The nature of University lacrosse means there will be a huge amount of change in the off season, and as teams begin to get together again they will be striving to start the season as a team, and not a group of individuals.
In the North Durham’s overseas recruitment seems to have slowed somewhat, with only eight included in this years roster; there will be space for at least two domestic products. Early indications in the Southern top flight point to a strong year for Oxford, a talented outfit who have picked up a number of players in the summer who could help take them to the late stages of the Championship.
Some teams to watch this year:
North: Leeds Beckett Carnegie, Nottingham, Sheffield Hallam
Although Durham is stepping down their overseas recruitment, it seems unlikely that anything will change at the top of the table.
Sheffield Hallam arrive back in the Northern Premiership just in time to see their stand out defence graduate, leaving a new generation of players to contend with the top flight. Hallam has been working on a replacement goalie for Tim Blower (Who travelled to Denver with the national team in the summer) for some time; whoever they have lined up will get their chance this season. Whether they win games or not Hallam should be a great team for the neutral, combining a high powered attacking unit with a huge change in defensive personnel.
Formerly Leeds Met, now Leeds Beckett Carnegie will be fighting it out at the top of the table with the big teams. The team have a new coach who is looking to make some changes tactically, gearing the team up to play to their strengths, and although they have lost a strong player in Ryan Sweetman they have recruited well. The Yorkshire side have been one of the top teams on the BUCS scene for a while, and will be looking to challenge Durham if they can.
Nottingham are one of many teams benefiting from the Lacrosse the Pond program, bringing in some talented midfielders. The influx of experienced Master’s degree students makes the Northern league more difficult to predict, however Nottingham’s stand-out face off midfielder Josh Dodd sees similarities in the coming season to years gone by, saying “Manchester and Loughborough have always been teams we have had close games against and I don’t expect that to be any different.”
Manchester has a group of American students driving the standard of their first team up. It seems that the inclusion of a couple of these more experienced players in each squad is pushing the quality of University lacrosse higher all across the top Northern division.
South: Oxford, Bristol, Exeter
The Southern league tends to be more interesting than the Northern one, seeing a closely fought battle for the top spot every season. Three teams that have been there or there about in seasons gone by are Oxford, Bristol and Exeter.
Exeter have enjoyed the benefits of the Lacrosse the Pond program for a couple of years now and will be looking to cash in on the talent pathway developed by their coaches; seeing beginner players excel quickly to become legitimate threats in the BUCS leagues. Their University also boasts the most registered members in the country (over 300) demonstrating real investment in development and putting them right at the top of the list for the season to come.
Oxford once again has a good influx of players with experience, including Gabe Barrie of Spencer who looks tipped for success at the face off ‘x’ this season. As ever Oxford will have to find a way to be successful despite one of the most rigorous academic regimes in the country. In recent years there can be no doubt they’ve found that balance nicely and this season seems unlikely to be different.
Bristol’s relationship with the ‘Bombers’ club team makes them a danger every season. Although they may struggle to start the season with the same gusto as Exeter or Bristol, they will undoubtedly benefit from the additional training and game time provided by the club side. With a faultless attitude and a quarter-final run last season Bristol are not to be underestimated in the southern BUCS ranks.
Both leagues look set to change considerably this season. Durham should be a little closer to the rest of the pack, and the changes in the Southern league could see a new fore-runner emerge. The knock out stages will provide some good results, particularly when Oxford and Exeter get their chance to take on some of the Northern clubs.
University lacrosse is continuing to boom across the country, it shouldn’t be too long before the standard in the men’s side begins to rival some of the lower senior ranks. Until then it seems the side with the most experience will come out on top.
Written by: Tom Roche
BUCS Table/Fixtures: LINK