Having lost some key players from last year to graduation and years abroad, there was some mild concern as to the strength of the Merton-Mansfield hockey team this season; not necessarily in its quality, but rather in its quantity. However, this worry was very much unwarranted, and Freshers’ Week brought with it a large quantity of new players with a wide range of levels. Some new recruits were more experienced, and also rapidly became involved in the Oxford University Hockey Club, while others had never played before and chose to come and try hockey at the weekly training sessions.
These weekly training sessions all began with some drills to improve hockey skills such as shooting, passing the ball, and dribbling. Wherever possible, we tried to include both attackers and defenders in the drills, to replicate match play so that we would be as well prepared as possible for the college league matches. The hourly session was always rounded off with some match play. Having such weekly trainings was a lovely way for the team members to bond and to keep our hockey skills up. Joining the M&Ms as a fresher almost two years ago, I can definitely say that having weekly training made the team feel more accessible and welcoming to join. The sessions also provided a welcome break in a busy Oxford week.
Michaelmas 2019 was a strong term for the Merton-Mansfield hockey team. We retained our position in the first league (out of three) and played six matches against other college teams overall, with five strong wins. This was a great improvement from the 2018-19 season, in which we won only three out of six matches. This brought us neatly to the top of the league rankings, coming joint first with the Balliol-University College team. Our team played well together, and we had strong turnout to matches – the highest being 16 players for an 11-player game! Hilary 2020, where we entered Men’s Cuppers (with a mixed team, however), unfortunately was a weaker season in terms of match outcomes. Due to several storm-ridden weekends impacting turnout, we were knocked out of the tournament after the first round. It is also a shame that Trinity 2020 was a remote term, as we were greatly looking forward to competing in Cuppers.
We also held the annual alumni match against ex-Merton-Mansfield hockey team players in February this year. It was lovely to have some familiar faces on the alumni team. The event is always a highlight of the season and a nice opportunity to meet some alumni and get to know more about what they are doing in their post-University lives. This year, the M&Ms came back victorious with a 4-2 win. At least one of the two alumni goals was scored by Matt Dodd. The match was followed by a social dinner at a local restaurant in Oxford; a lovely way to finish the day. We are looking forward to the next season 2020-21 and hope it will not be cut short! Lastly, we would like to thank Merton College for its continuing support in paying for the hockey pitches.
Tiphaine Wibault (2018)
Merton-Mansfield Hockey Captain 2019-20