I could not be prouder of Wadham netball and all of those involved...I am so honoured to have had the opportunity to lead such an amazing group of strong, determined and talented women.
“In my first year, Wadham netball existed but only just. It was difficult for the then captain, Sophia, to get a team together for weekly matches and training was made difficult because of the restrictions other colleges placed on rental of their courts. As a result, we often lost; we won maybe one or two matches out of fourteen. At the end Michaelmas 2012, we were relegated from the third to the fourth division, and at the end of Hilary 2013, we were relegated once more to the fifth (and bottom) division.
Over the long vacation, Sophia passed the captaincy on to me. Freshers' Week 2013 brought lots of keen netballers, many of whom proved to be (thankfully) very talented, and I managed to sort out some court time for twice-a-week training. As a result of these combined factors, the team stormed through Michaelmas term undefeated, and got promoted to the fourth division. This was a result of the fantastically skilled freshers, including consistently stand-out performances from Sarah Barron (GS) and Connie van Stroud (GA). Second-years (now finalists) Nichola Finch and Serena Shah also made their debuts, after being persuaded (forced) to play by me, and proved to be great assets to the team.
In Hilary term, it was decided that there were so many of us that we could enter two Wadham teams - a first in Wadham netball history - and Olivia Allen assumed the role of 2nd's captain. We entered our second team in division 5 and our first began in Division 4 after our promotion the previous term. Once more, the first team cruised through the second half of the season, coming top of Division 4, undefeated once more. We had not lost a game since Hilary term of the previous year, and were promoted again. The second team also performed extremely well and were, too, promoted to Division 4.
Our play often appeared seamless, turnovers more often than not being converted into goals.
Over the long vacation, I decided to keep the captaincy. I appointed Rachel Nethercott as captain of the second team, somebody that I trusted to play and manage the team well, and asked Sarah Barron to be my vice-captain as another level of support.
Though Freshers' Week 2014 did not bring quite as many new players numbers-wise as the previous year, our prayers for a good Goal Defence were answered with Ella Cattle, and many other first years joined the second team. Henriette Willburg, a second-year classicist, also joined, and massively strengthened our central court play. This Michaelmas, we were beginning in Division 3, the division from which we were relegated at the end of the first term of my first year. We knew Division 3 was the highest Wadham netball had ever started in, and I remembered the many tough and demoralising games we had played in my first year, Wadham victorious in none. For the first time, I and other members of the team that had played the year before, really began to feel the pressure, and we anticipated much more challenging play.
Though we were not wholly disappointed, teams we were up against in Division 3 proved little match for the Wadham side. We raised our game and the experience of us playing as a team for a long time shone through. Our play often appeared seamless, turnovers more often than not being converted into goals. Lyndsey Starr, Louise Andrew and I, the only members who remembered the days of my first year netball, could not quite believe the ease with which the team seemed to beat the dreaded Division 3 teams. That said, our matches against St John's proved to be much more of a challenge. With many of us tired from the previous night out, and Sarah Barron making a late but dramatic entrance, we began poorly and John's soon took the lead. In the last quarter, we were losing by 3 goals and only had six minutes to turn it around. We came from behind to take the win in the last few seconds of the match to beat them 10-9. This was testament to our resilience and refusal to be beaten by a team who we knew did not match our standard of play. The great teamwork of Rose Stevens (GK) and Ella (GD) in our defensive third, combined with our intercepting machine Lyndsey Starr (WD) and great attacking play of Louise (GA) and Sarah (GS) proved unbeatable.
When we came to play Regents' Park, the penultimate match of Michaelmas, we were undefeated in 19 matches. We knew they were going to be our toughest opponents yet - they had won all of their matches so far, and missed out on promotion the previous season on goal difference alone. The pressure of our winning streak very much getting to us, the nerves were palpable when the match came around. As predicted, Regents were our best opponents yet. They had a consistent and strong team, with a blues Basketball player as Goal Shooter who towered over us all at 6ft 3. The match was close, and we fought hard, but lost 9 goals to 5. Our winning streak had ended.
Our final match of the term was against Lady Margaret Hall A. At this point, we were tying with Regents Park at the top of the division table: both teams had lost one match. We needed to win the next to have a chance at coming top, and being promoted once more. If we did win, it would go down to goal difference.
