Water polo women lose to superb Leeds

York faced stacked odds even before they jumped in the pool with a Leeds side containing national standard players, the 13-1 defeat frustrating but hardly unsurprising

Photograph by Irene Sieberger

Photograph by Irene Sieberger

UNIVERSITY OF YORK 1
UNIVERSITY OF LEEDS 13

BUCS League 2B – Saturday 23rd January

Despite a valiant effort against stacked odds, there was an air of inevitability about York’s 13-1 reverse to Leeds University in the water polo on Saturday afternoon.

The women’s team have been lumped together with some of the country’s strongest performing teams and most talented internationals in BUCS League 2B, meaning that embarrassing scorelines have sadly become the norm. This defeat to their Yorkshire rivals at the Archbishop Holgate School nestled between results earlier in the campaign against Manchester Met and Lancaster.

The writing was on the wall when Leeds arrived with four additional players, permitting them to replace nearly their entire team when fatigue started to creep in. York, by contrast, never really found any kind of rhythm, only sporadically threatening Kat Perry between the Leeds uprights and mustering only the one goal, a composed finish by Captain Jodie Wilkes following a quickly-executed set-piece towards the end of the first quarter. By the close, despite a late rally which saw a number of chances created, York were grateful that Sheffield University, their other scheduled opponents on the day, forfeited.

York’s perennial disadvantage in the pool was summed up by Wilkes: “Every year we come up against teams much larger than our own and with their own pools. We are unlikely to draw the national and international players without our own pool.”

In this game, the visitors set the agenda from the first whistle, and soon established a daunting lead. Their two outstanding players during the entire match, Nicki Pollard and Polly Egan, both established internationals, scored within the first three minutes, taking full advantage of some generous defending.

Women's Waterpolo, 23.01.10, Irene Sieberger

York knew they faced an uphill struggle against Leeds on Saturday afternoon, although they were boosted pre-match by the news Sheffield, their scheduled second opponents on the afternoon, had forfeited. Photograph by Irene Sieberger.

When Selena Chew held off the defensive attentions of York Sport President Emily Scott to stretch the lead to 3-0, the game as a contest had evaporated. After Wilkes had temporarily reduced the arrears, Leeds responded with another clinical Egan finish.

The second quarter continued in the same vein, with Leeds already exploiting gaping holes in the home defence – Egan, an exceedingly strong swimmer as well as a powerful shot, scored twice more and Claire O’Sullivan added to the misery.

Frustrations were already starting to bubble over in the home ranks, with infringements only abetting the relentless Leeds assault – when Emma Wilkinson evaded the challenge of Wilkes to score the eighth, York’s worst pre-match fears were being played out.

However, with an unexpected resolve, they frustrated Leeds during the game’s second period, keeping scoring opportunities to a minimum and, occasionally, working efforts of their own. Pollard’s double in the third quarter kept the scoreboard ticking over, but York had found some defensive steel and, with their goalkeeper Cass Walker equal to the majority of Leeds attempts, they created a much more even last few minutes.

Women's Waterpolo, 23.01.10, Irene Sieberger

Stand-in coach Arran Bowen-la Grange attempts to inspire the team in between quarters. He will lead the men’s team in their important BUCS fixtures this weekend at the University of Liverpool. Photograph by Irene Sieberger.

Harriet Johnson and Suleika Rohd-Thomsen both saw speculative shots trouble the Leeds goalkeeper during the final quarter, but a second goal was not forthcoming. Eventually, the away side were allowed freedom to add a further coat of gloss to the result, with further strikes from Chew, Wilkinson and the vibrant Pollard rounding off a fine afternoon’s work for this impressive Leeds side.

“Many of the girls who played today haven’t been playing the sport for long,” said Wilkes. “All this put into consideration, the team played hard and put a lot of effort in. Leeds did not get an easy victory – they had to fight for every goal – we put up a good fight, we did not give up. That is something that everyone of our players should be proud of. ”

Stand-in coach, Arran Bowen-la Grange, said afterwards: “There’s no shame in losing to a side full of national players. We frustrated them at times.”

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