On the weekend of the 18th and 19th of March, 67 teams gathered in Gillingham for a two-day tournament to decide Britain’s best University Handball teams. Warwick’s Men’s and Women’s first teams both won their qualifiers, and contended for the optimum ‘Cup’ trophy. After arriving on Friday and after a (very) early start, the group phase on Saturday determined the rankings for the KO round on Sunday. Based on superb results in our regular leagues during the year, and led by club President Dani Szűcs and Chairman Etienne Sompairac, both boys and girls were psyched to show their A-game.
Our Women’s team – competing with only the minimum number of players – drew 6:6 against Cambridge, after powerful shots from Rebecca Knoblauch were cancelled out by a last-second Cambridge equaliser. Against Nottingham, the girls couldn’t find their flow and fought without success despite Elina Alambriti’s impressive attempts to break through.
The Men’s first opponent was Cambridge, too. Their two-meter (or 6.5ft!) goalie challenged our wing players Dani Szűcs, Yosi Kwaw and Tim Wermter. Just as we got the hang of the game, the reduced 15 minutes play time (regular Handball match: 60 minutes) were over and Warwick started the tournament with a 7:8 defeat. We won our second match against Nottingham Trent 8:4, owing to good plays announced by centre player Dragos Gal. But the physically unobtrusive players from Cranfield proved once more that looks don’t matter in Handball, and brought about a 7:6 defeat. The resulting 3rd place in our group was disappointing.
On Sunday, our Women’s squad put up an impressive come-back from 6:1 to 7:7 against Kent, carried by Leonie Huspenina’s dynamic playstyle as well as Moira Yoka and Christina Ramming’s boldness. Even Anesa Maxwell, her first time playing on the field, held her position with bravery. Unfortunately, we lost the following penalty shootout despite the amazing performance of Kirsten Berggren.
It was time for Warwick Men’s to fight back, though they faced fierce competition! First up: Durham, the team responsible for our highest defeat of the season. The homework issued by club old-hand Jason Lea to reflect on our mistakes from Saturday, was fruitful and resulted in a dominant 12:6 victory. Great interplay of our backs with the pivot Cameron Nichol, strong defending by Hugo Martino, and effective man-to-man marking by Dani Szűcs against Durham’s key player produced the entry into the quarter finals.
We won that match against Imperial College London thanks to our goal keeper Etienne Sompairac, who saved fast breaks and penalties alike
We won that match against Imperial College London thanks to our goal keeper Etienne Sompairac, who saved fast breaks and penalties alike. The euphoria about the unexpected entrance into the semi-finals was overshadowed by the strong opponent to play – Manchester – and a knee injury by key right-back Barnabás Végh. But with his fighter-mentality and a lot of adrenaline, he ignored the pain, scoring together with left-back Carsten Schröder more than half of our 12 goals and only allowing Manchester to score 8. Defence machine Jan Becker provided the badly needed backing. By now, most of us were suffering from aches and pains, and the intensity of the matches began to show – but this was nothing compared to the euphoria of making it past so many strong teams, to the final!
The support, led by our women’s squad and our friends at Lincoln University, was incredible – with ‘Warwick’s on Fire’ taking in choirs from several institutions
Some 300 spectators came to witness the Men’s final match against typically sporting-strong Loughborough University. The support, led by our women’s squad and our friends at Lincoln University, was incredible – with ‘Warwick’s on Fire’ taking in choirs from several institutions. On the field, we gave everything we had left after six tough matches, staying head-to-head with the more fancied opposition. We focused on our strengths – teamwork, tactics, and a strong defence – and allowed the wings Dani Szűcs and Tim Wermter to score two goals each. Unfortunately, Loughborough increased their chances by playing for time, forcing the crowd to boo and their coach to apologise after the game. Our physical exhaustion allowed fast breaks that left our outstanding keeper Etienne without a chance. Being the overall fitter team, Loughborough secured a 10:8 victory.
We as #teamWarwick proudly went home with our heads up, Silver around our necks, the tournament’s MVP Carsten Schröder amongst us and the best result in club history. The women’s team reached top 16 in the country when we didn’t have a team last year, so great stuff all round!
Thanks to everyone for giving their time, tears and blood. We will be back!