Great expectations: Captains’ previews

Finn Ranson 9 October 2017

Twelve sporting captains from a wide range of Cambridge sports talk to TCS about the season ahead.

James Coxon – Men’s Athletics

The men of Cambridge University Athletic Club (CUAC) showcased many brilliant performances last year despite the disappointing Varsity loss in May. Perhaps the club’s best accomplishment was by Rasmus Kisel, who was selected to represent Estonia in the European U23s. Also on the track Phillip Crout defended his England U23 5000m title, while Kaesi Opara backed up his Varsity sprint double victories with the same feat in our Universities Invitational Match.

In the hammer Tom Parker enjoyed another dominant year, throwing his way to victory in the Harvard/Yale Match of the Transatlantic Series alongside his Varsity title and BUCS medal. With himself and a few other high profile throwers graduating in the summer, CUAC’s men’s squad will need to recruit well to fill their (rather large) shoes.

CUAC enjoys great strength in depth, and alongside our top athletes the rest of the squad has benefitted from a fantastic training programme to make many individual improvements over the season. We look forward to the addition of Freshers from all experience levels to help us to Victory at Iffley Road next May and to challenge for more BUCS medals. The Cuppers competition on 14-15th October is a great way to get involved with the club and to earn selection for the Freshers’ Varsity Match on Sunday 5th November.


Hephzibah Adeosun – Women’s Athletics 

CUAC women’s team had a good 2016/17 season. Despite our loss against Oxford in the summer Varsity Match, the team is strong and looking forward to a competitive and hopefully victorious year against Oxford. The first competition of the season is the Freshers’ Varsity Match taking place on the 5th of November at Wilberforce Road, Cambridge. It’s a chance for both sides to show off their new intake of Freshers.

Our aim for this year is not only to win all three Varsity matches against Oxford, but for all our athletes to improve in their respective events and make long-lasting friendships. We’d love to see many more girls at the track so come and join! #GDBO #ThisGirlCan


Tom Wade and Andrew Sheat – Men’s Badminton

CUBaC’s men are out for victory in the coming season. After a fantastic year, where the men’s team were unbeaten in the BUCS league and gained pormotion, spirits and confidence are high, and we go into the new season with a formidable squad. The standard of play will be a considerable step up and we are anticipating some tough matches from the likes of Loughborough 2nd’s and Derby 1st’s who are used to the high standard of Midlands 1A. Myself and Tom are hoping to lead CUBaC forward to meet the challenge, with the aim of gaining a strong foothold in the Midlands 1A league.

The team will be busy throughout the year training and preparing for the Varsity match against Oxford. Last year we were defeated, but fought with such grit and determination that the opposition was left shocked and worried for our next encounter. It is with this momentum that we are going into the new season and on to further success.


Milan Krstajic – Men’s Basketball

After a successful season last year, we are faced with several key players leaving, most importantly, our starting point guard. Last year we managed to take second place in the BUCS Midlands 1A league, with Birmingham only edging us by goal difference. We won a dramatic Varsity clash after a buzzer-beater three-pointer to level up and two overtime periods. This season, we are hoping to recruit a few good freshers to replace the leavers, and we will do our best to clinch the league title with this new side. We will also be aiming to take our first away Varsity victory in many years.


Becky Illingworth and Claire Ratican – Women’s Basketball

There’s a lot to prove this coming season for the women’s Blues basketball team. After the team couldn’t get across the line in last season’s Varsity match, losing in the final moments of a nail-biting overtime, the Blues will be keen to re-establish their winning ways in the 2017-18 season. The squad finished third in the Midlands 1A division earlier in the year, seeing them upset some pretty tough teams in the course of the season – but they are sure to face some gruelling matches against the powerful attack of Nottingham Trent, the persistence of long-time rivals Worcester University. Head Coach Amalio Fernández-Pacheco will be joined by new Assistant Coach Laura Wright and Captain Leonie de Jonge in welcoming new talent at this weekend’s Club trials, where they will be on the look-out for fresh blood to add to the ranks of their experienced returning squad members. The first match of the season will be played at home (the University Sports Centre) against Oxford Brookes on the 18th October with tip-off at 6:30pm. Having not faced this foe before, it will be an exciting match with the Blues looking to assert their dominance from the get-go.


Chloe Allison – Women’s Cricket

CUWCC is looking forward to building on last season’s success. A highlight of the 2017 season was a very convincing, 9-wicket victory over Oxford in the T20 Varsity match. We are also hoping to avenge defeat in the 50-over Varsity, which we are lucky enough to play on the Nursery Ground at Lords, the home of cricket. We have lost only a couple of last year’s first XI and we already have a good number of new players expected to challenge for places. We have different sessions that cater for players of all levels, from complete beginners to seasoned pros, and anyone interested in joining the club should either get in contact with me (Chloe Allison


Matt Cockerill – Men’s Hockey

In 2016/17 the Light Blues were led by TJ Jackson with Chris Webster as his vice-captain.  We had a mixed season, finishing mid table in both our Saturday league and BUCS league and narrowly losing out in Varsity after penalty shuffles. With a large contingent of returning blues this year, and an experienced coach in Charlie Bannister, we’re aiming for a strong performance in East Prem A on Saturdays, promotion in our BUCS league, and a Varsity win. BUCS promotion would see us playing in the highest level of university hockey, something not achieved by a Cambridge side before.

With a large intake of Freshers to the club this year, our strength in depth will be a key factor in dealing with the manic schedule, which often sees us training and playing six days a week.

Pre-season has been very positive, with the team gelling well and although we have had a mixed start to the season, I am very optimistic about our prospects this year.


