Overall: 49 - 26
Teams: 4 -1
W1: 2 - 13
W2: 13 - 2
M1: 12 - 3
M2: 9 - 6
M3: 13 - 2
W1 & W2
At 8.30am on 3rd March, the hope and hunger for victory was clear in all the Light Blues’ eyes. Initial feelings of nervousness quickly disappeared as W2 stepped on court for their singles matches. The scoreboard climbed steadily with 5 out of 6 singles matches taken by Cambridge. The most comfortable wins were delivered by CUBaC veterans Helen Briggs and Kim Chan at 2nd and 3rd seed. A highlight was the nail-biting end to 6th seed Felicity Coan’s second set, where she successfully prevented what would’ve been an exhausting third set with a 22-20 win to take the match in straight ends. As W2 wrapped up their singles, W1 was fighting for at least one of the singles matches. Sadly, the strong Oxford W1 side whitewashed the Cambridge women without giving up a single game. After the singles, the women’s scoreboard stood in Oxford’s favour at 5-7. But, with doubles being the team’s stronger discipline, the Cambridge women were not worried – everything was still to play for.
A quick re-fuel at the extremely well-stocked snack table had the girls ready to go again. W2 doubles 3rd seeds Amy Chen & Felicity Coan began their first match against the Oxford 1st seeds. With a terrific performance at BUCS Individuals just 2 weeks before, the captains were hopeful that this dynamic duo would be W2’s secret weapon. “Famy” was exactly that. A close 19-21 loss in the first set against the Oxford 1st seeds was turned around with a 21-18 and 21-17 win in the subsequent sets. From this moment on, captain Neha Madhotra was confident that W2 had it in the bag. Famy went on to win all their 3 matches, as did 2nd seeds Helen Briggs & Kim Chan. 1st seeds Maria Chukanova & Katie Clark won 2 of their 3 matches, with an extremely tight 25-27 loss in the first set against the Oxford 1st seeds. W2 finished with an obliterating 13-2 win over Oxford.
After the first doubles loss in W1, Neha gave the team a pep talk. The goal was simple: it was going to be near impossible to win W1, but the team needed to take as many wins as possible to help achieve an overall club victory. Also, a 0-15 loss was simply unacceptable. The pep talk seemed to work as 1st seeds Rachel Fenner & Neha Madhotra subsequently enjoyed a solid 21-16 21-10 win over the Oxford 2nd seeds. Cambridge 3rd seeds Becky Donaldson & Sylvia Ma successfully took a set off the Oxford 2nd seeds but unfortunately missed out on a win in the 3rd set. A repeat of this against the 3rd seeds, where Becky & Sylvia lost a tight 3rd set at 19-21, undoubtedly left the pair with frustration, but nevertheless a sense of achievement for winning the two games. Cambridge 2nd seeds Steph Potten & Briony Whitfield fought hard but unfortunately the competition proved very strong. With only one W1 win so far, Rachel & Neha went on court for what could be the 38th win of the day. A win in this match would definitively give CUBaC the overall Varsity win out of 75 total matches. A convincing 21-16 victory in the first set emboldened team spirit. As more and more of the Cambridge team realised that this may very well be the day’s winning match, a crowd gathered around the court. Motivated by the build-up on the sidelines but trying not to get distracted by it, Rachel & Neha stepped up their game to deliver a crushing 21-10 defeat to the Oxford 3rd seeds. The second the shuttle hit the ground, the sports hall echoed with the sound of the scoreboard buzzer and the eruption of cheers from the Cambridge team, which were apparently heard throughout the Sports Centre. This win left W1 with a final score of 2-13, representing a 100% increase in the number of wins since last year. With W1 and W2 combined, the women’s team ended with a 15-15 draw, a well-deserved improvement on previous years’ losses.
