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Report – The Arts Cup 2016

The big day on the UAL sports calendar had finally arrived. Varsity seemed to come and go just like that, but what a day to be a part of.

UAL and Goldsmiths met at Haberdasher Aske’s sports ground in Nunhead, south London for the first time in Varsity history. The sun was shining and crowds were beginning to appear, with both sides hoping to go home with The Arts Cup.

The first game of the day was the Men’s football 3rds. A quick start from the Arts saw them go 1-0 up in under a minute, but Goldsmiths managed to grab one back to set the scene for a competitive day.

UAL scored two more before half-time, which almost put the game to bed. However, Goldsmiths came out for the second half all guns blazing, managing to get another goal back to make it 3-2.

UAL dug in deep to avoid conceding again and in turn scored soon after the Goldsmiths goal. With Goldsmiths heads held low, the Arts scored three more before the final whistle, with striker Marley Nesbitt hitting a hat-trick. The game finished 7-2 to UAL and an exciting day was up and running.

Mesmerising

There were two match-ups at 11am, with Badminton and Netball 2nds the second and third games of the day. Wins were shared as UAL won the badminton against a strong Goldsmiths side, and Goldsmiths Netball 2nds won 26-22. In the sole noon start, Arts triumphed 15-8 over Goldsmiths in Ultimate Frisbee.

“A moment of genius from Arts midfielder Nan Xie saw him produce a mesmerising run through what seemed to be five Goldsmiths players”

Men’s football 2nds kicked off at 12.10pm with UAL raring to add to the 3rds’ victory, particularly against a Goldsmiths team which hadn’t impressed in the league this season. There were glimpses of some good football in the first half but no stand-out performances from either side, so it was 0-0 at the break with all to play for.

The game looked to be going to penalties, with last year’s shoot-out still fresh in the mind of both sets of players. Then a moment of genius from Arts midfielder Nan Xie saw him produce a mesmerising run through what seemed to be five Goldsmiths’ players and then stroke the ball past the opposing keeper. With just minutes to go, Arts’ must have thought it was all over.

However, a late Goldsmiths shot forced a save from Arts’ keeper James Hoang, but no-one was able to stop the rebound. So the game went straight to penalties, and a tense shootout resulted in a Goldsmiths’ win – unlucky for a hard-working Arts side, but credit to Goldsmiths’ 2nds who refused to throw in the towel.

Victorious

With crowds beginning to build for the later games, fans watching the Netball 1sts match were treated to a thrilling contest as Goldsmiths’ emerged victorious 16-15.

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Arts won the mixed hockey fixture

UAL hit back with wins in women’s basketball and women’s football in the early afternoon. In the mixed hockey match, a strong Arts side proved to be too much for Goldsmiths to handle as they won 3-2. As 2pm rolled around, Goldsmiths’ cheerleaders and Rugby 1sts prevailed over UAL.

With the score tied at 6-6 before the final game of The Arts Cup 2016, tension was high for both camps.

Every game of the day apart from Men’s football 1sts had finished and both sets of fans were in full voice. Both sets of players knew how much a win would mean to their fellow students and, after losing the cup last year, Goldsmiths’ seemed to be out for blood.

The pitch had taken quite a battering after hosting three football matches that same day, so while the game began with some good movement and passing, it soon descended into a welter of late, scrappy tackles and long balls up field.

It was clear that both sides were capable of a higher quality of football but the pitch would not allow it. After three minutes, a slip from an Arts centre-back Luke Cooksey allowed a through ball to reach the Goldsmiths striker which was put straight past goalkeeper John Pownall.

Just when UAL seemed to be getting a hold on the game, a scrappy piece of play on the edge of the UAL area resulted in an outrageous goal from a Goldsmiths’ midfielder, a volley from an awkward angle into the top right hand corner.

UAL finally managed to get a grip and had some great opportunities through striker Will Mowbray and winger Kovi Konowiecki. But some well-organised defending and a stupendous display from the Goldsmiths’ keeper kept Arts at bay for the remainder of the game which finished 2-0 to Goldsmiths.

That meant Goldsmiths lifted The Arts Cup and earned themselves bragging rights for the next 12 months. A great day finished at the Goldsmiths student union where all players joined for an enjoyable evening.

Varsity 2016 | My first and last

Unlike in the US, college sport here in the UK is low-profile not seen as a big deal – unless you actually play it.

