The St Andrews women’s basketball team faced a highly professional Loughborough outfit in this year’s second BUCS Premier North League match. Buoyed by three wins in the national league this season, the Saints were hopeful of pulling off an upset on their own court. This optimism came despite the team’s 74-43 defeat at Newcastle in the first match of its BUCS season. Loughborough, kitted out in its characteristic purple uniforms, contrasted with the white uniforms of St Andrews’ team as it arrived on the East Fife coast. The team, fresh off of a 68-55 win at Edinburgh in the first match of the season, would prove to be a fierce opponent.
From the beginning of the first quarter, it was clear that the Saints had their work cut out for them if they were to beat the team from south of the border. Loughborough showed excellent passing play in the offensive zone and the St Andrews defence was stretched on numerous occasions.
While the home side put points on the board early in the quarter, the visitors were the side in ascendancy throughout the period. Six minutes in, Loughborough led 18-2. St Andrews’ offensive play showed promise as well, but a physically strong and well-drilled Loughborough defence meant that the home side had precious few chances in the first period of play. The team kept plugging away, however, and scored again before the buzzer sounded for the end of the quarter with the score at 24-4. The second quarter began after pep talks from both teams’ coaches, but unfortunately for St Andrews, Loughborough continued to dominate play. On defence, the home side allowed its opponents to recover too many rebounds, leading to numerous scoring chances which a team such as Loughborough took with ease. At the other end, luck was not on the side of the Saints, with countless shots barely missing the basket. At the end of the half, the score stood at 43-5 in favour of the visitors.
The half-time team talk seemed to have an effect on the home side, which began to make some inroads through the Loughborough defence. The fates were no longer against the Saints, with shots beginning to find the basket, but fast counter-attacking play from the visitors extended their advantage to 55 points by the end of the quarter, which finished at 64-11. The final quarter affirmed Loughborough’s dominance with relentless counter-attacks that caused the Saints to visibly tire. The match finished at 87-16.
This game will serve as a key learning experience for St Andrews. Loughborough is one of the strongest sides that the team will face this year. As a mainstay of the BUCS Premier North division, Loughborough has more experience in the league. St Andrews was only promoted to the division at the end of last season. It is difficult to criticise the Saints for this defeat, since Loughborough is vastly more experienced at this level, and as such, players are used to competing at the greater intensity that a higher division entails. For example, Loughborough’s passing game was noticeably sharper and more accurate than St Andrews’. Passing is vital to consistently breaking defence at this level, so targeted attempts to strengthen this weakness will prove beneficial.
Another factor in the Saints’ defeat was the absence of four members of the team. Paige Onouye and Laoise Carey were out injured, whilst Morag Petrie and Emma Hallqvist were unavailable due to the game falling during Independent Learning Week. The defeat was likely tough for the girls to take, but they are a cohesive and committed bunch who will only rebound stronger from this loss. St Andrews’ next game in the BUCS League is a home match against Northumbria University. Afterwards, the team faces the return leg at Loughborough. The Saints also come up against Boroughmuir Blaze and Tayside Musketeers in the National League in the coming weeks, where they will hope to maintain their impressive start to the campaign.