By Louis Gibbon
The historic England-Germany footballing rivalry dates as far back as 1930 and has provided memorable moments over the years: the infamous 1966 win, Michael Owen’s hat-trick in Munich, Frank Lampard’s ‘ghost goal’ in England’s 2010 World Cup departure. But last month a new chapter in the England-Germany rivalry was written, this time in the field of women’s lacrosse.
Except this was not England Lacrosse facing the German national side, it was in fact Durham 1s, who set out on the seemingly impossible task of travelling to Hamburg to take on the 2018 World Cup semi-finalists.
How does such a fixture come about, one may ask? It was all thanks to Shelby Davis, a US postgraduate in 2015-16 who now lives in Germany, recently appointed head coach of the national side.
Knowing the high standard of lacrosse in Durham, she got in contact with current captains Freya Savage and Iona Dryden to organise a training match for her national squad. Understandably, they bit her hand off at such a great opportunity, with Savage describing it as “a great opportunity for team bonding and preparation before the BUCS knock out rounds”.
The second question that comes to mind is how Durham would fare against a country with the largest lacrosse league in mainland Europe. The answer was very well.
Durham had a dream start, scoring twice within the first five minutes, and competed well with Germany, who Savage described as “a very physical team, challenging us on our 1vs1 defending”.
This alongside the torrid weather condition posed a problem for Durham, but she added that the “attack dealt very well with the icy conditions, although at times we had a little trouble with shots”. The game was even, but it was Durham who ran out eventual winners, securing a historic 11-8 victory.
The man of the match on the day was Menna Rose, but Dryden believes that with such great squad depth to their team, any player can step up and make the difference. The squad has been bolstered this year through the addition of both postgraduates and freshers, leaving the reigning BUCS champions in an even stronger position than last year.
Dryden heaped praise on the squad: “Often university teams boast a couple of outstanding players for you to watch out for, but for us I really think anyone is a huge threat and that make it really exciting to watch.”
This was not only a great occasion for Durham’s lacrosse side, but also a great learning experience going into some crucial fixtures. Savage summarised the match in Hamburg: “Overall it was a great team effort and an amazing opportunity to play a national side, especially coming away with the win.”
The ‘Beast from the East’ prevented Durham continuing their good form against Bristol in the BUCS quarter-final, but Dryden, who missed the trip to Germany, remains confident of winning the rearranged fixture and maintaining Durham’s unbeaten streak.
Her and four other third years have enjoyed remarkable success since joining in 2015, not losing a game and securing three BUCS Championships. But she stated that they “are still just taking it a game and practice at a time”.
However, she couldn’t help but look ahead to a potential semi- final against their biggest rivals Birmingham. Dryden believes the match “will definitely be tense and a grudge match for them”, stating that “it will feel like a final, with everything to lose, so we will need to come out locked in and ready to be challenged”.
Should they win that, it’ll come down to the Big BUCS Wednesday in Nottingham, where they’ll hope to secure yet another golden medal. Given their track record, you certainly wouldn’t bet against it.
Photograph: Freya Savage