The U13 Girls Water Polo English Schools National Final was held down in Northampton on Monday 15th May. This has been a fantastic journey for all the girls which started at the beginning of the year. The final was composed of the top 6 teams from around the country, with the early stages being played throughout the year.
The girls finished 5th on the day which we left with mixed emotions. One with slight disappointment as we felt we could have gone further in the final and finished higher in the overall rankings but then also a sense of happiness and achievement for firstly, reaching the final and also for the way we ended the day with a win to make sure we were ranked as the 5th best U13 girls team in the country for 2017. My honest opinion is that I feel we were one of the top 3 schools there for the way we played and we by far created more chances and had more shots on goal in good areas than any other team there but unfortunately it just didn’t seem to be our day, with perhaps a lack of experience at this level as well not getting the luck we might have had on another day.
I personally couldn’t be happier for the girls and I’m really proud of everything they’ve achieved over the past 2 years. Speaking with many of the other team coaches and teachers, some I know quite well, they were really impressed with how our girls performed considering this is only our 3rd year of having girls Water Polo at St Bede’s and St Joseph’s. I couldn’t agree more, as this is not only the first girls team to reach an English Final but is also the highest placed finished any of our teams have ever achieved in the English Schools Championships. The coaches were even more impressed when finding out that none of our girls are ‘club water polo players’ something all the other schools had plenty of in their ranks and I feel that was one of the main reasons we perhaps didn’t make it further in the tournament as well as not putting our chances away, something that has been a recurring theme in all our age groups this year.
As always the girls were fantastic in their attitude and behaviour, from leaving school at 2pm Sunday afternoon to arriving back late in the evening Monday. They really represented the school well something they take great pride in. A massive thank you to Mr Stanley Connell who always gives up his time to travel with the teams home and away to give his support, something I and the students greatly appreciate. As well as another huge thank you to Mrs Foster who happily gave up her time to travel with the team and be there to support the girls in all aspects. Finally a big thank you to the parents/guardians and relatives who have supported me and the team all the way over the last 2 years and I hope it continues, because I know these girls will keep improving and learn from the experiences gained and will come back stronger!
SBSJ 3 – 7 Alleyn’s
Player of the Match – Lydia King 8H
SBSJ 5 – 5 Bedford Modern
Player of the Match – Emily Taylor 8B
SBSJ 7 – 4 Kesteven & Grantham
Player of the Match – Niamh Dolan-Baines 8E
Goal of the Tournament – Amelia Fullerton 8C
Player of the Tournament – Ella Stabler 8C
Player’s Player of the Tournament – Sara Steinberg 8D
SBSJ 3 – 7 Alleyn’s
The game was quite cagey to start off with from our point of view, which was understandable as Alleyn’s had already played a match earlier in the tournament, so we were still feeling our way into the game and adjusting to the size and depth of the pool. It was 0 – 0 for what seemed an age and we had to defend well as Alleyn’s were on the front foot but the defence kept strong with captain Sara Steinberg organising the team well. The opposition couldn’t find a way and started to resort to long shots, something we have been used to all year which is credit to the way the girls defend. Alexandra Rowe was our goal keeper for the tournament and managed to save the first long shot but unfortunately couldn’t quite get to the second one shortly afterwards giving the opposition the lead. The girls knew they had to be more adventurous going forward and it paid off with Ella Stabler finishing off the move to bring us level at 1 – 1. The girls then pressed the opposition and won the ball back early. The momentum was now with us and we created a host of chances with Ella, Amelia Fullerton and Niamh Dolan-Baines all having opportunities to score but either the keeper made a good save or it was just an inch wide or off the post but we just couldn’t score, until the ball was moved around quickly and finally to Lydia King who fired it straight into the top corner. With not long left of the first half Alleyn’s as they had been doing in the first part of the match managed to get a long range effort off but to be fair it was unstoppable which meant the half time score was 2 – 2.
I told the girls at half time we should have been a few goals in front at this point which would have relieved some of the pressure but asked them to keep their heads up and play the same way. Unfortunately Alleyn’s started off stronger and put an early chance away. Naturally as time start to tick the girls pushed forward in numbers which was great to see but the final ball was lacking which meant when we lost the ball we were open at the back and the opposition broke through and scored. The girls to their credit kept their heads up and tried to find a way through but Alleny’s scored another 3 goals meaning we were losing 7 – 2 with a minute left. Ella, who combined well with Lydia in the build-up managed to score a goal before the final whistle which meant the final score was 7 – 3. This really was a classic case of a game of 2 halves. SBSJ were by far the better team in the first half and Alleyn’s to their credit were stronger in the second. The only difference being when we were on top we didn’t score the goals. The girls were still confident if they could carry on playing the same way in the next match but be more clinical in front of goal that we would progress through to the play-off rounds.
