Last Sunday, Imperial Wolverines ventured one last time out of the comforts of London into the wilderness of the north for the final university dodgeball fixture of the year: the University Championship. Teams from far and wide dropped their revision books and grabbed their balls to take part at the event at St George’s Park, Burton-on-Trent.
Imperial assembled two teams of battle-hardened Wolverines who were willing to sacrifice their body, soul, and a good night’s sleep for victory. The assembly point for our warriors before their trek north was outside Beit Hall at 6am; however, it seemed one of our freshers who actually lives in Beit Hall found the trip downstairs most challenging. Sleeping through an alarm clock could be a forgivable offence, if it wasn’t already the umpteenth time it has happened this year alone.
Both teams found themselves in competitive groups where it was all to play for. We arrived at the venue at 9.51am, with the 1s due to play their first game against Birmingham 2s at 10.00am. The odds were unfortunately stacked against our brave heroes: Leo Haigh had a groin injury from the day before, the courts were different to what we usually play on, three players were recovering from questionable minibus driving from Lochlann Allison forcing some out of their seats, useless line referees and the ghastly mental image of the main ref in short shorts, which left nought to the imagination and would put even the best professional athletes off their game. The game ended in a 3-11 loss. The lack of a warmup proved costly as nervous errors and miscommunication blighted our play style. We failed on so many of the basics and looked far from the divisional league winning team we had been two months ago: highlights included not making a catch in the entire game, foot faults on lines, and failure to capitalise on four ball situations.
The next game against Lincoln started much the same as we struggled to find our mojo. Three fantastic catches in a single game by our Club Captain George Fish before the half changed the momentum of the match and gave us the foothold to get into our groove before going on to control and dominate with a final score 12-4. The next game was a local derby against UEA, a rival in our divisional league. The first half was dominated by us, thanks to our initial ball advantage earned by Captain Filip Sebest, which ended 6-2 in our favour, only losing a silly 30 second set just before the half. However, the handicap of having the same useless line refs as our first game would strike again. A questionable catch followed by the failure to acknowledge an obvious hit would prove pivotal in the match. To highlight their incompetence: one of the referees blatantly said the questionable catch wasn’t a catch and another, when asked if he were a referee, said ‘no, I’m just standing here.’ The game ended a draw 7-7 and regardless of our wingers’ – Nithin Thoppuram and Nifemi Adejumobi – fantastic play, as well as George’s ‘tactical’ floor crawling against Lancaster in the final game ending 12-4, the fate of the first game consigned us to third place in our group.
Wolverines 2s had a particularly challenging group. The first half ended a miserable 1-7, although pin point single throwing from James Rice-Mellor narrowed the margins in the second half. In the final set, Yan Jin Ho found herself alone on the court. However, a lionhearted catch proved not enough to win the set and we lost 7-9 in the end. Coventry were arguably the easiest side our 2s were going to meet this day as the remaining teams – Winchester 1s, Birmingham 3s and Hertfordshire As, – are all top flight teams.
Winchester lived up to their nickname ‘Wincheating’ with an exceptional display of poor sportsmanship and dishonesty as expected. Our brave Wolverines did manage to win a game after a pivotal catch from retiring Wolverine Ciaran Coneelly and draw a game after James hit out two England nationals but ultimately lost 3-17. It was much the same in the third game against Birmingham 3s, however the scoreline wasn’t the true tale of the match. The 2s Captain Philip Zeeuw valiantly lead from the front but unfortunately found his team being eventually overcame in each game, losing 2-12. The final game of the day was another local derby against a divisional rival, Hertfordshire As. Knowing our play style well, they focussed early on hitting out our strong arm throwers on the wings usually leaving Yan Jin or Lalita Radtanajiravong to the end. These two phenomenal catchers unfortunately struggled to fish a catch from multiple ball attacks and the game finished in a 0 – 20 loss.
Although a disappointing day for all concerned, Aagu Kangatharan’s harmonica playing soothed and consoled our saddened hearts. The club’s spirit proved unaltered, however, on the minibus ride home as we had a celebratory KFC meal and performed a Katy Perry tribute rendition much to the displeasure of other motorists.
The club sadly has to say goodbye to a few retiring members. Club Captain George Fish, 1st Team Captain Filip Sebest, Steve Ndumbe and Ciaran Coneelly; we wish you all the best in the future. Throw together Wolverines, dodge alone.