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

The Hockey Paper - - FRONT PAGE -

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

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