DSU's netballers are confident of shedding their underdog tags and causing their opposite numbers in the University of Leicester ranks an upset in their series of Varsity games this Sunday.
Two of DMU’s three BUCS sides ply their trade in a lower division than their UoL counterparts, with only the club’s second-strings competing at the same level.
However, club chair Charlotte Turner said that this year, with the club’s strength across all teams, she is confident of surprising their neighbours. And the club is relishing the chance of doing so.
Charlotte explained: “We’re definitely looking forward to it. Every year we seem to be the underdogs, and that’s something that we just have to deal with, but we’ve got some really strong teams this year.
“We’ve got really good squads, especially our centre-courters, so strong that I think 'why wouldn’t we be able to win?' The girls are putting in the effort and we’ve got the quality of players so there’s no reason why we can’t get the wins.
“It’s really exciting.”
For the first time in the Varsity fixtures between the clubs, there will be five matches, giving the development sides from each university the chance to test their mettle in the more pressurised environment that comes with the event.
With making the trip across town it represents even more of a challenge for the club - something that is not lost on Charlotte.She conceded that surrendering home advantage can play a part in proceedings.
She said: “A hundred per cent there is a home advantage. [Playing at home] you know the court, you play on the court, you know the posts, the changing rooms, everything.
“The facilities there aren’t really as good as ours so it’s going to be a tight squeeze and it limits the amount of supporters we can have down as well.”
Sarah Ward, vice chair, added: “Even the flooring’s different. We’ve got a bounce floor; it’s got some spring in, whereas I don’t think theirs does, so everything’s completely different.”
The club’s third-team are still vying for the league title, while the firsts and seconds are sitting in mid-table positions. Having both fallen to several narrow defeats, the table doesn’t represent a true picture of how the sides have performed this year.
Sarah said: “With the first-team they’ve had losses where they’ve lost by one point or two points so it’s been close, and obviously doesn’t reflect in where they are in the league.”
In the run-up to Varsity, the club has stepped up training and fitness, working on their weaknesses in specialised sessions with their coach Anne Melling.
Sarah, who studies Accounting and Business management, said: “Because she watches our games, usually on the Thursday training might adapted to how she’s seen us play and help us improve.”
Proof that the hard work is paying off is evidenced by the club’s fourth and fifth sides, both of whom recently picked up comprehensive wins, explained Sarah.
“Last weekend they both won very easily and got some big scores,” she said.
“They’ve improved massively throughout the year and really come together as a squad,” said Charlotte.
As veterans of the Varsity experience Sarah and Charlotte have been trying to help any Freshers taking part understand what to expect during the games.
Sarah said: “It’s the pressure. A lot of the Freshers don’t know what Varsity is, but as long as they act like it’s a normal game everything should go in our favour, but we’ve told them that Varsity is the game we want to win.
Charlotte said: “They’re very aware that Varsity is the biggest game of the season. But at the same time we’ve also reminded them that it is just a game of netball, they are just another team that we’re playing, and we should be respectful at the same time.”
This Varsity also represents the last occasion both Sarah and Charlotte will be taking part in, ensuring that the day will be an emotional one no matter what happens, although they are keen to go out on a high.
Charlotte, who studies Law, said: “It’ll be emotional, but exciting. It’s the last time we’re ever going to play for the club and wear the dress.
“There’ll be tears, definitely.
I cannot even describe what that would be like to win. It would be huge.”
Sarah agreed: “In my four years I’ve been here the team that I’ve played in has never won. It would be massive.”
Charlotte said that the fact that DMU start most fixtures as underdogs makes the atmosphere around campus – with such desire to win – a white-hot one in the run-up to Varsity.
She said: “It’s really clash of David vs Goliath. DMU are the underdogs of the city, but people are so passionate about winning that anything can happen on the day.
“There’s a buzz around campus, and people are starting to feel the nerves.
“Everyone’s getting really pumped up, and we all come together as one, really, and help each other.”
With just a few days left until the bulk of the Varsity fixtures take place, Charlotte and Sarah were keen to wish their fellow Demons luck, and implored everyone to support each other and try their upmost as DMU bids to win the competition.
Charlotte said: “Let’s support each other, get those wins and win Varsity.”
Sarah said: “As long as everyone has put effort in and they know they’ve tried their best, there’s nothing more they can do.”
You can catch all of netball's Varsity fixtures on Sunday 6 March from 9:30am at the Danielle Brown Sports Centre. Click here for the full list of Varsity fixtures and get behind #TeamDMU.