Due to committing myself to a football team outside of UAL for the first two years of my degree, I’d never had the opportunity to represent the university until this year when I decided to take a break from weekend and midweek games.

“I was struggling to buy into the intensive hype leading up to the ‘Big V’ “

So whenever I’d previously heard excited talk of ‘Varsity’, I was pretty sceptical about its hallowed status on the UAL sporting calendar.

For those not in the know, Varsity is the day when UAL teams go toe-to-toe with local rivals Goldsmiths and compete in a range of sports from football to ultimate Frisbee to cheerleading to determine this year’s champion.

As it drew closer, all the chatter was about the importance of not losing to our south London rivals and winning bragging rights for the next 12 months.

If I’m being brutally honest, I was struggling to buy into the intensive hype leading up to the ‘Big V’  – after all, it’s only a game of football at university (although I wouldn’t dare of said that to anyone involved leading up it).

Camaraderie

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UAL footballers (left to right) Oliver O’Callaghan, John Pownall, George Thomas and Will Mowbray

Come the big day, and the first thing that struck me was the atmosphere of camaraderie between all the UAL football teams.

All three men’s sides met at 9am for breakfast together, a fitting way to build up to the big occasion. There was no divide between them, a friendly and positive environment to set the tone for the rest of the day.

The Men’s 3rds kicked off at 10.30am, meaning everyone else had to go and support them.

My first thought was ‘that means I’ll be there five hours before we kick off’, but it didn’t take me long to buy into what this was all about. It’s more than just your one game, it’s the occasion, so regardless of whether you’re playing in the morning or afternoon everyone is expected to get behind each team.

It didn’t take long for the netball teams, cheerleaders, rugby all to join the party either which made it even more evident that it’s about more than just playing your sport.

I was looking at it from an outsider’s point of view as I only knew people from my team, so seeing everyone embrace the occasion was something special and a testament to everyone who puts in work behind the scenes of the university’s sports clubs.

It seemed like a tight-knit family throughout the day which is something that will stay with me.

Perception change

At the start of the week, I was thinking ‘it’s only a game’. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to win, i just didn’t grasp how important it is to some people.

I certainly did after just half hour – you only have to see the reaction to a goal. UAL Men’s 3rds gave Goldsmith’s a 7-2 drubbing although the celebrations from players and spectators didn’t change once from the first goal to the seventh. It was at that moment I realised how big Varsity is.

“It certainly got to me and now I realised why everyone was so fired up by the occasion”

If the 3rds victory was an eye-opener, the 2nds’ shoot-out defeat was another. After UAL had taking the lead midway through the second half thanks to a fantastic solo effort from Nan Xie, Goldsmiths scored late on to take the game to a penalties where they prevailed. Cue glum faces of disappointment.

Our game was the last of an intense Varsity programme, and due to events that happened earlier it was the decider as to who won Varsity 2016.

As kick-off got closer, the tension increased. If someone said to me as I left my house that morning I would get nerves prior to kick-off, I wouldn’t have believed them.

But after witnessing a day of ups and downs it certainly got to me and now I realised why everyone was so fired up by the occasion.

Determined

A soggy pitch with one end a mud bath near the penalty area had certainly suffered after three hard-fought matches.

“To come off at full-time with people praising your performance despite our losing effort was a highlight of my university days that I won’t forget”

We found ourselves 2-0 down after 20 minutes, and despite knocking on the door on a number of occasions with Kovi Konowiecki and Will Mowbray strikes, a determined Goldsmiths back line couldn’t be breached, meaning they won the game and more importantly won Varsity 2016.

It surprised me that I was genuinely gutted about losing. However it made me realise I’d embraced Varsity: going to the breakfast, dressing up smart, supporting each side that’s playing, socialising with other members of the university, all the finer details that make it what it is.

On reflection, it made me wonder why I didn’t pursue playing for the university from the start. Yes, I had other commitments, but I don’t think I enjoyed them half as much as I did turning out for UAL. Playing with this group has restored my appetite for the game.

To come off at full-time with people praising your performance despite our losing effort was a highlight of my university days that I won’t forget.

Beaten but not defeated

Being stuck on a winless run that even Aston Villa would look down on, Arts 2nds could be forgiven for wanting the current BUCS 7B season to end tomorrow.

However, despite his side having failed to win a league game in the first half of the campaign, captain Will Harvey remains optimistic they can achieve something between now and the season’s end.

In his first year as skipper, the centre-half has been disappointed by his side’s inability to convert good performances into points, but says he doesn’t believe their position at the foot of the table is a fair reflection of how they’ve performed.

