CUBaC get "Friendly" with OUBaC
Updated: Nov 14
Photos taken by Ursula Shaw and Parvesh Konda
The academic year of 2020-21 was not one that was kind to university indoor sport, badminton amongst the misfortunes of the COVID-19 pandemic. With little training and organised meets throughout the year, the club persevered through the turmoils of online communication. Our love for the sport was unperturbed, and simply skipping our annual Varisty Match against Oxford - along with the atmosphere and fanfare it brings - was not an option. As lockdown restrictions slowly lifted throughout the past year, it was evident that both universities were keen to make amends to the situation.
On the 2nd October 2021 the two shades of blue clashed at Cambridge University Sports Centre once again. Due to missing Mixed Varsity (which normally occurs in Michaelmas term), the Varsity format changed from its usual 3 Men's teams and 2 Women's teams to incorporate 3 'Mixed' teams and one normal Men's team. The change was made to include some mixed badminton into the schedule, while preserving the overall total number of games played. Another consequence of this was that players ultimately could opt out of playing singles in favour of the mixed discipline (the summer was a long one for some), giving a welcome variation to the competitive tone set that day.
Having only had a whole of one week of preseason to prepare and break in the dusty badminton shoes left over from a year ago, both teams acknowledged that the quality of play may suffer compared to previous Varsities. Hence the competition was labelled a 'Friendly' Match between the two sides early on in the discussion for the event, settling any nerves. Needless to say however this was not an excuse for CUBaC to not hit the courts running, as the captains for each team reminisce the day...
Smiles and laughs, we don't mind losing this time - it was a 'friendly' after all!
X1 Match report
Team: Helen Yan, Cherlyn Tan, Briony Whitfield, Sylvia Ma, Zack Schofield, Tom Wade, Richard Parsons, Pranav Santosh
Written by Tom Wade.
Score: Cam 7 - 13 Ox
For the X1 team, the day kicked off with the Men’s singles. Battling through the nerves of his first Oxford-Cambridge match, Zack put in a stellar performance, but unfortunately was unable to take the win. Tom, aided by his opponent’s alcohol consumption the previous evening, clinched the win in straight sets. In the second round of matches, Zack was again in fine form, but his opponent unfortunately got the better of him. Meanwhile, Tom took the win in three sets.
Tom not ready to take any prisoners on the day, came through with two big victories in singles
In the first round of mixed doubles matches Richard & Briony secured an excellent win, while Pranav & Sylvia were beaten in their third set after a clinical display from their Dark Blue opponents. The second round of matches was even trickier, with Richard & Briony succumbing to the speed and accuracy of their opponents in straight sets. Pranav & Sylvia came desperately close to victory, losing 23-21 in the third end.
Richard and Briony leading the charge, taking a comfortable win in the first mixed doubles
In the first women’s singles matches, Cherlyn picked up an unfortunate knee injury in her first set – get well soon Cherlyn, we hope to see you back on court soon! This left Helen, Briony and Sylvia chipping in to replace her throughout the rest of the day. Helen’s singles match was as thrilling as expected, with a 3-set Light Blue victory courtesy of her trademark speed and consistency. Despite a recent lack of singles experience, Briony stepped in to replace Cherlyn. A valiant effort, the Oxford number 1 proved too strong. In the second round of matches, Helen struggled with a painful shoulder and was unable to take another win. Although playing well, Sylvia (replacing Cherlyn) was also beaten by a strong opponent.
The ceiling is the limit, as Helen takes off the ground
In the first set of men’s doubles matches, Richard & Pranav and Zack & Tom went to third sets in tightly contested affairs, but neither pair could quite find what was needed in the final end to secure the win. In their second matches, Richard & Pranav pulled off an excellent straight-sets win, although Zack & Tom couldn’t handle the flat game of their opponents and lost in straight sets.
In the women’s doubles, Sylvia & Helen put in a strong performance to claim a convincing victory in their first match, although newly-formed pair Briony & Helen had a more difficult time against Oxford’s top pairing. Rounding out the day with tired legs after more matches than planned, unfortunately Sylvia & Helen also struggled against tough opposition. However, Briony & Helen overcame their fatigue to pull off a fantastic 22-20, 25-23 victory, making the final score a very respectable 12-8 to Oxford.
Bring on Varsity 2022, where almost all the X1 players will be back in action with a full training program behind them, ready to take the win.
X2 Match Report
Team: Beth Harris, Melissa Nash, Amy Chen, Jennifer Hu, Michael Li, Stephen Smith, George Moran, Ben Wharton
Written by George Moran.
Score: Cam 2 - 18 Ox
Unfortunately the 2nd Mixed Team had a bumpier road. Former Men's Captain Stephen Smith, due to a busy schedule running up to competition day, was a tad out of practice to say the least. A loss of squad depth from last year did not play into our advantage, as many players in this team found themselves against stronger Oxford opponents than they were used to. Nevertheless all players battled heroically and there were many close games. However, at the end of the day Oxford’s defence proved to be too strong and Cambridge struggled to get the shuttle through them.
Tough day at the office: Michael fighting to three sets for both his singles matches.
There were some very close singles matches. Stephen showed that even after 18 months of no badminton he could still deliver on the big stage. He won the team's only singles victory against Oxford’s Anuj Doshi which went to a nail-biting 21-16 finish in the third set. Unfortunately Stephen narrowly lost his second singles match. Had he got some court time practice in before the day, no doubt I would be telling a different story. The women faced tough singles opposition against some of Oxford’s strongest players, with Beth and Melissa putting up heroic efforts, but to not much luck.
