Saints went to last month’s BUCS Championships in Sheffield in optimistic mood; they came back with Championship Silver (Fencing, below left) and Trophy Gold (Volleyball, below right).
The semi-final was a closely-fought affair, but was decided by Saints’ dominance in the Sabre weapon category. For Saints, it was a particularly sweet victory having lost to Manchester twice in the BUCS Northern Premier division this season.
The Epee team of Adam Gordon, Darran Milne and Sebastian Schulz started well, taking a 20-17 lead against some capable opponents. However, Manchester reeled in the lead and won the category 44-43.
Sabre was a very different story. The team of Symke Haverkamp, Dave Taiclet and Saints captain Cesar Diaz-Gonzalez stormed through their first bouts to turn the match on its head. The Saints trio kept the tempo high and Manchester were left trailing – Haverkamp sealed it, his aggression seeing off Jordan Scofield for 45-30.
Hence they went into the Foil knowing they needed 32 points for overall victory. Laurence Carrick started Saints off; the bouts were astonishingly tight but Diaz-Gonzalez confirmed the team’s triumph with a clever little jab getting the crucial 32 on the board.
While Manchester did win the category 45-43, it was Saints who were heading for the final, with Imperial (who had seen off Edinburgh) waiting for them.
Carrick got the final off and running for Saints in the Foil. From the teams being level at 11-all, Imperial rapidly took control andcomfortably took the category 45-26.
Next up was the Sabre; like in the semi-final, it would be decisive for the final result. Maiyuran Ratneswaran, later awarded player of the final, was instrumental for Imperial as they took control from the outset. Despite Saints’ resistance, they never let up the pressure, taking the category 45-20.
Imperial, then, had a lead of 44 points and thus only needed one more point from Epee to seal gold. They got that point in the first bout but Saints kept going and Gordon took the category to 44-all in the last minute of fencing, only for Imperial’s Marcello Colombino to snatch it at the death.
Gold, therefore, went to Imperial with their deserved 135-90 victory. Their Women’s 1sts also took their Championship, defeating Cambridge. The Trophy finals brought victories for Birmingham Men and Cardiff Women.
Saints can reflect on their medals and the fact that they have placed second in UK university Fencing, a quite remarkable achievement. They can take great heart from their hugely-impressive win over Manchester and their performance in the final against a side full of UK and foreign international fencers. The medals are a sign of hope for an equally bright future in the coming seasons.
The final day of the BUCS Championships in Sheffield brought gold for the Volleyball Women’s 1st team, who won the national Trophy competition with a comprehensive final victory. Saints went into their match with Southampton at All Saints School, Sheffield, with a great deal of confidence. That confidence proved to be well-grounded as Southampton were no match for the Saints’ positive approach and understanding as a team.
The beginning of the match was a cagey affair. It remained close, before Southampton went 13-10 up, at which point Saints’ coach Alex Davidson called a time-out. That seemed to rally the team, a great block at the net and a couple of great kills helping them to 17-13. Some dodgy serves allowed Southampton back in, but they then repaid the favour and Saints were 21-17 up. The set was sealed in Saints’ favour at 25-19 when their rivals netted at the end of a long rally.
Both sides started the second set with stubborn defences that forced errors; however Saints showed greater attacking intent and went 11-4 up. Saints kept the pressure on and, with a Southampton serve going long, they had the set 25-13: one more was needed for victory.
Southampton, determined to start a fightback, went 6-4 up, but some well-aimed serves had Saints in the lead. Their serves continued to be deadly, as they moved clear at 11-7. Everything seemed to be falling their way: Lorena Tussis’ elbow set put them on course for 19-11. Then a couple of lethal kills, the last from Maria Christina Marchi, brought match point. Southampton survived that one, but their resultant serve went long to end the set at 25-16 and make Saints champions.
Captain Britt Martin said afterwards that it felt “amazing” to have won and it was “really well-deserved,” with the team’s hard work and a strong start disrupted by weather and scheduling problems, and the Trophy proved this was the “best team we’ve ever had in St Andrews Volleyball,” in terms of ability and mental strength, helped by not looking to one ‘star player’ to win them games. Coach Alex Davidson highlighted the team and individuals’ committed training and fighting spirit over the season, and believed they were capable of being in the top three teams in the UK. Victory on the day, he said, had been achieved by Saints playing on their own terms – “positive, attacking volleyball straight from the serve.”
In the day’s other matches, Saints’ friends and rivals Dundee made the final of the Women’s Championships, only to be beaten 25-14 25-10 by a ruthlessly-efficient Leeds Met Carnegie side, whose male counterparts also won the Men’s Championship with a 25-12 25-22 triumph over Sheffield Hallam. The Men’s Trophy was claimed by Manchester, who saw off Oxford in a five-set thriller.
St Andrews Ultimate Frisbee 1sts, Flatball, recovered from a disappointing first day of competition to establish themselves as the ninth best UK university team, a marked improvement on last year’s standings. In a pool with some of the top teams in the competition, it was always going to be tough. Despite some excellent scores by the likes of captain Dave Stuart, Will Compernolle and Harry Glasspool, Manchester Halcyon, Sussex Mohawks (against whom Flatball led 5-4 at one point) and Exeter Urielproved too strong.
Flatball coach Ben Heywood said he was very pleased with the performances shown by the team, even if results had not been ideal.
After an overnight team meeting, the rewards for those performances came in the second day’s placing matches. They showed against Oxford (OW!) that they were starting to click as a team and won 12-10. Next up was a local rivalry against Dundee (Shooting Stars). It was an extremely tight affair (7-6 to Flatball at halfway) and, locked at 10-10, it took a superb defence, sprint and catch from the subsequent huck from Glasspool to win the game; the players on the pitch and sidelines exploded with joy – they were into the Plate final, to face the guest team from Cork. But the previous two games had taken a lot out of them and, despite an interesting hammer from Drew Courtright and every player giving their all, Cork had enough quality to triumph 12-4.
Overall, captain Stuart was delighted with how the weekend went, Flatball finishing ninth in the UK and second in Scotland, and was proud of each player in the squad, as well as acknowledging the work of Heywood in the team’s success. Edinburgh Ro Sham were third, behind Cambridge (Strange Blue) and eventual winners Sussex – who, it must be said, had been given a scare by Flatball in their pool match the day before!
In Climbing, St Andrews’ Xiao Xian Goh managed Women’s Individual Bronze. St Andrews Snooker team claimed the Team Shield in their first year in the competition, seeing off Ulster 2nds to secure Gold. And Ellie Cooper competed in the BUCS 2 (advanced) Trampolining, taking 23rd in the category out of 37 participants.
Badminton was steamrollered by Leeds Met Carnegie, who mananged a clean sweep, while their Women’s Basketball 1sts took their Championship; Worcester claimed the Men’s Championship. Loughborough and Birmingham were the respective Men’s and Women’s Hockey Championship winners, while Durham Men’s and Women’s teams – unsurprisingly – dominated Lacrosse. Loughborough outclassed Leeds Met Carnegie to take Netball’s top prize, but the northern side got their revenge by claiming the Rugby League Championship. London Met’s Men won their Tennis Championship, but their female counterparts were beaten to top spot by Durham.
Chairman of BUCS Ed Smith felt the competition was “bigger and better than it’s ever been”, in terms of organisation and participation, with over four thousand students competing at a very high standard in nineteen different sports, and looked forward to the years of competition and development ahead in Sheffield, and seeing university students representing their countries at an even higher level.