LMH, playing on their home court, proved difficult opposition in the first half of the match. We were not playing our best: LMH made a lot of easy interceptions and our attack was not as smooth as normal. We were soon losing and LMH were pulling away. In the final quarter, similar to our game against St John's, we were three behind. A team talk in the break reignited our conviction and hope.
Indeed, the final quarter was our best - our passes were strong and accurate, our defending was tight, and our shooting was on point. In the last stages of the match, we used all the chances we were given and brought the score level to 8-8. The final centre pass of the match was ours, with ten seconds left on the clock. A swift pass to Lucy McKeone (WA) on the whistle, followed by a great feed to Sarah (GS) via Connie van Stroud (GA) meant it would be possible for us to score before time was up. Sarah, outside of her comfort zone at 3 metres from the net, gambled by taking a shot, mindful of the time we had left. Miraculously, the shot was accurate, and we had won the match 9-8. At the end of the term, we had beaten Regents Park on goal difference to be promoted to Division 2 - the highest division Wadham netball had ever been in. Wadham's 2nd team had also had a good term, and finished in the top half of Division 4. This was an incredible feat given that a number of the regular players had not played netball before coming to Wadham, and had had to learn the rules quickly with the support of the older, more experienced teammates. Michaelmas 2014 had been another great term for Wadham netball.
Coming into Division 2 at the beginning of this term meant a change of mind-set for the Wadham 1st team. We accepted early on that our main objective would shift from winning to improving, as we were predicted to face much more challenging opponents in a division where nine out of ten teams were college 1st teams. This time, we were not disappointed at the standard. Though we walked away with some wins of wide margins - such as our early win against Christ Church which ended 11-0 to Wadham, and later against Lincoln which ended 18-4 - the teams we faced were faster, stronger and better than any we had gone up against before. Equipped with a few new tricks taught to us by Roos player Rosie Thomas, who very generously ran a training session for us early in term, and having been forced to up our game against difficult opponents, Wadham's 1st team have improved substantially in the last 8 weeks. Having lost only two of our nine matches - against St Catz and Somerville - we are placed joint third out of ten in Division 2.
This is a huge achievement given we were mentally prepared to be relegated, as we anticipated the level of play to be beyond us. Instead, the team pulled together, and each individual player has come on massively. This was demonstrated most clearly during our final match against Oriel B - the only 2nd team in Division 2. Having won all of their matches up to that point, we were nervous to face Oriel on Saturday of 7th week - my last ever game as captain. The first half was nail-bitingly close. It was goal for goal up to half time. Oriel is a strong and consistent team, with accurate shooters and good defending. This goal-for-goal pattern continued into the next half, until there were just four minutes remaining, when Wadham broke Oriel's centre. Many of the Wadham side, including Susie Wise (WA) and Ella Cattle (GD) were performing at their best. This gave the team the lift and confidence it needed - Oriel did not score for the rest of the game and the final score was 12-7.
The 2nd team, with one match to play, have performed well again this term. Though they have lost some, they have also achieved some very convincing wins under Rachel's great leadership. The 'dream-team' defence of Melodie Richardson and Sarah Atayero has proved difficult for a number of teams to penetrate, whilst the great teamwork of Hannah Smith (GA) and Olivia Allen (GS) in the attacking third have ensured turnarounds are converted. Achieving a great 11-3 win against St Catz B eased the pain of our loss against St Catz A, and to finish solidly once more in Division 4 is a great achievement for Wadham 2nds.
Looking back over the last two years, having now concluded my captaincy, I could not be prouder of Wadham netball and all of those involved. Everybody has really come together to train hard and play hard, and it has paid off - the 1st team have won 27 matches out of 30, a 90% victory rate. When beginning as captain, I could not have wished for a better achievement, and I am so thankful to so all of the team for putting in so much time and effort. I am so honoured to have had the opportunity to lead such an amazing group of strong, determined and talented women. I hope that netball at Wadham continues to be such a presence in the sporting scene next year, and for many years after. I wish Rose Stevens all the best as captain next year - she is perfect for the job.”