The mixed doubles were agonising for Cambridge. All four matches went to three sets and three of these fell through our fingertips. When it came to the crunch time minutes, Oxford proved that they had the resolve and determination to perform when it mattered. George and Amy powered through their first set against Hadfield and Thisdell but struggled to maintain their lead and painfully lost 23-25 in the deciding end - wrapping up the closest match of the competition. Ben and Jennifer triumphed against the same pair, beating their them to the line in a 21-19 victory in the third set.
Amy and George at full stretch during their mixed doubles, coming short 25-23 in the third end
Regrettably Cambridge struggled in the doubles. All eight were lost and only one game went the distance. Ben and George came within reach of victory against Doshi and Liu but fell short 21-15 in their final set. Stephen and Michael struggled against Oxford's experienced doubles pairings. The women performed valiantly but their relative inexperience came back to haunt them against their Oxford counterparts.
Hitting into next year: Beth showing a face of determination, we'll get'em next time!
Overall, the crushing score did not reflect the standard of play from this team - but respectfully Oxford showed more discipline in their play and persevered in the three setters. Every player representing Cambridge that day fought ferociously. With a regular cycle of training, we have the utmost confidence we can take them on next year.
X3 Match Report
Team: Abi Colley, Elen Parry, Tessa Doubleday, Radhika Gupta, Parvesh Konda, Jack Wu, Stephen Mak, Michael Hu
Written by Tessa Doubleday.
Score: Cam 5 - 15 Ox
X3 faced tough competition at the Varsity match, with lots of games going to 3 sets and Cambridge often narrowly missing out in the 3rds. There were many more experienced Oxford players coming up against newer players from our side and the Cambridge team gave them a run for their money. This gives us lots of hope for the next match in March, when we’ve had the benefit of more training and solidification of doubles pairings.
Elen winding up the guns in her first singles match
Jack Wu delivered in the singles, winning both his games; a particular highlight was the 3rd set against Oxford 1, crowds from both teams gathered to watch Jack smash a 21-9 victory. Lots of close sets in the other singles games but tough competition got victory for Oxford in the end.
Jack gracefully steps into the lunge, giving a masterclass to his opponents on the day
Mixed doubles saw many close matches for Tessa and Stephen, Radhika and Michael, with the latter winning their final game in a 2 straight-set defeat of the Oxford 2nd pair. Radhika and Michael got into their stride as a pairing despite only being put together on the day! Tessa and Stephen gave both of the Oxford pairs two very close 3-set games but unfortunately Oxford proved superior in the end.
The men’s doubles faced some very tough competition, but Jack and Michael were able to beat the Oxford 2nd pair in a 3rd set. Similarly in the ladies', an extremely strong defence from one of the Oxford women made for some really tough games for the Cambridge team. However, Tessa and Radhika won their second game in 2 straight sets!
Coming back stronger - Tessa and Radhika play clinically to a second match victory
The overall defeat for Cambridge X3 does not reflect their fighting spirit and talent on the day. We are looking forward to seeing what the next year brings as these players continue to improve and develop and hopefully help CUBaC to a Victory in 2022!
M4 Match Report
Team: Thomas Williams & Tom Gray, Aaron Tse & Rohit Kale, Saket Koti & Aarjav Jain.
Written by Rohit Kale.
Score: Cam 12 – 3 Ox
M4 showed commitment right from the start of the day. Despite being down 12-10 in their first game, Thomas and Tom started to play a flat and fast game, tiring out their opponents through long and consistent rallies. After coming back from behind to take the first set 21-14, the Cambridge 1st pair came out with a clean 2-set victory and they also went on to comfortably win their remaining two games in two sets.
The Thomas/Tom power duo uniting their forces in the name of their names
Cambridge’s 2nd pair, Aaron and Rohit, took their first doubles game in two sets as the opposition was oftentimes forced to give away the attack. In their second game against the Oxford 1st pair, they struggled to keep composure in the first set. After a strong recovery by winning the second end, an unfortunate break of strings in the final set interrupted a strong rhythm leading to hard-fought losses against the Oxford’s 1st and 2nd pairs.
Saket and Aarjav were not getting enough court time for their liking and were keen to milk as many three setters as possible. Against Oxford’s 1st and 2nd pairs, they played some fairly relaxed rallies in the first two ends each time. However, at the start of each third, their mentality changed and it’s no surprise that they took away wins in both games. Their clash against the Oxford 3rd pair was unfortunately too one-sided for a 3-set game, with both scorelines a 21-7 putaway.
Saket and Aarjav fighting fierce in the Men's doubles. Aarjav showing off his skills in the flexibility department
Singles kicked off with strong and comfortable wins from Thomas and Tom, which mostly continued through the team. Aarjav, Saket, and Rohit all ended their games in two quick clinical sets. The only minor hiccup came from Aaron, simultaneously nursing a minor ankle injury, who played a very close game against a very strong singles player. After a 21-11 defeat in the first set, he showed composure to take the second set, but unfortunately narrowly missed out on the win with a 21-19 defeat. All in all, M4’s performance was consistent and promising. While Oxford may have had the edge overall across the day, our squad depth was shown best in M4, where we took a comfortable 12-3 winning scoreline.
Rohit looking calm and collected to take home his singles games on the day
As the curtains came drawn to a close, sixty tired badminton players in the sports hall of the University Sports Centre turned to look at the final scoreboard.
Cambridge 26 - 49 Oxford
Not the result that the light blues wanted, but needless to say an enjoyable day of badminton. Congratulations and thanks to our opponents Oxford for making the day such a competitive event, and we look forward to the 'real' Varsity next February!
The badminton courts gradually cleared, as both teams looked forward to an eventful dinner at the Anchor Pub later that evening...
CUBaC Men's Co-Captain, Mixed Co-Captain, Publicity Officer 2021-22
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