This past weekend I participated in one of the oldest and most venerated Oxford sporting traditions: the Varsity Match. For every university sports team, the biggest match of the season is the one against Cambridge, usually held in Hilary Term. This intense sporting rivalry extends to every sport, and the highest team one can be on as a player is the Varsity Squad, which plays against Cambridge in their respective sport. If you play in the match against Cambridge, for most sports, you become eligible to receive a “Blue,” the highest sporting honor at Oxford that comes with a ceremony and smart blazer. There is a handful of traditions that go along with this game, one being “Shoe the tabs.” No one really knows why, but the Oxford slogan for beating Cambridge is, “shoeing the tabs,” so chants of “Shoe!” and “Shoe the tabs!” can be heard from among the crowd and players.
This year I have been a part of the Oxford University Mixed Lacrosse team, which is essentially women’s lacrosse played with half women, half men. Being a part of this team has truly been one of my most rewarding experiences at Oxford. There is no better way to feel welcomed into a community and make new friends than being on a team, and I hadn’t realized how much I missed that while at Georgetown. Although we have been training for the last two terms, the big game against Cambridge was last Saturday and the pinnacle moment of our season. Because I am not a fully matriculated student, I was not allowed to play in the Varsity match and be eligible for a Blue, but I became “Coach Cienkus,” and still was incorporated into the fun.
In the end, our team lost the match to Cambridge. However, it was still “good fun” filled with watching other team’s matches at the pitches, eating brownies and sausages (two of British tailgating food), going to a black tie dinner at Robinson College, and meeting my teammates friends and families who came up from London and the surrounding areas to watch. I will have much more time on my hands now that lacrosse is over, but I am so lucky to have experienced an event that few Oxford or Cambridge students even get to! I only have one more week of Hilary term, and then I will be on six weeks of break, traveling to Iceland, Ireland, Sweden, and home to Chicago.