The Uni Champs differs from the regular league season, as 60 minute games are shortened to 15 minutes in the group stages and 20 in the knockouts, with no halftime or timeouts to allow for the large number of games played over the weekend.
Much was expected of the Men’s 1st team – they entered the competition favourites for the Plate after a strong showing in the preceding rounds, narrowly missing out on Cup qualification. However, the squad were without any recognised line players, owing to injury and other commitments, so captain Tej Chadeesingh filled in after playing the whole season as a back. The squad started slowly on the Saturday, with emphatic but routine victories over Birmingham 3rds (8-1) and Oxford 1sts (10-3). They completed the group stages by beating Nottingham 2nds (9-2) and impressively Bangor 1sts (10-5). Having won their group, they received a bye to the quarter finals, where they beat Liverpool 14-4. Loughborough 2nds were their semi final opponents, but were assuredly dealt with 10-2. The final itself was a naturally tense affair, but the Lions grew into the game and triumphed 8-4 to win the club’s first ever piece of silverware!
There were outstanding performances from Henry Kennard and Kenny (Chi Man Chen) in their first year at Birmingham but with vast handball experience. They were complimented by club veterans Matt O’Kelly, Luke Bosher, Kieran Heeley and Tej Chadeesingh who have come a long way from handball beginners 3 years ago. Goalkeeper Miguel Neto made some unbelievable saves and star winger Ed Ferreira duly delivered his usual haul of goals. German students Sören Küllmer and Simon Key also added great quality to the roster.
The Women’s 1sts travelled with a mixed squad of experienced handballers and beginners, and were faced with the tough task of competing in the Cup. They started well with a quality 10-6 win over UCL, before going down 12-10 against Leeds Beckett. They finished off the groups by beating Imperial 6-3, setting up a difficult knockout match against Glasgow. The match finished 5-5, with goalkeeper Kat Wilson making two saves in the shootout to ensure progression. They then faced off and lost against eventual finalists AECC 7-3. The team performed very well, with Molly Clark and Alina Schneider in their first year particularly impressing, alongside stalwarts Georgia Wells and Monja Stahlberger.
“I couldn’t have asked any more of players, each of them left 110% effort on the court like I asked them to. These set of players are a coach’s dream.”
Sha Michael, Men’s/Women’s 1sts coach
The Men’s 2nds exceeded expectations as they qualified for the knockout stages of the Plate, beating Leeds Beckett and Chichester in the groups, setting up a tricky Sunday knockout game against Bangor. They unfortunately lost 8-4 in a tense match with some questionable officiating. Captain Dan Martin lead the team well, with goalkeeper Adam Meylan-Stevenson also performing deftly in his first year of handball.
Goalkeeper Ryan Boughton (with a broken hand) and backs Jake Kent and Dean Cummings were the stars of the all-beginner 3rds. They were unable to pick up a win but played admirably throughout, and have improved markedly since the beginning of the season. Several members of this team look to have the makings of accomplished handballers and may well be in the 2nds next year.
Another team entirely made up of beginners, the women’s 2nds played with great commitment and were eliminated after an 8-8 draw to Bangor in the knockouts after spectacularly beating Heriot Watt 6-0 on Saturday in their group. Lella Ralph scored an impressive number of goals, and goalkeeper Jemilla Colyer also made some top saves.
Overall, it was an exceptional weekend for the Handball Club, with all 5 teams impressing and forging a great team spirit with their support for each other. They were high quality performances from experienced hands and rookies alike, and all members of the club can be proud. For more information about the Handball Club and their results, head over to their Facebook page!