SBSJ 5 – 5 Bedford Modern
With Alleyn’s beating both ourselves and Bedford Modern, meant the winner of this game would progress through to the play-offs and it turned out to be the game of the tournament. Like the first match we started off strong with Ella winning the ball on the drop in, which we are always confident of her doing so and have a set play for which nearly came off as the ball was played from Ella to Lydia. Whilst Ella carried on directly towards goal, Lydia then passed across to Sara who played a lovely threw ball into Ella’s path who managed to get her shot away which was parried away but luckily Niamh and Amelia did their jobs well on the set play and was there for the rebound which Niamh managed to get to and played it into Amelia who made it 1 - 0. It was end to end with Bedford Modern scoring in quick reply which meant our lead was short lived. The girls at the back in Sara and Emily Taylor as well as our attackers who were all back helping did well to keep us level and then all of a sudden Emily (defender) stole the ball from the opposition near our own goal and saw space in front and decided to set off going and didn’t look back. With the opposing team being drawn to Emily who swam nearly the full length of the pool suddenly realised she had 3 players all around her, however she calmly managed to pop the ball to the ever supporting Ella who scored to put us in front. Lottie O’Keefe and Eva Krywyszyn were introduced for Emily and Amelia to freshen us up, which worked in the first instance and like the Alleyn’s game, Bedford Modern started resorting to long shots which either went wide or were comfortably taken by Alex. We had a couple of chances to score but hit the cross bar twice in a row and the opposition counter-attacked and scored. With the score at 2 - 2 with a minute left the girls were determined to finish in front which we did when Nimah got the ball on the right wing and played it across to Ella who scored her second of the match. With 10 seconds left we knew Bedford would try a long shot, we set half the girls to press and half to drop back and it got down to the last second when the Bedofrd Modern centre forward put everything she had behind the shot and as the ball was in the air the half time buzzer went but before the buzzer finished the ball found the back of the net meaning the goal stood. 3 – 3 being the half time score.
The second half began and with 3 defenders and 3 attackers in the pool we was hoping to keep a good balance which we did for a short period. However our counterparts were just as determined and they got in front first. With the score at 4 - 3 we decided to change it up and Emily and Amelia were back in the water. It meant we were top heavy in attack but we had to win the game to go through to the play-offs. Our gamble seemed to be paying off with our forwards in Ella, Lydia, Niamh and Amelia all having chances to score but again we couldn't convert them into goals. Credit to the girls for being positive and confident enough to go again. However our 4th goal was by far the goal of the entire tournament. Amelia Fullerton was in the 'Pit' with her back to goal and an aggressive opposing defender practically pushing down on her left shoulder. The ball got played into Amelia's right hand and the defender must have thought there was no way Amelia could turn and shoot and she was right, so instead, Amelia gripped the ball facing away from the goal as she has been trained to do and swung her arm back to score a wonderful 'back-shot' which got everyone on the poolside and in the spectators stand applauding. The score was 4 - 4 and we kept pushing for the winner again with our forwards creating chance after chance but the ball just wouldn't go in the back of the net. Bedford Modern regained possession and typically, with their first shot since the start of the half saw them take the lead, which was an unlucky goal to concede because Alex saved the initial shot. However the girls had to pick themselves up and keep going. With only a minute left to play we got the equaliser but the final whistle went meaning it ended 5 - 5 and we couldn't progress due to goal difference.
The Bedford Modern coach came over and congratulated all the girls on their efforts and admitted that we were the better team and echoed what I have been saying about not putting our chances away is what cost us. A learning curve for the girls. I cannot fault the effort they put into both matches and they showed great character throughout and brilliant sportsmanship even though the results didn’t go their way.
SBSJ 7 – 4 Kesteven & Grantham
Our final match was to see who finished 5th/6th on the day. The girls were determined to finish on a high and managed to get a much deserved win. In truth we played no differently than the previous matches, the only difference being we put our chances away. Sara made sure that the defence, in Emily, Lottie and Eva was well organised and aggressive in their play coupled with some good saves from Alexandra in goal. This gave us a good platform to push forward and our attackers in Ella, Amelia, Niamh and Lydia created a host of chances and managed to score 7 goals between them. However I actually felt we should have won by a bigger margin with the amount of chances we made but the most important thing was that we got the win in the end. A really good team performance. A mention must made to Eleanor Grogan, Jennifer Cummins and Abigail Rowe, who unfortunately were all injured and couldn’t get in the water but were there supporting the team and helping them in their preparations before each match.
3rd Bedford Modern
4th Crompton House
5th St Bede’s and St Joseph’s Catholic College
6th Kesteven & Grantham
U13 Girls Water Polo Team
Sara Steinberg 8D
Ella Stabler 8C
Emily Taylor 8B
Amelia Fullerton 8C
Niamh Dolan-Baines 8E
Jennifer Cummins 8E
Lydia King 8H
Eleanor Grogan 8B
Lottie O’Keefe 8H
Eva Krywyszyn 8B
Abigail Rowe 7G
Alexandra Rowe 7F
Overall the entire team should be proud of what they have accomplished and I’m sure they will remember their fantastic achievement in many years to come. Well done everyone!
Report by Mr Matthew Wright Team Coach