Epigram's five teams to watch for the new season

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by Lexi Bothamley-Dakin, Second Year History

Over the last few weeks, we have seen a return to pre-season for many of the University’s sports teams. After a long hiatus over the summer months it has been great to see the sides return to some form of normality.

The start of pre-season also gives us a chance to highlight which teams we should keep an eye on for any potential success. Epigram has been in contact with a range  of societies to gauge what this first season will look like in the age of COVID-19, and what will constitute success for these teams. .

One of the clubs to look out for this year is the men’s Hockey team. With both the men’s and women’s teams returning to pre-season on the 7th of September, they have been training hard over the last few weeks.

This pre-season has seen a fantastic turnout, with over 50 of the men coming down to Bristol to build up their fitness after what has been a long and potentially lethargic lockdown.

University of Bristol Hockey Club

With BUCS competition not returning until January  4th the first four teams have been entered into Saturday League Competitions. Similarly, the 5th and 6thteams have organised local friendlies against the University of the West of England.

The 1st team has already played four pre-season games, beating Bath Buccaneers, Cheltenham Hockey Club, and earning an impressive 2-1 win against Exeter University. Head Coach, Ben Dudley has stated, “We have a squad full of quality and depth and will be looking to challenge at the top of England Hockey’s West Conference.”

The University Boat Club has also taken to the water again with a gruelling five-week pre-season. This time has been well spent clocking up many miles on the water, and strength training in the gym.

Though it is unlikely that there will be many races this side of Christmas, the early start has still been a great opportunity to improve technique and welcome some new members into the club. Some members to watch out for are brothers Robert and John Davies, and Robbie Prosser who are preparing to trial for Great Britain this year.

The process will look very different this year, for obvious reasons, and there will be no on the water trials. Instead they will be submitting erg scores consisting of a 2k, 5k and a 30-minute test. With all three of the trialists breaking their 2k personal bests this summer, they stand in good stead to make the squad.

Back on dry land, the University Rugby club has seen a huge change in the way they can train due to restrictions from COVID-19. Fortunately, however, they are still having a successful pre-season.

With a limited scope in which to practice tackling, most of the focus has been on skills such as hand-eye coordination and evasion. However, all this will surely benefit them in the new season and for the rest of the year as they push to reach BUCS Superleague.

Badminton will also suffer a later start to the season due to COVID-19 restrictions However, they will be playing in the Great Western 4, a competition consisting of tournament days against Bath, Cardiff, and Exeter Universities.

Both the men’s and women’s 1st teams are ones to watch out for, with an aim to finish in the top half of the Southern Premiership next season. The club has also focussed its efforts on developing stronger relationships with its alumni in order to field more competitive play.

Netball, like Rugby, have also seen a change in the way they can compete. An introduction of 4ft marking instead of one on one, and the removal of toss ups will be a complete change for the players.

Like all other sports, the cancellation of BUCS has completely altered the competitive side to the game. Epigram spoke to first team Captain, Joanna Leslie. She stated that, “Though Covid has brought a huge change to the way we can compete, at least we will have plenty of time to improve our skills for the new season in January.”

A ‘new normal’ for university sport

This year will certainly bring unprecedented challenges for all University sports teams. It is important to remember that Coronavirus has not brought an end to competition, but merely changed it.

Lockdown sports series: Korfball

In this article alone there are certainly many teams and individuals to watch out for without even mentioning a host of others who are shooting for the stars. With any luck, the teams can make the most of a bad situation.

Featured image: Unversity of Bristol Hockey Club

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