Saturday was the most anticipated day of the underwater hockey calendar: the national tournament. Hosted by a different university each year and run with the assistance of our governing body (the British Octopush Association), the student nationals see the best underwater hockey teams from around the country battle head to head to secure the title of national champions. With Plymouth A team wearing t-shirts boasting of their six consecutive wins, the pressure was on.
As a fast growing sport here at Imperial, our team was novice heavy. This meant the tournament saw several debutants during official matches, which vary from games we play during training with three referees for every game: two water refs and one land ref, watching from above the water. Every player’s moves are under scrutiny, trying to withhold the non-contact aspects of play, although after a fin or two to the face you will soon realise this is not a sport for the delicate. Despite the refs communicating by signs indicating rules akin to football, even including the off-side rule, the pool was anything but quiet. As a 50 metre competition pool it was split into four areas: three games were played simultaneously, each with their own set of splashes and cheers over goals, and the warm-up area had its own intense atmosphere as captains tried to coach their last few tactics between games. This allowed for just under 100 games to be played throughout the day, with our team competing in an exhausting ten of them.
As none of us had ever competed at this level before, we started with low expectations. We were very much there to learn from the other teams and soak up some experience, but were pleased to hold up a fair game against several teams. Playing against some GB players, every single goal was a great achievement. Drawing in our final game, we finished the tournament in high-spirits, with high hopes for next year as we continue to improve, having come on leaps and bounds since our first tournament last term and continuously recruiting new players to our Thursday evening training sessions at ETHOS (8pm-10pm).
Last but not least, we were rewarded with an after-party in the evening, an opportunity to let our hair down out of our ridiculous-looking hats and get to know the other teams. We quickly became close to Oxford, who we had played a friendly against only a few days before. Smashing this friendly had really boosted our team morale.