By Ollie Godden
It is often said there are only two certainties in life: death and taxes. However, Loughborough winning the British University and College Sport (BUCS) title each year seems almost as certain, with the Midlands university winning each championship since the turn of the century.
But with Durham claiming the accolade of best team sport university for the fourth year running in 2016-17, will the Palatinates’ fierce rivals be knocked off top spot?
DURFC finished fourth in the inaugural Super Rugby regular season but lost to Bath by a single point in the quarter-final. This summed up what seemed to be an underwhelming season. This time around, the Palatinates will be aiming for progress in the competition, and a semi-final berth may be a reasonable aspiration considering the introduction of sporting institute Hartpury College and historic favourites Loughborough.
In BUCS, the Women’s 1s finished a creditable fourth, although the team will be hoping to build on the five draws procured from their 10 games. A good performance in the BUCS knockout will draw encouragement for the 2017-18 season. With Loughborough and Birmingham proving to be the big guns in the league in previous seasons, Durham will be vying to topple the favourites.
A simple goal for men’s lacrosse lies ahead this year – win the national championship for the ninth time in 10 years. Successive unbeaten seasons leave the club with a reputation that should be upheld. A two-point victory over the England Senior Performance Squad at the end of last year sums up their ability.
The women’s lacrosse squad were equally impressive, with the 1s and 2s both claiming their respective championships. This coming year they will no doubt continue to focus on both elite performance and player development, building on their already impressive five regular teams, an especially admirable showing considering their focus as a performance sport.
Durham’s MCCU suffered a stuttering season on the whole. After holding their own in pre-season against eventual County Championship winners Essex, they struggled to really get going in the national competition. Impinged by captain Joe Cooke’s injuries, they racked up three wins and three losses to finish sixth, 3.9 points off winners Loughborough. The Marylebone-funded club will be hoping for a strong injection of freshers after losing key players including Ed Pollock, who performed brilliantly when called upon for Birmingham Bears’ T20 squad.
Both the men’s and women’s teams in Durham’s formidable tennis programme were victorious, defeating Stirling University in their respective national championships, and hence the accolade of Club of the Year was a relatively straightforward decision. To repeat such exploits will be a hard task but invariably that will be the goal for the Team Durham squad that just seems to be getting stronger year on year.
Last year’s Team of the Year are a club on the rise. Women’s Volleyball 1s won the BUCS competition last year and were also the first team in Durham’s history to win a National Governing Body elite league national championship. The club assert their hope this season is to repeat the feat.
Both the men’s and women’s fencing first teams made it to their national finals, where the men were victorious and the women were narrowly defeated by Edinburgh. This year’s targets will no doubt be similar, but with the women going one step better.
Photograph: Durham University