University of Plymouth Netball Club 31-29 University of St Mark & St John
GS- Lucy Davies
GA- Sophie Minnican
WA- Beth Dixon-Cave
C- Charlie Truman
WD- Rita Yates
GD- Morgan Middleton (C)
GK- Caitlin Moriarty
Hannah Russell-Yarde (WD), Steph Hacker (WA), Verity Lemm (GA), Jess Mathews (GD)
English Literature student James Chittick reports on one of the tensest Varsity games to take place this year.
2017’s Netball Varsity always looked to be a close encounter, with last year’s match going right to the wire before Uni came out on top in a very even contest. This year was expected by many to be no different, and as the teams came out onto the court to warm-up, there was a definite edge to the atmosphere. Unlike many of the other team sports on the varsity calendar, the netball 1st team game acts as the sole fixture between the two universities, meaning the result of this one game would secure full bragging rights for whichever side managed to emerge victorious. The Uni side featured a lot of new faces when compared to the team that defeated Marjon in the previous year’s fixture, with three freshers (Hannah Russel-Yarde, Verity Lemm & Lucy Davies) making it into the final squad of eleven alongside a number of 2nd and 3rd year girls also making their varsity debuts.
The game began with Marjon initially in control of proceedings; a slow start from Uni allowed the opposition to score several early goals and stretch out a reasonable lead in the first quarter. However, as the Uni girls began settling into the game more they started to find their rhythm and reduced the gap through some slick interplay towards the end of the quarter. This meant that despite a shaky opening for UPNC, the scoreboard read 8-7 to Marjon after the first fifteen minutes, a score that Uni would have been reasonably happy with as they sought to get a foothold in the game.
The second quarter started in a similar fashion to the first, with Marjon again seeming to catch the Uni girls napping somewhat and maintaining their narrow lead. However, it was once again Uni who finished the quarter looking the stronger, and with varsity newbie Sophie Minnican finding the net with increasing frequency and accuracy, Marjon were unable to extend their lead before half-time.
With the scoreboard reading 14-13 to Marjon and no signs of either side beginning to take full control, it looked like the Netball varsity was once again headed for a nail-biting finish. As the third quarter unfolded, tempers began to flare between both sides and several aggressive collisions over 50-50 balls led to a number of heated exchanges, causing the crowd on both sides of the court to raise the noise levels around Marjon’s sports hall as the game began to enter the business end. Despite being on away turf, the massive amount of Uni support seemed to lift the girls’ energy, and for the first time in the game, they finished the quarter in front by a score of 22-21.
Entering the final fifteen minutes of the match, the margin between the two sides had rarely been greater than a single goal throughout the entire contest, and it became clear the game was going right down to the wire for the second year running. The atmosphere around the court was electric as both sets of supporters urged their team to victory, but with the minutes ticking down it was UPNC who managed to maintain a one or two goal buffer between them and the hosts, with every Marjon score being met with an almost instant reply. As the clock ran into the dying few seconds, the noise became deafening as Marjon tried desperately to get back on level terms, but to no avail. The final whistle came with the score reading 31-29 to Uni, cueing wild celebrations from the girls, as well as the mass of traveling supporters who’d made the journey to Marjon and witnessed another dramatic finish to the Netball Varsity.
Two of Uni’s key influences during the match were social sec and now back-to-back varsity winner, Beth Dixon-Cave, and newcomer Sophie Minnican, who was playing in her first varsity game in her final year of University. The girls were both ecstatic in their assessment of the team’s performance, and full of praise for the supporters who came along to watch another excellent win for UPNC:
BDC: “It’s such an overwhelming feeling. From there only being one goal in it throughout the game, and having done so much extra training leading up to Varsity! It was an incredible feeling to know how all the hard work finally paid off. I've never worked that hard in my life!”
SM: “Claiming Varsity victory was such a surreal feeling! I’ve never felt so much pressure going into a game against such a strong opposition. The support we had throughout the run up to and during the match was incredible; there was such a buzz and unimaginable atmosphere. The encouragement behind every shot, pass, and turnover made all of the hard work so worthwhile. For there to be one goal in it throughout the whole game, staying focused and positive whilst shooting was so key, and I couldn’t have done it without the other girls; we smashed it!”