Chloe Merrell – Women’s Netball

The 2016/17 netball season was our most successful season since 2003/04. The Blues made it to the play-offs for the BUCS South Premier League and beat Oxford at home in the Varsity match. Our second team, the Jays, finished their season securely in second place in Division 2, and our third team, the Swallows, fought with great tenacity against their Oxford counterpart. My campaign as captain is a simple one – to draw on last year’s successes and lessons and then take it one step further. The season ahead will present its challenges; both the Blues and Jays will face their respective Oxford halves in the BUCS league twice before the Varsity game. Equally, with the likes of Loughborough, Birmingham and Nottingham in the mix, both teams will have to work hard to win. With the stakes higher than ever, we have responded by playing our best hand yet. From enlisting a sports psychologist, to broadcasting talks with England Netball, the 2017/18 season looks to be the most hotly anticipated yet.


Daphne Martschenko & Rachel Elwood – Women’s Rowing

Coming off the back of our most successful Boat Race campaign in 20 years, CUWBC has had a great start to the season. We have a large squad coming from a variety of backgrounds, including returning Blues, college athletes that have come up from our development programme, junior rowers, and internationals. Preseason is always a busy and exciting time for the squad, working towards the British Senior Championships in October and then further to our first race on the Tideway in London at Fours Head in November. These events are a good learning opportunity and some brilliant racing experience for the squad. But our overarching focus is always on our lightweight Boat Race in Henley on March 18th, and the 4 miles and 374 yards that we will line up to race Oxford on the 24th March 2018.


Charlie Amesbury – Men’s Rugby League

The squad have come back from a great tour to South Africa, which had its fair mix of culture and training, to two very competitive games against top University sides Loughborough and Durham. Both were physical displays, with defeat in the former on the last kick of the game and the latter ending in a well earned draw that has shown some promising signs.

These two games have given the squad some good impetus going into the season, which sees a good blend of victorious 2016 blues, hungry LXs graduates and the odd newcomer offering the stardust. Notable incomers so far have been former Durham captain Buchan Richardson (Selwyn) who has been looking dynamic around the base of the scrum and fresher Jake Hennessey (Trinity) who has put in some mature performances matching his looks.

We look forward to Town v Gown on Wednesday 4th October as we look to catch our first win for the Pride.


Jack Long-Martinez – Men’s Tennis

The 2016/17 season was a hugely successful one for our men’s tennis teams. Bolstered by a strong intake of new players, the Blues enjoyed a solid league season as well as a fantastic run to the finals of the BUCS Men’s trophy, securing wins over teams from prestigious tennis universities such as Loughborough and Bath on the way. The Second Team also performed brilliantly throughout the BUCS season; a thumping 12-0 win over promotion rivals Nottingham 3rds proved sufficient for the team to gain promotion to BUCS Midlands Tier 1 for the first time in recent memory. This form was comprehensively carried into the 2017 Varsity match, with the Blues earning a 15-6 victory over the Other Place and each of the Cambridge M2-M5 teams securing equally one-sided results against their Oxford counterparts.

We at the club are very hopeful that this coming season will be even more successful than the last. Doing so well will not be without its challenges, however. Teams like Warwick and Nottingham – as well as an Oxford team undoubtedly desperate to bounce back post-Varsity – are expected to provide us with a stiff test both in BUCS competition and, in the case of our Oxonian rivals, this year’s Varsity Match. Furthermore, success will be contingent upon us putting the hours in over the course of this year. Although university tennis is generally huge fun, the teams are definitely aware that significant commitment is required on the training front (which, sadly, does include the occasional early morning and nasty fitness session) in order to get ourselves playing at our best. Nevertheless, the signs definitely appear good this. The club is lucky enough to have great coaching and facilities, a healthy fixture list and, most importantly, a sizeable community of dedicated and talented players involved in its set-up. We are confident that this season will be one to remember.


Claudia Dickinson – Women’s Tennis

The Women’s Tennis Blues had a solid 2016/17 season, retaining their place in the league, coming 2nd overall and only just losing out to Nottingham 2nds. We secured wins against strong outfits such as Warwick 1sts, Birmingham 1sts, Coventry 1sts and Oxford 2nds.

With a similar set of opponents in the BUCS league this year, we’re aiming to secure promotion. Although we were unfortunate in our 2017 Varsity campaign against Oxford, this has only made the squad more motivated to train hard this year and regain the Varsity crown in 2018. We have four returners to the Blues team this year which leaves plenty of room for fresh talent! My ambitions for this year as captain are to keep up the strength and conditioning routine we put in place last season so we are fit throughout the year, and to establish strong doubles partnerships early on so we are well practiced when Varsity comes around in July 2018. We have a new coach this year which I’m confident will benefit the team’s technical development. With promotion and a Varsity win to motivate us, I’m confident that this will be a strong season for the 2017-18 women’s blues tennis team.


Darshan Chohan- Men’s Cricket

Cambridge University Cricket Club (CUCC) enjoyed a successful season in 2017. We won the Varsity series against Oxford University with comprehensive victories in the T20 and 4-Day matches. The 2018 season, however, brings new and exciting challenges. The squad retains four returning Blues – Darshan Chohan (C), Tom Colverd (VC), Nick Winder, and Ali Dewhurst. Surrounding this core of experience, we hope to see some existing Crusaders make the step-up to blues level, as well as welcome some new talent into the ranks. CUCC is hosting trials on the 22nd and 29th of October and all three squads are expecting a significant intake of new faces. The Blues winter strategy is one of hard work, with fitness sessions being the focus of Michaelmas and scenario-based training starting in Lent term. There is also a pre-season tour in the works for early March with our first official fixture in Mid-April.


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