Saints shooting for silverware

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With the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) season reaching crunch time, Saint Sport asks the teams involved to look ahead to their latter stage matches

 

Fencing Men’s 1sts

James McDonagh (Captain)

 

1) You reached the Championship final last season – did you expect to make the final four once again?

I think it would be wrong to say we expected to get to the finals (particularly with the changing unpredictability of new people joining universities that happens in university sports teams), but this was certainly our aim and goal and we are very pleased to have achieved it and hopefully will surpass this goal.

 

2) How were the earlier matches in the competition?

The matches to get to this stage presented their own challenges but we remained confident in our ability. The first match against Northumbria was certainly straightforward and we went straight through. Our second match against Kings College London was more challenging. The fencers there are very good, with 2 foilists in particular being very highly ranked in the country. We were restricted by the team we could take by university work commitments but thanks to the all team members who made it we were successful and won.

 

3) What has been the crucial factor in the team making it this far?

The crucial factor of the team’s success is that not only do we have fencers with good individual skills, experience and are therefore excellent individual team members, but we work hard as a team. It is the team spirit that really crucially drives this team; it is a team spirit which from my experience on a different team during my undergraduate degree is quite unique to St Andrews fencing teams.

 

4) What are your expectations for the last four match(es), and how confident are you going in to them?

For the semi finals we are confident clearly now we have reached the final four; we would like to win and this will be our goal. We have some preparation to do before this event and we will do everything we can to get as far as we can.

 

 

Golf Men’s 1sts

Cole Sedgwick (Captain)

 

 

1) You’re in the Championship quarter-finals – did you expect to make it to this stage?

We are, of course, delighted to be there. However, the team understands there is much work still to be done to achieve our ultimate goal of reaching the finals for the third successive year. Last year we came third in Britain and so our goal this year has been to improve on last year and go on to win the tournament.

 

2) How were the earlier matches in the competition?

The process to reach this stage is rather unusual. Owing to the winter break come November (poor light and terrible weather), we compete in the Scottish premier league in first semester, play five matches and – depending on where you finish in the league – you gain a seeding, determining the draw for the BUCS knockout rounds in second semester. We came second to Stirling 1sts so were placed in the last 16 to face Edinburgh at home, who we beat 4-2 last week to propel us into the quarters [played on 14 March].

 

3) What has been the crucial factor in the team making it this far?

I think there are a multitude of reasons. Every year we lose quite a few of the better players in fourth year, so we needed some 2nds players to make the jump up to the 1st team this year as well as hoping for an influx of decent freshers. Fortunately we got both! I can’t commend the team enough for their commitment to training and performing in the bigger fixtures. Ultimately one of the main reasons for our success has been the level of team spirit in the team and Golf Club as a whole. There is such great camaraderie amongst the boys and we are all such great friends, which helps. You know you can rely on all of the guys in the team while other members of the club take a real interest in how we’re doing. That is invaluable.

 

4) What are your expectations for the match with UCLAN, and how confident are you of winning?

I expect the match to be a tough one. It is on their home turf and they have a very impressive golf scholarship programme, which churns out good players every year. Nonetheless, we beat them last year to secure that third place so I am confident we can beat them again. After last week’s win against Edinburgh the confidence and faith I had in the team has increased and they’ll all be raring to go come 14 March. We also have one of our coaches, David Watt, with us in Blackpool to oversee our preparations. This is a huge advantage and we must thank the AU and in particular Debby Sargent for all their support. It would be fantastic to reach the finals again and get another chance at beating Stirling for the Championship.

 

 

Volleyball Women’s 1sts

Maureen MacIsaac (Captain)

You made (and won) the Trophy final last season – what do you expect from the final stages this time?

We’ll be playing Durham in the semi-finals on 17 March. I definitely think that we can match the skills of any university team that we’d face and I think we have the drive and determination that is sometimes missing in other squads. We’ve also been training a significant amount in the past few weeks, which I think will pay off in longer matches that come down to endurance. I expect to make the final.

 

2) How were the earlier matches in the competition?

Our first match (and our most difficult) was away to Aberdeen. We had lost to them earlier in the season by a razor-thin margin, but we were lacking a few key players. So we were excited to face them again and gain revenge. We were lacking our head coach Shelly Paterson, but we had a full squad and that made all the difference. Aberdeen is a very strategic team that often preys on our weaknesses. I think we are a technically superior squad, so on that day we had to keep composed and play our own game. We won the match 3-0, but that doesn’t reflect its closeness – at some point in each set we were down by six or more points and had to claw our way back, and each set was only won by two points. So it required genuinely incredible commitment and determination from the team to win.

The Glasgow quarter-final was not as high-stakes, as we had beaten them three times over the season (twice in regular play and once in the SUS Championship semi-final). Glasgow did play a much tougher game than previously, and our third set did go to 24-24. Ultimately we again won 3-0, and I think that’s a testament to the amount of willpower on the team.

 

3) What has been the crucial factor in the team making it this far?

It has been the incredible level of commitment from all of the girls on the squad. Each of us has had to sacrifice something to make it to this level (grades, a social life, sleep…), and that has paid off with wholesale technical improvement. Over the past semester we really came together as a team and managed to use that to our advantage over more fragmented squads. The exams and inter-semester disrupted our ability to work as a team, and we’ve been trying to get our cohesion back in the past weeks’ practices.

Our most notable strength is supporting one another on court. There’s no blame for mistakes and no anger between players. We’re always looking to improve at the next point and we don’t focus on past errors, something that can destroy a team in a match. We  keep positive and forward-looking, meaning we have amazing comebacks within games – you can’t count us out till the match is officially over.

 

4) How confident are you ahead of the trip to Sheffield?

Durham play in the same league as Leeds Met Carnegie, which is easily one of (if not the) best UK university program. So they will have seen a high level of play. Unfortunately with volleyball, most squads have a very high player turnover every year, as it is such an international sport. This means it’s difficult to judge the teams before you play them just from their standings. Last year, our toughest game was our first (against Newcastle) and matches became progressively easier (the final being our easiest match in the series).

In general, I think we’ll have to adjust quickly to a team we’ve never seen before, and make sure that we quickly identify their strengths and weaknesses and play to them.

Having said that, I’m confident in our team and I have every confidence that we have the ability to take home the Trophy again! We’ve just had 5 members of our squad named to the Scottish Student Sport National Squad, so I think I can conclusively say that we’re representing Scotland well at the BUCS Trophy.

 

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