This is the first time in the school's history and not just 'SBSJ' but in St Bede's Catholic Grammar School's and I'd also like to include Cardinal Hinsley and Yorkshire Martyrs, that we have reached the English Schools Water Polo Championship Final.
We've managed to reach a number of National Plate Finals in recent years. As well as the U13 girls getting to their English School's Final last year and the U18 girls reaching their English School's Final this year, which were all fantastic achievements. However this is the one that all our teams past and present have been working so hard for and have aspired to reach and this is without a doubt the proudest I've ever been. This particular team have worked so hard for the past 3-4 years, giving up hundreds of hours of their free time to learn what was a brand new sport to them in year 7 and have constantly strived to improve and I couldn't be happier for them! I'd like to make the point we were the only mixed team there and that is credit to the 2 girls for working so hard to get to the standard they have reached. I also want to stress how much the lads value them as members of the team, which, will always be remembered as a truly great one!
Below is the final table and further down are SBSJ's results/match reports. All the matches were all really hard fought battles with all the teams being fairly close in ability and performance, however Bolton School and SBSJ finished 1st and 2nd respectively and go through to the final which will be held at The Haberdashers' Aske's Boys' School on Saturday 3rd March. We don't know who our other 4 opponents will be from the south yet but after our performances in the semi final, we fear no one.
1st - Bolton School, 6 points
2nd - St Bede's and St Joseph's, 3 points 3rd - Kings Grantham, 2 points 4th - Manchester Grammar School, 1 point
Well done to all involved. You are true champions and have the mental strength and courage to achieve anything. Bring on the Final!
Darwin King, Tom Doyle, Adam Zdolyny, Sara Steinberg, Jastin Barrientos, Ikenna Obasi, Konstantinos Odiomume, Sam Chewins, Niamh Dolan-Baines, Jacob Slator, Harvey Weston-Beyer, Yenukua Anarwat,
Captains Speech - Darwin King
We travelled to Manchester for the umpteenth time, dreaming to achieve a place in the Championship Final which, within the boy's category, St Bede's and St Joseph's, Yorkshire Martyrs and St Bede's boys school had never previously done. From my point of view, we as a team, often turned up with little chance and minimal expectation to qualify for the finals. The under 15's team, on the contrary, aspired and needed to qualify this year because only two years ago we narrowly missed out on the under 13's final. Since then its been a memory that has haunted us and pushed us to train hard for this opportunity to right the wrong. This opportunity has only been made available to us because of the biggest member of team - Mr Wright. A fellow pupil and quality Water Polo player for our school, without his help, experience and love for the game, no one would be playing Water Polo at St Bede's and St Joseph's to the levels we are. Through our preparation, especially for this tournament, there's been bad training sessions but there has also been the good ones where, as a team, we've just clicked and shown our true qualities. The biggest thank you goes to Mr Wright for his support and commitment, leading us for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Also a big thank you to Steve 'Stevooo' the bus driver for taking us to all our games and being one of the teams biggest fans. Without him, we'd still be walking to Manchester now!
At the tournament, the team were clearly nervous but the masses of preparation that we'd been through calmed us down and gave us confidence. The moment of the semi final, for me, was definitely the last game, where we had to win. Taking the early lead, the first half finished 4-0 to us and all we had to do was keep our heads. Typically, however, we were thoughtless in many decisions and gave away two easy goals. At this point, the next goal was crucial and with the abundance of drills we had done in training, it was Harvey Weston-Beyer who, with a level of finesse, cheekily lobbed the keeper from 15 metres. It wasn't the lob that was the best moment, but the whole team, including the subs, who joyfully screamed at the goal, knowing how close we were to victory. It's a pleasure to captain such a hard-working and passionate team of young adults; the performance was mature and cool headed so well done to everyone who took part (including the three younger ones who stepped up well).
It's an honour for me to represent Mr Wright and St Bede's and St Joseph's School. We look ahead now to the final, training hard and hopefully we'll do ourselves proud. It's unbelievable to have reached the English Schools Championship Finals and a pleasure to play with such a good squad.