A big congratulations goes to the 5 players who won every single Varsity match played: Helen Briggs, Kim Chan, Amy Chen, Felicity Coan and Jean Yang. A big thank you to the players who are graduating this year for their hard work over the past few years: Helen Briggs, Kim Chan, Maria Chukanova, Katie Clark (c), Neha Madhotra (c), Steph Potten and Jean Yang. We are thrilled that you all were finally able to take revenge on Oxford. Thank you to the entire CUBaC Committee without which none of this would have been possible. Finally, thank you to the players, those who played the Varsity match and those who didn’t, for making training sessions so fun and productive. It has been great getting to know you all and that has made sharing this victory with you even sweeter. NM
It had been 14 years since the last time the men’s first team claimed victory at Varsity. The M1 team attempting to buck the trend and bring the trophy home, which had been absent since 2005, was Ben Roberts, Neel Doshi, Zac Soh, Tom Wade, Andrew Hotchen and Ryan Ng. After the hype in the months prior to the big day, mainly courtesy of Neel, an anticlimactic failure was not an option. All three men’s teams had been training especially hard all season; the receptionists at the USC at 7 in the morning must have been sick of the sight of us. So, if ever there was a year to bring the Varsity trophy home, it was this year. However, beating the dark blues is never easy, as emphasised by their dominant record in recent years. All players would play one singles, against the Oxford player at the corresponding rank in their M1, and three doubles, against all the Oxford M1 pairs. The singles matches were released a couple of days before Varsity, furthering the anticipation. They were as follows:
Zac Soh vs Andrew Zhu
Ben Roberts vs Adam Milner
Tom Wade vs Ian Ho
Andrew Hotchen vs Sam Wilson
Neel Doshi vs Josh McColgan
Ryan Ng vs Alexander Cloake
These match-ups were full of drama; freshers Ian and Sam were unknown entities so Wade and Hotch would have their work cut out. Ben and Adam had played at last year’s Varsity, the dark blue coming out on top, and had developed a bit of a rivalry in the year since. Also, Cloakey had just returned from a year in the states so his current standard was not known. We knew Andrew to be extremely strong however were confident that our own newcomer Zac was more than up to the task. The unveiling of the singles order gave us even more drive to win on the day, as if we needed it.
It was an early start for most of us on the Saturday, arriving at the USC around 8 to cheer on M2 and M3 before M1 kicked off at around 10. However, Zac swaggered in two hours later than the rest of us off the back of a full English - obviously full of confidence. CUBaC were displaying pure dominance in the M2 and M3 singles so we were confident as we warmed up for the M1 singles, Ben and Neel looking like they had been having enormous fun taping up their various injuries. The gorgeous sound of Cambridge air horns rang around the USC as Ryan and Neel went on first; Ryan showed the fire we all knew him capable of and polished off Cloakey in straight straights. Neel struggled slightly more with Josh putting up a good fight but, like Ryan, came through in straight sets displaying the beautiful stop drop-shots we had come to know and love - he came off and claimed they were smashes. Hotch then followed suit and considering he had not played all that much throughout the year, the old lad was unbelievable and dominated his dark blue opponent on the singles court. Obviously, like the fine wine we were going to be drinking that evening, he was only getting better with age.
Wade then stepped up and it was clear early on that Ian was an extremely good player, but Wade’s competitive singles has been ridiculously good all year so, like the other three, came through in straight sets. The platform that the first four light blue singles players had put down took considerable pressure off the shoulders of Zac and Ben.
As Ben and Adam went on, the tension between them was high, shown by a cagey start, but as he eased into it Ben started playing some lovely badminton and consequently took the victory within two ends, which his opponent took obvious displeasure in, launching his racket across the court after the final point. After that it was the match everyone had been looking forward to, the number one seeds. The singles started and was of extremely high quality, both Zac and Andrew showing huge talent on the court. However, soon a combination of Zac’s sublime net play and his powerful range from the rear court was too much for his opponent and, with the noise of the Cambridge fans behind him (all of the old favourite chants coming out), took the victory comfortably. After the singles, M1 were 6-0 up with all of them having won in straight sets - absolutely unheard of.
The doubles was up next, the pairings were made up of Zac & Ben, Wade & Neel, Hotch & Ryan. The first round of doubles saw Zac and Ben take on Adam and Sam. This was a three-set thriller with the whole crowd getting behind it; there were some unbelievable rallies and some great doubles was on show. Much to the dismay of the dark blue pair, adding to their worries, Ben and Zac came through, winning 21-17 in the third end. It was looking good for the light blues; we were 7-0 up with 8 games to go. Neel and Wade followed Ben and Zac, having another three-set epic against Josh and Cloakey, taking it in the last end and securing an emphatic victory for the M1 team. However, the rest of the doubles were far from a formality with the score going towards the overall scores across all three men’s teams and both women’s teams, this would decide overall who won Varsity. Oxford’s Andrew and Ian were very strong, unfortunately beating Ryan and Hotch, as well as Neel and Tom. However, Ryan and Hotch were not fazed by this, going on and taking their other two doubles. With the day drawing towards a close, Ben and Zac beat both the other two Oxford pairs in straight sets, including the formidable Ian and Andrew, ensuring their undefeated Varsity record. However, there was one final twist left in this epic tale. Neel and Wade went on for their final game against a subdued Adam and Sam. However, the Oxford pair found a second wind and managed to take it to a third end; despite this, they seemed to be dead and buried by the end, with Wade and Neel finding themselves 20-15 up with five match points. However, in stark contrast to their performances throughout the season, the light blues seemed merciful and an incredible fight back saw the Oxford pair take it on setting in the third- but oh well, you can’t have everything!
That rounded off an incredible day at the USC. Not only had Cambridge’s M1 won 12-3, for the first time since 2005, all three men’s teams had won convincingly contributing strongly towards the overall varsity score: 49-26 to the light blues. Unbelievable Jeff!
