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Five stars

High fives all round for talented sporting York College quintet

We’re celebrating sporting success at York College & University Centre by throwing the spotlight on five fantastic females who have already made their mark during this academic year.

Having recently featured our three-time kickboxing world champion Lauren Greenwood and Team GB Under-17 handball international Freya Murty on this news section of our website, the talented twosome posed together this week with fellow elite athletes Becky Sidwell, Nyah May and Bella Devereux.

The high-quality quintet’s efforts have enhanced College’s burgeoning reputation as a respected centre for nurturing female sporting excellence on campus.

Goalkeeper Becky has been selected for the 2023/24 England Colleges’ football squad, having recently helped the College team defend their Yorkshire & Humber Regional AoC Championship seven-a-side title without conceding a goal for a second successive year.

Central-midfielder Bella, meanwhile, inspired that success as captain of the team, while Nyah has been called up to the Yorkshire Under-18 Rugby Union squad despite only being 16.

Becky Sidwell

Becky, who is also currently first choice between the sticks for York City Ladies in the third tier of the English game, played for her country during the first half of a 3-3 draw against Super League outfit Bristol City Women in Milton Keynes last week with the team having led 3-0 at the interval.

She will also attend a training camp at St George’s Park – the FA’s national football centre – this month, incorporating another game against the ESFA Independent Schools Representative Side before a match against the Army in January and a six-day tournament in Italy the following month.

On the thrill of being chosen to represent England, Becky said: “I was selected after two phases of trials and it’s such an honour. It feels amazing because there are only so many spots available on the squad and just two for goalkeepers.”

Becky also has competition for her place in York’s team from a Malta international, but she has been playing open-age football for two years now and, as part of College’s Football Development Centre, benefits from a weekly specialist goalkeeper coaching session every Monday.

Based in Ripon, she chose to come to York to further her footballing education, explaining: “I knew a couple of people from York City who came to York College the year before I did, and they really recommended it.”

On the team being crowned Regional champions again and the chances of going one better than last season when they finished National runners-up, Becky added: “There was a bit of pressure on me, because I wasn’t part of the team that won the Regionals last year and I’m not a fan of the smaller goals, but we did well and it was amazing to win the competition again without conceding.

“We’ve got a really good team again this year and we’ve got so many new players that have added something to the side, so I think we’ve got a really good chance of winning the National Championship this time.”

Nyah May

Nyah could not have made a better start in county level rugby, as she scored two tries within the first four minutes of her debut against Durham before also playing on the wing against Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Derbyshire.

“It wasn’t a bad start,” she grinned, before adding: “It felt amazing to be selected for the team as there were a lot of talented girls to choose from and most of them were 18.

“I think what helped me was my speed and strength because I’m the fastest winger on the team.”

Nyah is now already targeting Yorkshire Centre of Excellence honours, from which the next step is consideration for the England Under-18 squad.

“That’s what I’m aiming for - I’m hoping to go all the way with it,” she pointed out.

Nyah plays both rugby codes – Union and League – turning out for the likes of Selby RUFC, Hull FC and York Valkyrie Under-16s.

She also trains with the county every Friday, as well as attending Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday sessions with College’s Rugby Development Centre, which she manages to balance around studying A Levels in Business, Law and Physical Education.

On her choice to travel in to College from Brayton, Nyah explained: “I was thinking about going to Bishop Burton (in Beverley), but then I thought I want an education that includes A Levels as well, so I thought it would be great to get on the Development Squad here and the education I am receiving for my A Levels is outstanding as well.”

Bella Devereux

Central-midfielder Bella, meanwhile, is confident that the women’s football seven-a-side team she captains can go on to add the National AoC title to the Yorkshire & Humber crown they won after defeating Huddersfield 1-0 thanks to a Ruby Watt goal in the final.

The team have now played more than two-and-a-half hours of football without conceding a goal in the regional tournament over the past two seasons and, on the team’s success and hopes for further honours, Bella said: “Being reigning Regional champions, it was a great feeling for us all to win it with a slightly different team and also to remain unbeaten without conceding a goal for a second year.

“We kept possession really well, scored lots of goals as always and defended well as a team. We’ve got a lot more girls than we had last season so I try, as captain, to make sure everybody feels included and everybody’s voice is heard, as well as giving the girls encouragement when needed and being there for them.

“We want to go one better at the National Championships now – 100 per cent. I know we will prepare for that and everyone knows their roles.”

Like Nyah, Bella also combines three days a week of training and playing games as part of the Football Development Centre with her A Level studies in Biology, PE and Psychology and outside club commitments representing Harrogate Town Ladies.

She feels College is very supportive, though, in helping her manage that schedule.

“Everything is balanced nicely for me and there are people here who will help and support you when you need it, so it’s good to be a student athlete,” she declared. “If I need a training session off because I’ve got some work to do, the coaches are very lenient.

“I didn’t play football at secondary school. We tried to get a team together, but there just wasn’t enough girls wanting to play, so it was really nice to come to York College where the team is such a big part of things.

“It was a big reason for me wanting to come to the College – 100 per cent – and I feel that decision has really paid off for me. I love football and I knew that York College had a really good sports set-up, not just football.

“When I leave, I’m hoping to get a scholarship to play in America and do a data performance analysis degree there, because I’m really big on that.”

The seven-a-side team celebrate winning the AoC Regional Championship for a second successive year

On his pride in the students' elite sporting achievements, York College & University Centre Sports Development Centre Co-ordinator Stu Horsfield said: “The success this term amongst female athletes at York College has been incredible.

"Our ability to support athletes through our TASS accreditation has seen fantastic results with students succeeding in their academic studies as well as maintaining high levels of performance within their sports. This is a truly exciting time not only at York College, but across the country for women’s sport."