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On Saturday of Week 13, the university’s Korfball club hosted the Northern Regionals stage of the BUCS Championship. This stage would decide which teams would head to the main National Championships (Nationals) hosted by the University of East Anglia. Lancaster had their first and second teams taking part in the tournament having both qualified from the preliminary stage at the end of last term.
The other teams taking part on the day were Edinburgh (firsts and seconds), St Andrews, Manchester (firsts and seconds), and newcomers for this season, Northumbria. An important thing to mention is that the quality of the competition has increased in the past couple of years, with this season being the first for the Northern region in having five first teams competing for spots at Nationals. So the question which was on everybody’s mind was “which team is going to miss out on going to Nationals?”
The initial group stage of the tournament saw both Lancaster teams together with
Northumbria and St Andrews. Meaning that the first team which finished outside of the top two in the group would not qualify. Matches were 30 minutes in length (for context, a typical league game is double that) which meant there was going to be some condensed action on display.
The opening match of the tournament saw Lancaster Firsts face up against Northumbria, who were an unknown team for Lancaster as they had not played against one another prior to that day. Both teams showed some rust and tension in the beginning, the first half finishing 1-0 to Northumbria. It wasn’t until about seven minutes from the end of the game when Northumbria went a further goal ahead. The goal appeared to flick a switch in the heads of the Lancaster players; the urgency in their play became tangible. This urgency paid off as Lancaster stormed back to take a 4-2 victory, thanks to goals from Ali Merritt, Sam Galea, Cassie Bode, and Tom Stratton.
The next significant game saw the Lancaster teams face off against one another, with the Firsts managing to come away with a 7-3 winning margin in the end. All eyes were then on the St Andrews – Northumbria match which followed right after. To the surprise of many, Northumbria came out on top, winning 7 goals to 2.
Clearly still stinging from their previous game, St Andrews came out all guns blazing against Lancaster Firsts, ending the first half with a 6-1 lead and a shellshocked opponent. Aware of the potential severity of the situation Lancaster mustered at half time, regaining composure to take on the second half with a renewed approach. The deficit was closed by Lancaster, who ‘won’ the second half 5-3, leaving the final score at 9-6 in favour from the team from Scotland.
At the end playing of the group stage it was revealed that Lancaster Firsts, St Andrews, and Northumbria had ended on the same number of points and with the same goal difference. This meant that the tie-breaker was number of goals scored, which resulted in Lancaster being knocked out by virtue of scoring two goals less than St Andrews. This year was always going to be a difficult one for Lancaster given the loss of experience at the end of last year, but to miss out by number of goals scored was particularly tough on a number of the players.
An interesting thing to note was that every other club, apart from St Andrews, had an external coach who was in control of the team(s). Both Edinburgh and Northumbria are coached by Lancaster (and Cartmel College) alumni Steve Lawrence and Kerry Bray respectively. Having an external can make a big difference, given the usual high level of knowledge with which they can provide a team, allowing them to progress higher and quicker than they usually would.
What these results mean, is that both Lancaster’s first and second teams will be heading to compete in the National Trophy tournament in Sheffield during the Easter break. Lancaster Firsts certainly feel like they have unfinished business in this year’s BUCS proceedings. Club coach Cassie Bode said “we want to go and try and win the National Trophy. Nobody has seen the best of us yet, but it’s coming”.