Cambridge’s win also extended their unbeaten record across the entire 2021-22 season, yet to drop a league point or cup gameMillie Quayle

Cambridge University Ladies Netball Club (CULNC) Blues defeated Nottingham 2 yesterday evening (09/02) by a score of 62-60 to book their spot in the semi-finals of this year’s Midlands Conference Cup.

The Blues set off to Nottingham confident after beating them by 21 goals last Wednesday (02/02), but also very aware that the home side, who had been missing their captain last week, could come out all guns blazing.

Nevertheless, Cambridge started the game strong, quickly edging out to a five-goal lead. However, this week’s Nottingham team was far better and slicker than they had been in the previous fixture, and the pressure started piling on the Blues. Solid defensive pressure by Thea Krumins and Fenna Agnew in the circle, backed up by Tabbie Brough being a menace around the circle edge, led to a series of interceptions and forced errors by Nottingham.

Despite the defensive success, the Blues defence struggled to get it out of their third against Nottingham’s new zonal defence. Nottingham’s shooting was far more accurate than it had been last time out, and the first quarter finished with Cambridge leading 14-9 but with Nottingham keeping in the game.

The second quarter saw some changes for the Blues, with Caitlin Reilly coming on at goal attack and the Jays’ Captain Astrid Williams coming on at goal defence. Both players made an immediate impact, as Reilly slotted in swish shots from all over the circle and disrupted Nottingham’s defensive duo with her sharp front drives. Meanwhile, Williams picked up where she left off last week, taking a lead on the defensive switching in the circle and hassling her goal attack well to get her hands on lots of balls.

The first half of the quarter went well for Cambridge, with lots of fast, swift play through the whole court and, with seven minutes down, Cambridge extended their lead by nine goals. However, at this point Nottingham’s raucous crowd came alive and the momentum shifted. Nottingham reduced their error rate and began successfully capitalising on their turnovers, and they scraped back Cambridge’s lead goal by goal. The half time score ended up being 24-20 to the Blues.

After the half-time break, there were changes all round for the Cambridge team. Zoë Starbuck came back on at goal attack, Tabbie Brough moved to centre, Indie Foster came on as wing defence, and Clare Pearson came on at goal defence. Lent term has not been the smoothest for the Blues in terms of absences, and this was Foster’s first match back after unfortunately having to isolate with Covid-19 and was also Pearson’s first game since suffering from a short injury.

In spite of the difficult start to term, nerves were nowhere to be seen for both of them. Foster applied constant pressure on her wing attack and shut down the player well by keeping her away from the circle edge and, therefore, the prime feeding positions. Pearson’s defensive positioning kept the goal attack away from her preferred shooting spots near the goal post, and she worked well with Krumins at goal keeper to confuse the goal shooter’s space and force Nottingham to throw the ball off the back line.

By this point, however, Nottingham’s shooters were on fire and barely missed any shots, while the Cambridge shooters had the tough job of shooting down the end of the court right by the screaming supporters, but did a great job in keeping their cool and continued to sink their shots. The momentum was once more with Nottingham and the quarter ended with Cambridge’s lead narrowed to just two goals, at 32-30.

The final quarter started with a sense of urgency, as Rachel Mercer came back on as centre and Brough moved back to wing defence. Umpiring calls started to go Nottingham’s way, and quickly Nottingham managed to snatch the lead for the first time in the whole match and go four goals up.

Nottingham maintained their lead, cheered on by their home crowd, and with just three minutes to go in the knockout match they were three goals ahead.

A huge team performance was now needed, and the Blues, inspired by some great defensive turnovers from the trio of Krumins, Williams, and Brough, stepped up to the plate and began clawing the lead back. The shooters held their nerve against the roars of the crowd, and with about thirty seconds to go Clodagh Bottomley equalised to 46-46.

The home side had the centre pass, but a huge defensive effort saw Nottingham forced to throw the ball off the backline and fail to score.


Mountain View

Netball Blues dominate Nottingham in 53-32 win

There was a little bit of confusion as to what should happen now, given that this was a knockout match; fortunately, Quayle had entertained herself on the bus there by reading through the BUCS rules and regulations, and promptly informed the umpires that there should be a further fourteen minutes of extra time. To add to the tension, technical difficulties meant that the scoreboard did not display the time or the score. The match restarted and went goal for goal, with players on both teams managing to push through the fatigue to maintain the intensity.

After seven minutes, there was a half-time break and the score stood at 54-54. To bring on some fresh legs, Agnew came back on at goal keeper and Krumins moved forward to goal defence. The Blues dug deep and held on, even going a goal ahead here and there.

Some further confusion prevailed at the end of the match regarding the umpires and timing, with a few players thinking that Cambridge were one goal up when the umpire blew for the end of the fourteen minutes of extra time, but the call was eventually made that the match was to continue until one team was two goals clear.

With the call being made when the ball was in Cambridge’s attacking end, some steely play from the Blues meant that the ball ended up under the post with Bottomley, who slotted her shot to finish off the game with Cambridge winning 62-60.

Varsity MVP: Tabbie Brough


Nottingham 2: Unconfirmed

Cambridge Blues: Fenna Agnew (GK), Thea Krumins (GD), Tabbie Brough (WD, vice-captain), Rachel Mercer (C), Millie Quayle (WA, captain), Zoë Starbuck (GA), Clodagh Bottomley (GS)

Finishers: Caitlin Reilly, Astrid Williams, Indie Foster, Clare Pearson

After a marathon of a match, the Blues will take on Nottingham Trent 2 in the semi-finals of the Midlands Conference Cup at the University Sports Centre on Wednesday 23rd March.