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By Andrew Lindsay, Tom Paine, Emily Peach

On Saturday 20th February, both the Men’s and Women’s Blues claimed emphatic 5-0 wins in the 2016 Varsity Squash Matches – the first time this feat has been accomplished in the club’s 91 year history.

The Dark Blues faced the Tabs for their annual showdown at The Royal Automobile Club, often billed as “The Home of Squash.” The club features some of the warmest and most humid courts in the country, adding a further dynamic to the intense setting, with a strong force of rivaling alumni and spectators cheering and hurling abuse from the balconies above three sides of the courts.

Varsity 2016 Back row: Jimmy Cetkovski, Phil Nightingale, Owen Riddall
Middle row: Alex Roberts, Alysia Garmulewicz, Tom Paine, Eleanor Law, Andrew Lindsay, Anna Gibson
Front row: Katie Abell, Kiki Warren, Emily Peach, Samantha Phey

Women’s Blues

Retaining three of five Blues from 2015, the Oxford women hoped to regain the crown from their Tab counterparts. In the first two matches, the reserve Anna Gibson (Exeter) and 5th string Kiki Warren (Balliol) were too strong for both of their opponents. Unfortunately though, they won so convincingly that their matches had finished before a number of spectators had even arrived at the club! It was then the turn of the 3rd and 4th strings, fresher Samantha Phey (Jesus) and the less fresh and rather more experienced Eleanor Law (New) respectively, to take to the courts. Samantha was again far too strong for her opponent, winning 3-0 comfortably, whilst Eleanor’s game proved much closer although the scoreline suggested otherwise (3-0). 2nd string Alysia Garmulewicz (GTC) and 1st string Emily Peach (Magdalen) were both competing in their final Varsity Matches before graduating this year. Alysia lost the first game, but her fitness on the RAC courts paid dividends, wearing out her opponent to win 3-1. Captain Peach faced a gruelling 57-minute 3-1 victory against the Cambridge No.1, including two games going down to the wire (10-9). This win earned an emphatic 5-0 victory for the Dark Blues as well the Women’s Performance of the Match for the Oxford captain.

Men’s Blues

After last year’s narrow 3-2 Varsity victory, the Oxford men were hungry for more success, particularly retaining all 2015 Blues – apart from the No.1, who was fortunately replaced by a player of similar calibre in world-ranked Phil Nightingale (Wycliffe Hall). The Blues entered the match in fine form, dropping only 6 of 200 points in BUCS, and securing promotion to the Premier League the previous Wednesday with a 4-1 win over Sheffield.

Playing in the reserve string, Club President Andrew Lindsay (Jesus) appeared to have drawn the short straw in the opposition. He was facing the Cambridge captain, only not in the top five due to injury, who still proved a confident and skilled opponent, whilst showing no sign of his apparent injury (a classic case of Cambridge fiddling the order, although this time ultimately not in their favour). Despite some solid squash, Andrew fell 0-3, complaining about his own injuries as usual. Meanwhile, Jimmy Cetkovski (New) was up at 5. With some sage advice from his teammates in between games, Jimmy sharpened up to control the game with some quality squash, taking a 3-1 win and justly earning him Man of the Match. He also achieved a ‘bagel’ (where the opponent gets no points) in the third game.

Men’s Captain Tom Paine (Oriel) played at 4. Numerous stoppages from a broken ball, then a lost ball, and his bleeding opponent, ensured the crowd got their money’s worth. Tom took a 3-0 win after over an hour of play, the longest match of the day (although this may have been down to the interruptions).

Returning for his fourth Varsity Match, Owen Riddall (Brasenose) was tasked with putting the tie beyond Cambridge’s reach at number 3. Despite a questionable choice of pre-match lunch, Owen seemed fuelled up and energetic enough to wear down his opponent over a brutal first 4 games, before crushing the exhausted Tab in a comfortable fifth. His 3-2 win sealed the Oxford victory and ensured the trophy would return home with the Dark Blues.

Alex Roberts (Merton) played in the 2nd string after showing solid and substantial improvement yet another season. It was fitting to see him take a commanding and quick 3-0 win over his light blue counterpart. Finally, the team’s newest member Phil Nightingale – an undergraduate fresher at 33 – played at number 1. Trash talking from Phil’s opponent on OUSRC’s Facebook page led to calls from our esteemed President to “make this boy cry”. The team were very disappointed with our 6’ 5” pro, who failed to do this. However, he did take a crushing 3-0 victory, including a ‘bagel’ in the 2nd game, and limiting his opponent to a handful of points. This meant that for the first time in Varsity history, a side claimed a clean sweep of Varsity victories (10-0).
Many thanks from the club go to all players, families, alumni and supporters who made it such a special experience and a wonderful finish to one of the most successful seasons in the club’s near history. To sum up with a quote from Alex Roberts, “It’s fair to say some Tabs got shoe-ed.”

Men’s: Oxford 5-0 Cambridge
1. Phil Nightingale beat Josh Carter 9-1, 9-0, 9-4
2. Alex Roberts beat James Liley 9-5, 9-6, 9-1
3. Owen Riddall beat Luis North 9-1, 7-9, 9-1, 5-9, 9-5
4. Tom Paine beat Jamie Giddins 9-6, 10-8, 9-6
5. Jimmy Cetkovski beat Riki Houlden 3-9, 9-4, 9-5, 9-0

Women’s: Oxford 5-0 Cambridge
1. Emily Peach beat Rina Einy-Margulies 9-1, 10-9, 6-9, 10-9
2. Alysia Garmulewicz beat Laura Mullarkey 5-9, 9-1, 9-5, 9-3
3. Samantha Phey beat Jennifer Martin 9-0, 9-2, 9-7
4. Eleanor Law beat Katie Hanlon 9-4, 9-6, 9-0
5. Kiki Warren beat Miranda Nicholson 9-1, 9-0, 9-2