The first question I had wanted to ask the Women’s Lacrosse club was this: given that your first team is top of the (sole) Scottish BUCS league for women’s lacrosse, and your second team is bottom of that very same league, how do you even begin to assess your season so far? The fact that both the first and second team captains came to the interview answered my question before I had even asked it: to those at the club, the discrepancy doesn’t matter.
The second team’s very existence is a success. It is the seconds’ very first year in BUCS. The major corollary of this is that the team largely consists of beginners. Beginners to whom lacrosse’s initial appeal itself largely consisted in a vague resemblance to field hockey. The upshot is that 2015-2016 has been, for the seconds, a year of necessary, unavoidable and fanatical learning-on-the-job. The team’s very first game was against Edinburgh’s firsts, who are the reigning – wait for it – European student lacrosse champions. By all means, wait for that, too. As in, wait for that scenario to sink in. It’s hard to even imagine a bigger sporting baptism-of-fire.
Baptism of fire survived, a maiden win was secured two weeks ago, against Glasgow’s second team at University Park. A win made even more seminal by the fact the side doesn’t have an official coach. Instead, the captain also acts as an impromptu coach, as does the first team captain (neither does the men’s squad, as documented in these pages not long ago). These captains pick up coaching tips from their sessions training with the Scottish B side. They have both attended multiple coaching courses, and often coach junior lacrosse players at St Leonard’s college in town.
Such branching allegiances make their success with their respective St Andrews sides all-the-more impressive. The related question of how far the second team serves as a feeder team for the firsts is an interesting one. There is an interesting BUCS rule which states players who have played in five or more matches for the first team cannot then play for the seconds. On the face of things, it could easily be inferred that a place in the firsts’ squad is unattainable for those in the seconds. Yet everyone present is at pains to emphasize that second team players have and still do move up to the firsts.
For all that the league table suggests a significant gap between the sides, such instances show that major improvement is always possible. Yet, given the obvious difficulties this engenders, both sides are looking to secure official coaches by next season. With three training sessions a week, on top of the usual BUCS fixtures, the time commitment is substantial. A more unusual addition to the roster, however, is the Caithness League on Saturdays. This is, somewhat exotically for student sport, mixed-gender (the Quidditch Society being one no-less-exotic example of mixed team sport in St Andrews).
Only three male players are allowed on the pitch at any one time, because, as they put it, “they end up charging through the middle all the time!”. They also have a well integrated social scene, running many non-lacrosse events such as scavenger hunts. Looking ahead to next year, then (as BUCS reaches its nadir, it seems fair to do so), there can only be optimism. The seconds are established, coaches should be forthcoming. The women’s lacrosse club will look back on 2015- 2016 with pride, and if the first win the league, with joy, too.