March 20, 2015, by Lee Chrimes
Big Wednesday’s Big Build-Up – Men’s Hockey
The last of our team profile posts goes to Men’s Hockey, bouncing back from a tough season in the Premier North league that saw them finish 4th despite several strong performances against the toughest sides in the region.
You can review their progress throughout the season through the BUCS website, follow the team on Twitter and don’t forget to keep an eye on @UoNSport throughout the week for all the latest news and updates.
The 2013/14 season saw the Men’s 1st team receive an unprecedented influx of freshers into the 1st team – it is a well-known fact that regardless of standard previously played before coming to university, the first season in BUCS is an incredibly steep learning curve, and with 7 new comers to the squad it was always going to be an interesting season. Despite a reasonable season in the league the cup run was ended by a strong Bath team in the quarter finals who snagged a late golden goal – however the season in general provided sound foundations for developing a prospective BUCS gold team.
With only one player leaving, the 2014/15 squad is supported by four key scholar athletes – Mo Gandhi (USA senior international), Joe Sharp (England U21), Harry Martin (England & GB senior, London 2012 squad member) and James Gall (England U21) a very hopeful young talent from Surbiton. Along with playing for Beeston in the National Premier League and Euro Hockey League, all four scholars have contributed greatly to the BUCS squad of the University, bringing with them a sense of professionalism and a talent level for other players to look up to and strive to achieve.
Along with these key players, the support team to the squad of head coach David Ames (former Ireland international, soon to be GB and Beeston) and Director of Hockey Matt Taylor (Beeston Head coach and ex-England), have been instrumental in the team and clubs development over recent years, epitomised by the ever growing relationship with Beeston Hockey Club, developing recruitment links and tactical and training resources.
The season started strongly as the team remained undefeated throughout pre-season, and had a perfect start to the Midland league promotion campaign resulting in promotion into the National League. Despite two tight losses to very strong Durham and Sheffield Hallam sides, both encounters provided much needed fuel for the fire. Three incredibly strong performances followed against Birmingham, Loughborough and Leeds, and 9 points to take into the 2nd half of the season.
The second set of fixtures continued in very similar fashion to the first, which led to a final finish of fourth in the BUCS Northern Premier division and a home first round cup draw to Bristol. A golden goal winning performance against Bristol in the first round and a narrow 3-2 victory to Bath in the second set up a clash against Durham in the Semi-Final. A dominant performance to come from behind to clinch a place in the final with a 3-2 victory showed the team had come to play this year, and were more than comfortable to take what they were entitled to – a shot at BUCS gold.
So the team find themselves with a place in the BUCS final and an opportunity to seize the gold medal – all has seemed to fall into place with the strongest squad for years and a dynamic that can go all the way. This really is now or never, and therefore the question remains – is this finally our year?
Check back on the blog tomorrow for a full breakdown of who’s who in the team, plus some thoughts from our University sports scholars.
A final word from Assistant Director for Sport (Performance) Alexander Perry:
These are exciting times for UoN Sport, who have set inspiring and challenging goals within its Vision for Sport over the next 5 years. One of our key targets is to break into and consistently finish in the top 5 of the British University Sport rankings and to hold national titles across a range of sports. This has been made possible through University and alumni investment into coaching, scholarships and facilities. Our team of international coaches are establishing the University as a hub for sporting expertise which is attracting students of the highest calibre. Our scholar level athletes are impacting extremely positively as role models within the sports clubs, inspiring fellow students to look for more from themselves and be the best they can be. The world class facilities in the form of the David Ross sports village, due to open in Autumn 2016, will provide the environment to support athletes of national and international pedigree and bring high profile, large scale events to the campus.
The collaboration of key partners is also crucial in supporting athletes of this level. The department is very grateful for the cooperation of admissions in supporting athletes through their entry process, along with academic departments who provide the flexibility for athletes to compete in BUCS matches on Wednesdays across the country. This assistance has been crucial to support our student athletes in following dual careers and realising their sporting and academic potential.