“We’ve been in all of the games right into the final whistle, bar the game away to Essex 6ths. We’re not being outclassed, yet we sit joint bottom,” he told Elephant Sport.

Frustrating

With just six teams competing in their league, the 20-year-old knows just a few wins could propel his team upwards, but he is also very aware of the difficulties facing his side.

“Sometimes you need a bit of a luck and perhaps we haven’t got that in the first half of the season”

Their 6-1 loss to Essex 6ths is probably more of a comment on the fluid movement of players between sides at Essex University, rather than Harvey’s team’s limitations, and he admits the interchanging of players is a frustrating element of the uni’ game.

“A couple of weeks before that 6-1 loss, we beat Essex’s 4ths in the BUCS Cup. Yet when we go away to their ground – against nominally their 6th team – we’re playing against players who clearly play for teams at a higher level,” he said.

“It’s frustrating, but what can you do? We just need to just be the best we can be and hope that’s good enough on the day. Sometimes you need a bit of a luck and perhaps we haven’t got that in the first half of the season.”

Narrow losses

That Cup victory remains the 2nds’ solitary success this season, as in the next round, they suffered a 5-0 thumping at the hands of Kings College 3rds. Back in the league, narrow losses to Anglia Ruskin (5-3) and Essex 5th’s (4-2) came either side of a 2-0 defeat to Tottenham Hotspur Community Foundation.

“We’re always a threat going forward. We just need to stop leaking goals”

Despite three losses in as many weeks, the lifelong Ipswich Town supporter picked out the performance against Spurs as an example of what the team were capable of – on their day.

“Everyone else who’s played Tottenham has been beaten comprehensively. We gave them a really good game and were extremely unlucky. We defended as team and were unlucky going forward,” said the Product Design student.

“We know we can score goals, we’re always a threat going forward. We just need to stop leaking them and defend better, and that’s throughout the team. We did that against Tottenham and we need to reproduce that going into the second half of the season.”

Competitive

A return to form of star striker Emeka Dike, who scored four goals in four games, and Lewis Williamson’s comeback from injury supports Harvey’s claim the team is improving as an attacking force.

Yet while he is adamant his team needs to defend better as a whole, he admits a reduction in personnel from last year has caused selection problems.

“Last year we had seven centre backs for three teams. This year we probably only have three. Players having to play out of position is never something we want to have to do, but when it’s in a position as important as centre-back it just makes our job that little bit harder.”

The problems of attending an Arts university isn’t lost on Harvey, who still wants more players to join the club to create a competitive atmosphere.

Positive

“It’s difficult. We go to an Arts-based University and there aren’t really any sport-based courses, other than journalism. There isn’t a huge amount of people who are interested in football, but if there are any who are yet to join, they should know we always welcome new players.”

“I back us in any game we play and I can’t see why we can’t get three or four wins in the last five games”

“It creates a competitive atmosphere where everyone has to play their best to get a place in the side.”

Looking forward, Harvey believes his team can have a positive second half of campaign leading up to the biggest days of the season; Varsity. All 3 Arts football teams take on the Goldsmith football contingent, towards the end of the season, in the latest instalment of a 7-year-old University rivalry.

“I back us in any game we play and I can’t see why we can’t get three or four wins in the last five games. Obviously we have to be realistic and understand how high the standard of some the teams we’re playing are, but I have confidence.” The imposing centre-half said.

“Good form leading up to Varsity is important. Right now we’ll focus on the league, but it’s always in the back of our minds.”

Viable

With only one Varsity win out of six in the last two years, Harvey is determined to repeat the feat achieved by last years 3rd’s – a team he played in.

“It will be really special to lead the guys out, and to win as a captain on the day would make all the work worth it”

“That was a really great moment, winning Varsity. Unfortunately our other two teams didn’t manage the get the win but it doesn’t take away how special that day was.

“You’ve really got to be up for it. Goldsmith’s have got three good sides, and to win you have to keep a certain level of intensity throughout the game. I’m sure we’ll be up for it as well as they will be.”

It will be the first, and maybe the last, time Harvey will lead out a team for Varsity as he heads into a busy final year at university, meaning captaincy may no longer be a viable option along with his course.

“It will be really special to lead the guys out, and to win as a captain on the day would make all the work worth it. I don’t know if I can carry on as captain next year yet, I’ll have to see, so I want to make sure that if it my last game, I want it to be special.”