbeaten record in the Northern Universities League has been offset by disappointing results in the BUCS League. Following promotion to Northern Conference 2B, the team have been knocked back by narrow home defeats against strong Leeds Met and Sheffield Hallam sides, leaving them at the foot of the table. Nevertheless, powered by the goals of veteran striker Mark Gouland and encouraged by the recent return to fitness of Dom O’Shea, the side remain an excellent bet for a lengthy BUCS Cup campaign, particularly with a favourable draw against Northumbria fourths.
York’s rugby teams have found themselves frustrated by inactivity so far this year; the women’s team – undoubtedly one of the best in the north of England – have completed just one match, a 29-5 victory over Hull, yet still sit handsomely atop the table. Similarly, the men’s firsts have shown an explosive potential chained by lack of serious match practice. Under the stewardship of Coach Alec Porter and captain Mike Callis, the team have opened their BUCS season with two wins against Northumbria and, most spectacularly, Huddersfield. Without question, however, much tougher challenges lie in wait to test the mettle of the team in the cold weeks to come.
A vigorous new fitness regime has paid dividends for the netball teams this year, with the firsts storming into genuine promotion contention with three wins from four, in addition to early progress in the knockout cup. A strong sense of cohesion within the squad has frequently proved the winning ingredient in the kind of attritional and aggressive matches common in their present league and they look set to dominate Varsity and Roses next year. This winning mentality seems to have rubbed off on both the seconds, who remain unbeaten, and the thirds, generating a feel-good factor which will prove hard to break down.
Competing at the very highest standard in the BUCS League pyramid, the men’s fencing team have acquitted themselves very well, achieving victories in their first two matches against Keele and Newcastle. Sadly, this excellent start wasn’t maintained, as defeats in their next couple of duels provided a reality check. The team must regroup and refocus next week for the visit of Bangor.
Similarly, the men’s volleyball team have encountered mixed fortunes competing in Northern Conference 1A, with two victories and two losses, but they remain well placed to retain their status in this division. Sadly, their female counterparts are still searching for their first win of the year, although they have played two fewer matches.
Other teams struggling to find their momentum include the men’s basketball and hockey. Handicapped by the perennial late start of York’s term in relation to the BUCS fixtures, the basketballers are gradually finding some rhythm, albeit without the success they crave. The hockey players are still searching for their opening league win and recently suffered a disappointing exit in the cup.
When success for the tennis teams are also added into the mix, the on-field state of sport at York remains as strong as it’s ever been. Hopefully, this early season optimism will be translated into BUCS silverware in the lighter nights and warmer climes of Spring.