Cambridge are jubilant as the whistle blows on a frenetic 11–10 victoryDevarshi Lodhia

A dramatic golden goal deep into extra time ensured an 11–10 victory for the Cambridge University Women’s Lacrosse Club (CUWLC) in the 101st Varsity lacrosse game in front of a lively crowd at St John’s Pitches on Saturday.

Coming into the match on the back of a 17–6 thrashing of Imperial College London, confidence was clearly high in the Light Blue camp going into perhaps their greatest challenge of the season.

With one victory apiece in the BUCS Premier South, it was clear from the outset that this would be a tight, back and forth affair on a blustery, overcast late-winter afternoon. Cambridge had the best of the opening few minutes, with Katie Lehovsky forcing a smart save from the Oxford goalkeeper early on, before Amelia Miller opened the scoring for the Light Blues following some patient passing play. This seemingly spurred Oxford into action as they scored three consecutive goals to open up a 3–1 lead. Lehovsky scored from a free shot to briefly reduce the deficit to one goal before Oxford scored again to give them a 4–2 lead, as Cambridge called for a time-out in order to reassess their tactics.

As play resumed, Oxford continued to have the upper hand as Cambridge conceded a number of unnecessary penalties. Emily Coales made an instinctive close-range save but was unable to stop two Oxford goals in quick succession as the Light Blues struggled to deal with their opponents’ slow, methodical passing play.

Cambridge ended the half in the ascendancy, though, as Ayesha Nicholls started a quick passing move from the back, giving the ball to Amelia Miller, who won a free shot after being hit in the head by an Oxford stick following a powerful, mazy run through the middle of the pitch. Miller scored from the resulting shot to leave the score at 6–3 going into half time.

As the sounds of DJ Khaled’s ‘All I Do Is Win’ rang around St John’s pitches, it was evident that reducing unnecessary defensive errors would be the ‘key to success’ for Cambridge in the second half if they wanted to ensure victory.

As with the first half, the Light Blues made the better start to the second, with Miller again at the centre of the action. She won another free throw, having again been unfairly obstructed following another scintillating run, and scored with aplomb past the Oxford keeper’s head to bring the score to 6–4. Following the goal, Cambridge’s attacking intensity increased and Oxford were simply unable to deal with the constant threat of Miller in particular. Her footwork and sudden change of direction bamboozled her marker, leaving her on the floor, a helpless spectator, as Lehovsky scored to once again reduce the deficit to a single goal.

Devarshi Lodhia

Oxford conceded another free throw after a slick passing move resulted in a loose stick to the mouth for Cambridge co-captain Ayesha Nicholls, who then scored through the goalkeeper’s legs to restore parity. Two further goals from Lehovsky, as well as one from the other co-captain Julie Wise, following a stunning take and shot, made it 9–6 to Cambridge, who were growing in confidence.

While one of the referees was busy berating the spectators for encroaching onto the field, Oxford scored their first goal of the half as Light Blues co-captain Ayesha Nicholls was dispossessed on the halfway line to leave a gap in the defence that Oxford exploited to bring the score to 9–7. Two further goals from Oxford ensured a dramatic conclusion to what had already been an enthralling match.

Just as it seemed that Cambridge had ensured victory courtesy of a goal from Wise and another fantastic save from Coales, Oxford’s number 3 scored her third of the match following a feint, turn and dummy shot, to leave the score 10–10 as the referee blew the whistle, meaning the match would be settled in extra-time.

The first half of extra-time was an understandably cagey affair, with neither team giving much away in terms of chances. Both teams managed to test the opposing goalkeepers in the second half of extra time but both made stunning goal-line saves to keep their teams in it. Fittingly, it was Miller who capped off a near flawless solo performance with the winning goal deep into the second-half of extra time, securing a deserved victory for Cambridge.

Speaking to Varsity after the game, CUWLC President Emily Birch was full of praise for her team’s performance: “We certainly weren’t expecting such a dramatic hour of lacrosse! The team did amazingly to pick themselves up, being three goals down at half time to turning the game around so convincingly with a three-goal lead. Positivity was crucial on the pitch, and each player played their part in collectively getting us back to where we wanted to be.

“Credit must go to Oxford for putting up such a strong fight. I don’t doubt that the match will go down in women’s lacrosse Varsity history for its drama, and I only hope that the close rivalry and high-quality lacrosse continues in years to come.”

Cambridge: Juliette Wise (Co-captain), Ayesha Nicholls (Co-captain), Emily Coales, Maeve Gillespie, Megan Crawford, Phoebe Terelak, Ella Benson, Serenydd Everden, Amelia Miller, Kristjana Çaka, Katie Lehovsky, Tilly Eno, Delphine Veys, Mia Lewis, Bella Peters, Emily Birch

Oxford: Georgia Bacon, Rosie Barker, Molly Cowen, Alex Drewe, Bertina Ho, Lottie Hoskin, India Kary, Jayme Kuysk, CJ Lewis, Lucinda Maxwell, Ama Neubert, Vicky Rees, Becky Robinson, Feenie Ruiz (vice-Captain), Katherine Sayer , Zoe Thursz (Captain), Georgia Bacon, Rosie Barker

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