By Becky Mackett
Last weekend our women’s team played their home matches against Cardiff and Imperial. You would think that would mean a nice easy journey to a pool in Cambridge or the surrounding area, but no, off to Birmingham we went. Cars were loaded up at midday and we made the two hour trek to Walsall Gala Baths. Our first match was against Cardiff and we arrived feeling good. We knew that despite the previous Cardiff match not going to plan (it featured a dreadful journey and questionable refereeing) we had the ability to win this time.
We got off to a strong start in the first quarter with a goal from Flaherty. Cardiff weren’t having this though, and upped their defence, resulting in an exclusion for one of their team and a penalty given to us. Our captain, Laura Schubert, took the shot, slamming in another goal for the Cambridge team. Two goals up and we were feeling pretty good; however, the end of the quarter saw a goal from Cardiff, showing us they weren’t going down without a fight.
The second quarter saw some excellent attacks from the Cambridge girls leading to another goal from Schubert. We were starting to feel more comfortable and could see that all our training was paying off. The very end of the quarter saw a beautiful goal from ex-captain Frances Turrell with the clock on 00:01. The Cardiff coach, taking out his unhappiness with the ref, was sent off with a red card.
We kept up our strength in the third quarter, starting with a goal from Ella Irwin after a beautiful drive from Lara Tritton, proving that the many hours practising this in on winter training camp in Budapest was worth it. By the end of the quarter Turrell had scored again and Cardiff were still only on one goal. This was due to our great defence, especially by Laura Robinson and Turrell, our players of the match, as well as Kate Read’s excellent goal keeping.
At the start of the final quarter we were in a 6-1 lead but we didn’t let ourselves get complacent, aware that even one quarter can bring a shift in energy. Swapping goalies to ensure everyone got field play, Lucy Morgan stepped in and Read emerged, pretty soon thereafter, scoring a goal. After more impressive attacks from the strong Cambridge side, we saw two fantastic goals from Flaherty on the wing (within 30 seconds of each other!)
At the sound of the final buzzer the score was 9-1 to Cambridge.
That evening, to avoid the drive back home, we stayed over in Birmingham – mostly. Wonderful thanks go to Kate’s mum for hosting half the team! However, elsewhere things did not go so smoothly: One broken car, one car returned to Cambridge, and several hours on the train, and one night later, Frances returned from Cambridge, swapping Sarah for Claudia, picking up a very dedicated med-soc-ballgoer Chantelle, and our Coach, Ashley. We were ready to face Imperial for the first time this year.
The first quarter started well with two goals from Turrell. However, these were quickly followed by two goals from Imperial who we soon discovered were very happy shooting from way past 5m. We didn’t let this faze us and carried out some great counter-attacks resulting in goals from Morgan and Irwin, both of whom were celebrating their first BUCS goals of the season this weekend.
Imperial scored again though, showing that we couldn’t let our guard down just yet. We did, however, realise that we were certainly the fitter team, and used this to our advantage (4 hours training a day on tour had to come in handy at some point). With six seconds left of the second quarter, and after some great passing from Cambridge, Irwin scored her second goal of the match. The score at half time was 5-3, and we weren’t giving up yet.
Imperial came back strongly after half time and the third quarter saw two goals from former Cambridge player Macarena. Claudia Feng, unwilling to stand for this took a fantastic shot from the wing resulting in another goal for Cambridge. At the close of the third quarter the score was 6-5 to us and so we knew this next quarter was going to be pivotal.
The final quarter of this match was certainly the most nerve-racking experience I’ve had of water polo to date. Although in the lead, we knew Imperial were strong. Tritton wasn’t fazed by any of this though and we saw a beautiful goal from her after an excellent counter-attack from the whole team. We also finally stopped fouling Imperial outside five meters, so they didn’t get a single shot away. When the final buzzer sounded we were overjoyed – we had won 7-5 and the long weekend away had been totally worth it. Schubert had the biggest shock at the score because she had somehow spent the whole match thinking we were losing/drawing and so she was surprised to say the least.
Players of the match went to Irwin and Tritton for their cracking goals and never stop attitude. Also a special mention must go to Morgan and Read for their brilliant goal-keeping, without which the score could have been very different given the strength of some of Imperial’s shooters. Final shout out goes to Ashley our coach for making the trip up to Birmingham and making such a difference to the match (he is also owed a congratulations for it being the first time in three years he wasn’t sent off during a match in Walsall).
So we piled into the cars for the journey back to Cambridge, all exhausted but very happy. Despite the busy weekend we made it to training at 7am Monday. This week sees three more BUCS matches for the women which we’ll be going into looking to repeat the success of this weekend. Let’s go Cambridge.
CARDIFF MATCH FINAL SCORE: 9-1 TO CAMBRIDGE
IMPERIAL MATCH FINAL SCORE: 7-5 TO CAMBRIDGE