Images: Philippa Grafton
The men’s and women’s water polo teams both put in impressive performances at the UPolo British Championships this weekend, with the men finishing seventh and women fifth overall, after playing against some of the best teams in the country.
After winning their UPolo leagues, both teams competed in the finals day at Cardiff, which proved to be great competition practice just a week before Roses, and left both teams feeling confident before their clashes with Lancaster.
Both teams came up against stiff competition in their first games, with the women’s team being defeated 15-0 by Manchester Met, which was still a good performance considering Manchester went on to win the women’s tournament. The men’s team also lost 10-3 against Sheffield Hallam, a team which boasted an ex GB-player and several national league players amongst their ranks. However, the hard training put in by both teams all year really showed against these superior opponents; the men’s team, for example, found their stride in the second half of their game to draw the half 3-3 after three brilliant goals from Nick Boaz.
York women’s second game was against Cardiff, who made use of their home advantage to clinch a 7-0 win over York, however, goalkeeper Anne Churchfield put in some great saves to deny Cardiff a number of chances.
The men’s team faced Southampton in their second game and expectations were high against a team York knew relatively little about prior to the tournament. After some dubious refereeing decisions, where at times it seemed Southampton had an extra player on-side and which resulted in York’s coach being yellow-carded, the game finished 10-5 to York’s opponents. There were moments of brilliance from the men’s team though, with Ali Holmes scoring York’s first two goals of the game to put York back with a fighting chance, and Mike Perkins showing he was hungry for it in centre forward, finally satisfying his appetite to score with a hard fourth goal.
The women faced Aston University in their third and final game, and York’s strong counter-attacking ability proved crucial in sealing their 4-2 win. The game started with a goal from Aston which just edged past the line, but Louise Highton responded quickly with a bottom-corner placement to open the scoring for the women. York grew in confidence as the game progressed, with Kate Richards lobbing Aston’s pit defender to set up Highton for her second goal in as many minutes, and Fiona Whiting only being denied a goal by some scrappy Aston defending. The first half ended with a score of 3-2 to York after a goal from Hannah Carter, with Gillian Jago driving home to stop a counter-attack from Aston at the start of the second half. The win for York was secured after strong saves from Churchfield, and an impressive final goal from women’s captain, Sophie Gorman, who swam from halfway to smash the ball past Aston’s keeper.
A great performance by York against MMU Cheshire ended in a 6-6 draw there were goals being scored in quick succession at both ends, with good movement of the ball resulting in a top-corner goal from Perkins. York goalkeeper, Chris Snowden, saved an exceptional shot from ten metres out, and York were then denied a goal after a successful penalty by men’s captain, Joe Marshall, was unfortunately disallowed. The scoreline was 3-3 at half time; however MMU scored a scrappy goal after a great save off the line by Snowden, which was closely followed by a lucky lob from five metres to put MMU 5-3 ahead. The York team responded well though, penetrating MMU’s defences with a back-shot from Perkins, as well as two further goals from Boaz, one resulting from a great set-up from Wen Zhe Lim to seal the draw.
The tournament was brought to a close with a solid 10-3 win by York men over Gloucestershire, with both Perkins and Boaz both claiming three goals each. This game saw the first casualty of the day, with Marshall receiving an eye-gouging, however, the York team were unfazed and showed their class through the control they wielded over the game, and their near-airtight defence.
Women’s captain, Sophie Gorman, stated afterwards: “I’m really pleased with the performance of the girls today, we played really well and have made great progress throughout the year, and we’re looking forward to facing Lancaster at Roses now.”
Men’s captain, Joe Marshall added: “I’m immensely proud of the performance that the guys showed today. We knew that we’d be up against some exceptional teams, comprising of GB and top-flight national league players; a seventh place finish really was fantastic. There remains only one challenge left this year, and I fully expect that we will be giving Lancaster another dose of humiliation to add to their rather dismal year in BUCS and UPolo.”