The University of Sheffield Korfball 1s are celebrating after their gold medal triumph at the BUCS National Championships.
The team progressed through the preliminary and regional rounds to qualify for the event which took place on the weekend of 2-3 March, and represents the pinnacle of korfball in university sport.
Club captain George Kite explained how it came about due to years of improvement.
“It was a long journey. Most of us have played for three or four years, and about three-quarters of the team are graduating this year, so it was nice. I’ve been here for four years and in my first year we didn’t even qualify for the top tier, the next year I think we came 12th, then we came sixth and now we’ve come first so it’s been a real nice progression and a nice way to round off uni for everyone.”
That sentiment was echoed by first team captain Jordan Singh.
“Last season we had a fantastic season. As a team we play in an adult league on the weekend and play in BUCS as well. At the end of last year we did so well, we went on a winning streak of ten games in the league, at BUCS we qualified as third seed for the Nationals but at the National Championships didn’t do as well as we perhaps wanted. We hoped for the medals but ended up coming sixth.
“At the beginning of this year because we kept the majority of our team from last year, we just got better and better. The commitment of our team was fantastic, and once we started winning games in the league quite comfortably and qualified as top seed for the Nationals, we weren’t scared to be at the Nationals with all the fans watching.”
The Black and Golds edged a close encounter with the University of Bedfordshire 11-10 before resounding wins against Manchester, Cardiff, Southampton and Kent universities saw them progress to the final.
Singh said that the resilience shown in the first game was crucial to their eventual success.
“Bedford played completely differently to the rest of the teams there, they were a case of a two or three man team and were very physical, and we hadn’t quite come up against a team like that before. For us it was very close and it was a case of holding our resilience and just being sensible with how we were playing.
“We’d never played against them before, and once we got through that first barrier everyone was buzzing to have won our first game of the day and we just wanted to progress from there. From then everyone played with confidence and their head as much as their heart, and by the end of the day we were actually the top goalscorers in the whole competition and we’d conceded the fewest goals as well, so it was massive for us to get over that first bump and first hurdle.”
The final saw Uni of eclipse the hosts University of East Anglia 15-12. It was laid bare how huge an accomplishment this was.
“It was in their own backyard, they had all home luxuries that you would get if you were a home team,” said Singh. “This happens every year and we were determined to beat UEA, and I want to thank some of our team’s parents who were there cheering us on and some of the other unis, in particular Hallam, Nottingham and Leeds who stayed to the end to support us, and it almost felt as much our home game as it did theirs. There were lots of people cheering us one because they wanted us to overthrow the National champions for the last two years, and everyone loves an underdog.”
Kite added: “UEA are kind of like the Loughborough of korfball, people actually go to university at UEA to play korfball. They’re always in the top three, they always medal, they’ve got fantastic coaching down there and five sports halls back-to-back.
“We don’t even have Goodwin most of the time, we have to go elsewhere and we’re mainly coached in house. We get a few external people in but mainly it’s done by ourselves, so it does make it more rewarding.”
It was clear that this was very much a team effort, with Singh putting emphasis on the work of everyone within the group.
“It was a proper team effort, we weren’t thanking individuals for getting us there. Everyone in the whole team did fantastically and we were playing for each other.
“To be the best team in the country we weren’t reliant on anyone in particular, it was a case of everyone being in it for each other. I think a real testament to that is that they do a male MVP, a female MVP, and top goalscorers. We didn’t win any of those awards in terms of individual accolades, but as a team we won the best prize going.
Coming up around the corner for the team is Varsity 2019, with the korfball fixtures taking place on the final day at EIS Sheffield. The mood in the camp is understandably upbeat, as was reiterated by Kite.
“I’m confident. We’re hoping to go for a 3-0 whitewash, and the 4s are in Development Varsity as well next weekend so that will be good for the future as well and hopefully we can get another win there. It’s happened multiple times where one of the korfball teams has won the pivotal point, so that’s always nice.
“Since last weekend we’re shifting our focus now. The second and third teams have got their BUCS coming up in a couple of weeks so we’re all backing them as a club hoping they can push for a medal as well. At Varsity we’re all looking to support each other and go for a whitewash. The third point only came in about three years ago, so we’ve definitely never won 3-0, and that would be a really great way to round off the year.”
Singh was delighted with the support shown for the team by their Hallam counterparts at the National Championships, but says that the team will be going all out for victory.
“Hallam did fantastically supporting us last weekend, and I’ll show a lot of respect for that. But when Varsity comes along, we leave that all to the side and once we step on the court we’ll be ready.”
The pair both agreed that the club is an open and welcoming one, and encouraged people to get involved for next year.
Kite said: “It’s one of those things where you can pick it up really easily, and a lot of other sports to get in a BUCS team you will have had to play before just because of the shear competition that you’re going to get, so I think that’s one of the main selling points, as well as the fact it’s completely equal [as a mixed gender sport].
“Come along at the start of next year. We like to give people about three, four or five free taster sessions before they even have to think about paying membership because they need to get used to the sport as well as the club.
“It’s really friendly, and you can take it as seriously as you want to or not seriously at all. Some people in the club just like the socials and that’s great. Some people like the relaxed playing, some people like to take it more seriously, but I truly believe there is a place for everyone.”