Women's Blues - Saturday 24th February 2018 - Varsity Match
It's the mid noughties and we are somewhere across the Atlantic. A young but tall American high school student has a stomach bug and stays home from school. She watches Disney Channel and eats Captain Crunch. Meanwhile, her peers head to lacrosse practice after class, where they learn what a "yellow card" is. A tough lesson, tricky to grasp.
On the near side of the Atlantic, Zoe Thursz is also at lacrosse training. Small in stature but full of might, she listens earnestly to her teacher. The Year 7s are learning about defence. "Never, ever, let them in the hole," her teacher says. Zoe nods, "Never the hole". She must remember this.
24th February, 2018.
12:30pm, University Parks. The Oxford Blues leave the sideline of the Swifts game - encouraged by the winning scoreline - to begin their mental preparation. But distraction arises from the relocation to a new, mirrored, changing room, and the team return to the pitch smelling strongly of hairspray - marching to the sound of Mr Brightside, of course.
2:10pm, University Parks. Zoe Thursz leads her team of 15 out onto the pitch. The whistle blows and the crowd roars. This is the moment the team have been working towards. This is their time.
The game is off to a slow start. The atmosphere is tense and both teams play cautiously, reluctant to make any easy errors. Cambridge manage to get the first goal in the net but Oxford are not worried. It's a long game ahead and anything could happen.
Cambridge's Tamblyn picks up a yellow card and seems unable to walk off the pitch without bashing into Georgia Bacon on her way to the sideline - weird. Bacon shrugs it off and scores a quick goal to bring the game level again.
Strong defending defines the first half, with both teams demonstrating strong D units - Zoe Thursz clearly abiding by her teacher's guidance for once, somewhat unusually not allowing anybody in her hole. The ball goes from end to end again and again and eventually Cambridge score, making the score 2-1 at half time.
2:45pm. Half-time. The Oxford team of 15 rally round. The unusually low score proves that all is left to play for in the second half. The game is Oxford's for the taking. A team is only as weak as its weakest link and by golly are Oxford strong. They step back onto the pitch emblazoned.
2:55pm. There are 30 minutes left in the game. Oxford's Drewe faces up with Cambridge's Lehovsky at the draw. The draw is re-set. Cambridge are unsettled. The second half begins.
Julie Wise scores for Cambridge and many supporters seem to think that was the nail in Oxford's coffin. But Alex Drewe has her game face on and knows exactly what to do, rolling round the Tabs and bringing the score to 3-2. The crowd rallies, with chants of "It's all about Drewe" ringing in the air.
Oxford continue to possess - Ellie Thompson and Lizzie Evans refuse to let the Tabs win any ground balls, eventually allowing Vicky Rees to quickly slot one away, bringing the score even at 3-3. The tension is palpable as the ball goes back to centre.
Becky Robison scores - the crowd roars but Oxford keep their cool and avoid over-excitement. Cambridge start to panic and an American player - with whom the reader is familiar - receives a yellow card.
One man up, Oxford score another goal. The ball goes back to centre but wait - the American is back on the pitch? And her card time isn't up! If only she'd known. Another 2 minutes on the sideline for Ama's special friend, and the entire Cambridge team are fuming. As Oxford see them divide under pressure the team only draws closer together.
Another centre - this time snagged by Lottie Hoskin, whose infamous magnetic stick does wonders. A quick pass to Thompson, on to Bacon, and it's a beautiful Oxford goal. The definition of a perfect fast break - and Cambridge just can't catch a break, as Captain Miller is sent off with yet another yellow card for the Tabs. Cambridge score again but so does Ruiz, making the score 7-4.
The clock is winding down and Oxford try to contain their excitement as Vicky Rees puts another away to make it 8-4. The refs set up for another draw as he tells the team there is "nearly one second left in play". Bacon lifts her hands with uncontained excitement and the whistle blows. Oxford have Shoed. The. Tabs.