As the second half of Nottingham Varsity 2017 gets underway, all eyes turn towards the eagerly anticipated basketball game that will take place on Tuesday 9th May. This is one of the showpiece events of any Notts Varsity series, on a par with the ice hockey for the very scale and grandeur of occasion, not least because it too takes place in Motorpoint Arena. At the end of the Spring term, we sat down with Adam Pratchett and Ellena Bishop to discuss how both the men’s and women’s teams have been getting on this year in BUCS and in the build up to the Varsity clash.

BUCS form

It’s been a mixed season for the men’s first team, with five wins and five defeats giving them a 50% win record and providing little encouragement going into the Varsity fixture.

‘Whilst that’s true, there’s two things that those statistics don’t show’, commented Adam on the matter. ‘First, all those games have been against really high quality opposition in Division One and second, all five of those defeats were really closely fought contests and we lost each one narrowly. The team isn’t really too concerned about that win ratio to be honest, as we’ve got a really good plan and set up and we aim to play fully to our strengths and we’re confident if we do so everything will come good for us on the night.’

In contrast, the women’s team have had a tremendous campaign in this season’s BUCS, having topped their league confidently, a hopeful indication for this year’s match.

‘We’re in a really strong position at the moment’, Ellena said, reflecting on the results of the season. ‘We lost our very first game of the season which was against Trent so the team is definitely out for revenge because of that but since then we have won every game. We beat Trent the second time we’ve faced them this season so we do feel that we have the upper hand going into Varsity.’

Eyeing up the opposition

Looking over at Trent’s teams ahead of this year’s clash at the Motorpoint, Trent’s women’s have had an impressive campaign of their own. Aside from being the only team to beat the UoN women’s first team in the league, Trent’s women came in second place in the league behind the Green and Gold ladies. It looks then that Trent have strengthened from previous years, having lost both the 2016 and 2015 women’s matches.

‘We don’t want to get complacent though’, said Ellena. ‘Trent have shown this season that they can beat us and the team they currently have is the strongest one they’ve had in years so this year will be the closest game for some time.’

Trent’s men have also gone through a very strong campaign this season, losing only a single game and are the defending champions, having reversed their defeat in 2015 by narrowly beating the Green and Gold men’s in 2016.

‘Trent certainly had a very strong season and have just been promoted from Division Two which is well deserved with their record’, commented Adam. ‘Regarding Varsity, it’s going to be a close game again. Last year was a real nail-bitter and everyone now knows the great spectacle we can put on so it will be great match and occasion no matter what.’

Pivotal moment of Varsity

The basketball games come after the Easter break, with the scores after the first half giving the University of Nottingham a narrow lead with the scores at 5-4. The delay though since the end of the basketball season and the Varsity games presented both benefits and problems. The break does allow players to rest and recover after an intensive season in BUCS and the cup, yet teams can lose both their momentum and training routines.

Nodding in agreement, Adam said ‘it certainly is a real double-edged sword and could seriously have affected us. For the men’s we have a Varsity training camp in the first week of Easter and penultimate week of the holidays. We feel that’s our best balance as we get time to rest and there isn’t too much of a gap between us training. Trent of course are in the same situation so we can only now wait and see.’

Holding a slightly different view, Ellena commented, ‘The break actually really helps us as we have a busy time before Easter with lots of away games so we will appreciate the Easter rest. That said, we are of course going to be keeping our training up.’

After a closely fought first half to Varsity, the competition is finely balanced and every point now more important than ever. With the Green and Gold having had their expected lead cut back by strong performances from Trent, the season now moves into fixtures in which Trent are traditionally stronger. As a result, the points on offer in the basketball have become even more important as they could offer the University of Nottingham the breathing space they may require and be thankful for later on in the season, or tie the series up and swing the competition in Trent’s favour. With the pressure and importance of the games mounting both Adam and Ellena knew the importance their points could have on the series.

‘It will be a big moment in the series we know but I’m still confident that if we stick to our game plan then it’s going to be our points,’ said Ellena, keen for the women to show the quality they did earlier on in the year.

‘There is added pressure and [it] gets us all wanting to play harder in order to see the Uni of push home our advantage and, on top of the disappointment we felt last year, we want to win this more than anything,’ said Adam, showing cautious optimism for the games on Tuesday.

As both sides of Nottingham gear up for the second and critical week of the 2017 Notts Varsity series, the points on offer in the basketball look to be amongst the hardest to call. What we can predict however is a spectacular showdown at the Motorpoint, where the outcome of the Varsity  series may even be decided.

Jeremy Dunn

Follow @ImpactVarsity17 on Twitter or like the Impact Sport Facebook page for updates, previews and match reports throughout the Varsity Series.

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