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Saints Football 1s Score a 1st

An Interview with Rowan Blacklock on their recent success

For the first time in club history, the Women’s Firsts won the Premier League North title in January, lifting the trophy in only their first season in the top flight. 

I spoke to Rowan Blacklock, the team’s goalkeeper, who described the “absolute elation” of the moment they found out they were champions on their first attempt. “We did not go into this season expecting a win — especially because we just got promoted.” The news of their success came through after the team achieved an away win at Nottingham, with their league victory resting upon a key result involving rivals Durham. “Perhaps some of that excitement was for the guaranteed home games the rest of the semester. Especially because we found out in the first few minutes of an eight-to-nine-hour bus ride…” Blacklock and her team relished the competition with their English university neighbours, as “half of the reason we were so excited to have won the league was because Durham didn’t”, musing that, “rivalries are what make football interesting. Or at least more vicious.”

To avoid too much lengthy travel, the leagues are divided into one for the north and one for the south. Six teams play each other twice, once at home and once away. The points awarded for wins, losses or draws are the same as in the professional game, with three for a win, one for a draw and none for a loss. In the top tier, the team with the least points at the end of the season is relegated. 

Blacklock, who is a second-year, began playing when she joined the university, thinking she was looking for a flexible and casual commitment. However, as soon as she began, she was unable to stop. “I didn’t want to. The team is supportive and fun, and I love every second of being with them — though perhaps I could sometimes do without the Friday sprints or bloody game day burns…”

That team spirit is apparent in the way Blacklock credits her teammates for their successes. “I could wax poetic about every single player on my team and I would take a bullet for every single one of them. Or rather, Auburn Brenner’s shots, which are essentially the same thing”. As a goalkeeper, she has to shout out her defenders. “They do more than just save me from some gnarly one-on-ones, but they keep me sane on the pitch.” This can take the form of not only defensive protection but injury help, too. Rowan tells a story from the start of the season — not for the squeamish — about how left centre-back, Lily Mandel-Mueller, helped her with a dislocated knee on the field. “She actually popped it back into place when I dislocated it and got me through playing the rest of the game.” Despite having “never had someone so lovely turn so intimidating on the field”, Rowan credits Lily with being “the face of calm on the pitch.” 

Other key players for the squad include Kirsty Taylor, who is “absolutely wicked on the ball, despite being one of the shortest people I’ve ever met, which is something our lifting coach doesn’t let her forget.” Kirsty’s comparative height doesn’t prevent her from having “taken down and dribbled around girls twice her height,” which while Rowan concedes might be an exaggeration “for dramatic effect”, conveys her point on Kirsty’s ability with a football. On the right defensive line, “Bobs and Maggie did the unsung hero work of shutting down Durham’s number eleven — the bane of pretty much everyone on the team’s existence.” Their rivalry with Team Durham looks like it won’t be dying down any time soon. 

After this season’s ten games, Rowan is already focused on what next year will bring. “We’re looking forward to challenging ourselves during the British Cup against the Premier League in the south.” If you would like to support the team on their mission to bring further silverware back to Fife, you can keep up on the @ustafootball Instagram page!

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