Credit to Oxford for some great matches and for being very gracious in defeat. Special shoutout to our coach Daniel and all the fans - especially old-boy Thomas Sheat, who’s conservative manner of supporting saw him try to take credit for at least 10% of the result; not sure about that. Huge well done to the whole of CUBaC, across all squads. We have worked incredibly hard this season, harder than any other year and it really showed in the dominant performance seen on the day. I think Oxford would agree that the victory was deserved but we know they will come back stronger, bring on next year!
As we left the USC at the end of the day ready for a huge night out, all trophies and awards having been given out, all pictures having been taken, reception told us there was a message for us. The message was from badminton and simply read:
M2 were back, ready to defend the title to follow up last year’s 11-4 win. We knew it would be a tougher fight this year, having had a taste of the opposition in BUCS matches this year, but we went in confident in our training and abilities. The singles started with two thrillers, with Cai and Sun each facing tough opponents. Cai’s consistency shone through, punishing his opposition’s half court clears and getting back ever smash to take the match in 2 straight sets. Sun, ever the showman, put on a nail-biting three setter but narrowly missed the win in the third. Richard went on to face the old frenemy Timo, whose insider knowledge of Cambridge’s tactics would give him the upper hand, putting another win on Oxford’s card. Next was Pranav against his counterpart Hugo who had met previously at a BUCS match, with Pranav holding a 100%-win ratio in the head-to-head against his rival. After coming back from a rocky first set, an untimely string break saw the 3rd end slip out of grasp. The final singles matches would see Andrew and Rory put away their opponents in straight sets, bringing the scoreline after the singles to an even 3-3. It was all to play for in the doubles!
Sun and Cai put on yet another screamer, winning the 2nd set against Oxford’s strongest pair 30-29, but were overwhelmed with Jerry’s front court onslaught in the 3rd, finishing the day with 2 doubles wins under their belt. This put Cambridge M2 5-3 up! Andrew and Rory won a hard fought 3 setter against Timo and Tom Hadfield, but lost to Oxford’s other pairs who worked hard to keep the dark blues in contention for the win. Oxford’s best efforts would be thwarted as Richard and Pranav showed up on top form, keen to avenge their singles defeats, winning all three doubles matches and sealing the victory for Cambridge!
Lowlight of the day: Rory serving into the net at match point down
Highlight of the day: Richard and Pranav winning all three doubles
After a close loss last year, the returning members of M3 were looking forward to proving themselves this time around. With some new faces and a hard season of training behind them, the team were feeling confident. Playing for Cambridge were Athan, Sim, Oliver, Sahil, Brodie and Ben L on singles, whilst Athan teamed up with Akhil, Oliver with Dhurai and Sim with Sahil for the doubles matches.
The morning started off well. The miraculously uninjured Athan took some time to get into the match but breezed through the second game to a comfortable victory. Sim and Brodie took their opponents apart with ease, not conceding more than 10 points in any of their sets. Oliver got cocky in the second game of his singles after a quick first end but pulled himself together in time to win in straight sets. Sahil’s trademark low-effort style served him well, controlling the match all the way to a comfortable win. Despite a huge effort by Ben, with some amazing rallies, he lost his match after 2 hard fought games.
After a short break, Cambridge M3 took to their doubles matches feeling confident. Sim and Sahil were taken by surprise in their first match, with the Oxford pair diving every which way across the court to take the win. This fired them up for their second match, taking it in a relatively easy two games. Their final match started off with some close rallies, but the Cambridge pair had settled into their game, with Sahil’s skilful deception and Sim’s quick reactions taking them to a two-game victory. Once Dhurai decided to turn up, he and Oliver beat Oxford’s second pair in a close 3-setter, taking the final game thanks to their unbreakable defence. The second match was also close, but a rare moment of physical effort by Dhurai quickly ended the third end in Cambridge’s favour. Despite some dodgy score-keeping by the dark blues, the pair came through in their final match to make a clean sheet. Athan and Akhil seemingly had none of the difficulties the rest of the team had. With Akhil’s perfect shot placement on defence to Athan’s lethal smash, they won their matches convincingly in straight games.
This made the final score 13-2, a huge victory for the Cambridge M3 side. The hard work and early mornings paid off (combined with the exemplary leadership of their inspiring and talented captain), as the team outplayed their opponents at every turn. ON-D
Taking the club's first overall Varsity win since 2011 is a huge achievement, and hopefully this success will continue long into the future. For many of our members, I think it's fair to say that it will be a highlight of their time at Cambridge. Thank you to everyone who played and/or trained with the club this year, the whole Committee for all of their time and effort, our coach Daniel Bates for his hard work over the last 3 years, Cambridge University Sport for their time, help, funding & facilities, all our enthusiastic supporters on the day, and last but definitely not least Oxford, for being gracious in defeat and formidable opponents who will no doubt come back stronger in 2020 to fight for the Varsity crown. TJW