Ows that! Lily’s tickled pink by big BUCS glory
Katie Falkingham watches Britain’s Olympic champion return to her roots on BUCS finals’ day
LAST summer Lily Owsley opened the scoring in the women’s hockey goldmedal match at Rio 2016; the first act of a final which would end with Great Britain historically sealing gold after a penalty shoot-out.
Fast forward seven months and the 22-year-old Bristolian once again found herself on the scoresheet in a title-deciding match – this time on behalf of the University of Birmingham as part of BUCS Big Wednesday.
Unlike Rio however there was no need for any late penalty shoot-out drama with Owsley’s first-half effort proving to be the only goal of the game, as Birmingham defeated Loughborough University 1-0 in the women’s Championship final to win their fourth consecutive title.
“I’m absolutely buzzing,” she said. “We were very nervous beforehand, we thought we could win, we knew we should win, but coming up against Loughborough is always such a hard game.
“It’s a huge rivalry so it was always going to be a tough battle. I was ready to get a bit of abuse from the sidelines, a Loughborough crowd is always a good crowd and it’s always tough to come against their fans and their uni.”
Taking place at the University of Bath last week, BUCS Big Wednesday saw hundreds of students from 14 sports descend on the West Country for an action-packed day.
The event saw the culmination of this season’s team-sport competitions, with sides from more than 800 leagues having battled it out for a berth in the season finale.
And with the opportunity to watch an Olympic gold medallist in action, it was little surprise that the crowds flocked to watch the women’s final.
Birmingham had edged out Loughborough to finish top of the BUCS Premier North division before beating Edinburgh 3-1 in their semi-final en route to the showdown.
Loughborough, meanwhile, had required penalties to see off Durham in their semi-final although they did hold the most recent edge over their Championship final opponents, having won 1-0 back in February.
But Birmingham are old hands when it comes to the title showpiece with 2017 marking their ninth straight appearance in the final.
And with Owsley among their ranks, the reigning champions were able to edge into a halftime lead as their Olympic champion rose to the occasion with a fierce reverse-stick strike that flew into the goal.
The second-half proved to be another tight affair with both teams pushing each other to the limits, but Birmingham held
firm in what was a repeat scoreline from the 2014/2015 final where the two sides also went head to head.
And while Owsley may have collected an Olympic title, as well as European gold and Commonwealth silver, the forward insisted BUCS success was still something to be savoured.
“I was so happy to get on the scoresheet. I’ve been so nervous about this game for quite a few days, and I had butterflies all morning. I just get so nervous for BUCS,” she added.
“To come and win is great, and I love scoring as well, it’s just amazing. All the girls are absolutely chuffed. No matter what game it is, I want to come out and I want to win.
“Whether it’s the absolute pinnacle of the Olympics, or BUCS, it doesn’t matter, I want to come out and win. For a lot of the girls, BUCS is their Olympic final, so if I can be part of helping them win that game, then I’d love to give that to them.
“I love winning, especially for Birmingham. I love playing for this club.”
It was captain Lucie Daman who duly lifted the trophy for the University of Birmingham, and the final-year sports science student was equally delighted to end her university days on a high.
“This is my third final and third gold with Birmingham, and it means so much to captain such an incredible group of girls,” she said.
“We’re on a big team scholarship at Birmingham and it’s great to be able to give them something back for all the support they give us.
“I’ve absolutely loved BUCS. Wednesdays are always by far the best day of the week, it’s such a great competition and it’s fantastic to win again.”
Elsewhere, in Wednesday’s action-packed day, the University of Exeter’s second team saw off Oxford Brookes’ firsts 2-1 to lift the women’s Trophy.
Striking: Lily Owsley celebrates her goal for Birmingham, left, and scores during the Olympic final PICTURE: Andy Smith and PA Images