SBSJ's Match Order and Reports
SBSJ 2 - 2 Manchester Grammar School
Player of the Match - Darwin King
The match against Manchester is one we've been waiting for all year. In fact ever since they knocked us out of this competition 2 years ago we have been waiting to settle the score. The game didn’t disappoint. As you can imagine it was quite cagey to begin with as neither team wanted to concede first. Mistakes were being made from both sides however it was SBSJ who capitalised first through Darwin King. MGS managed to get one back just before half time making the score 1-1. A few words of encouragement and a change in personnel to freshen things up bringing on Sara Steinberg seemed to have the desired affect. It was still very close with both teams having chance to go in front but again it was Sam Chewins for SBSJ who took his chance and we were in the lead once again. MGS kept coming at us but as a team we were solid all the way through and Darwin, Sara and Konstantinos 'Ninos' Odiomume really organised the back well. It was the final moments of the match and we just had to hang on for 10 more seconds however MGS scored to bring it level. With now only seconds remaining we had a last ditch effort from our own half but it narrowly missed the target. The final score ended 2-2. The team showed great sportsmanship to their rivals with a loud 3 cheers, which I know can be difficult when so close to victory. So well done.
The team got out and we got together and spoke about being positive going forward. We knew a win would have set us up nicely but at least we had a point on the board. My entire outlook on the tournament and the build up to the semi-final was all about our mental attitude and the team didn't disappoint. We all gathered together to give words of encouragement and lift ourselves up ready for the next game.
SBSJ 3 - 5 Bolton School
Player of the Match - Sam Chewins
We knew going into the game that it was always going to be tough as it's Bolton. We spoke before the match begun about approaching it in the correct manner, keeping it close and giving a good performance which would lift us for our final match. Bolton started off the brighter of the two teams scoring 2 goals early on. However we weren't going to lie down that easy and mounted a comeback scoring 2 goals ourselves through 'man of the match' Sam Chewins as well as Harvey Weston-Beyer. There was still plenty of time before the half would end and we had to really dig in to keep them out. Darwin King organised the back well with Ikenna Obasi and Sara Steinberg supporting him well and with Sam holding the ball up for us in attack we went into half time at 2-2.
We took great confidence from our performance and knew we had rattled Bolton, as it's not often they go into half time without being in the lead. Bolton came at us again and scored another quick goal to take the lead but once again the team showed their resilience and courage to attack. It was Jacob Slator to get on the score sheet brining the score back level at 3-3. With still plenty of time to play both teams seemed to cancel each other out. Bolton then seemed to step up another gear and keeper Tom Doyle had to make a couple of really good saves to keep them out but they eventually found the back of the net. Another change in personnel with Yenukua Anarwat aka Deji and Nimah Dolan-Baines as well as Jastin Barrientos freshened things up at the back and it seemed to help Tom in goal. With the score at 4-3 to Bolton we still thought we could get something out of the game and were managing to get the ball to Sam and Jacob but couldn't get up the pool to support them. The back line and Tom were still kept busy with Bolton's unbelievably fast counter attacking play, something they are renowned for and they finally got their 5th goal with only seconds remaining, meaning the score finished 5-3.
SBSJ 5 - 2 Kings Grantham
Player of the Match - Harvey Weston-Beyer
Going into the final match we knew if we won that we were through to the final. The message was, as it has been for the last few months. You give everything you have and go make history. The team were fired up and what came next was something I've never seen from one of our teams before, in the sense that we killed the game off in the first half. Goals from Harvey Weston-Beyer, Darwin King, Sam Chewins and Jacob Slator meant we went into half time 4-0 up!
The half time talk was easy. Keep doing what you're doing and see the game out. However within the first few minutes we gave 2 easy goals away and now the pressure was on. The whole team had to dig in and find that extra 10% to keep us in the game and with some fantastic saves from keeper Adam Zdolyny as well as some proper defending from all members of the team, we kept it at 4-2 but the nerves were still evident. However moments later Harvey Weston-Beyer came up with a wonder goal to completely take the fight out of the opposition. The entire team were overjoyed and then came the final whistle. After giving the loudest 3 cheers I've ever heard, the team got out and gathered and the question was asked... 'Sir, are we 100% through to the final' to which I answered with the biggest smile on my face 'YES'. The whole team jumped up and down in celebration and I may as well have been in the pool myself, but it was certainly worth it.