The team set off to Northampton not thinking about our slim chances: Bristol had defeated us early on in the year by a solid 19-9 margin and have reigned supreme in our league since as far back as anyone can remember. We never doubted ourselves; instead we made sure to focus on delivering the most hellish, mouth-watering game of water polo to ever scorch the surface of the earth. Adam Streeter massaged frankincense oil across his chiseled jawline in a pre-game routine that he picked up in the Middle East, while Patrick Charles gurgled the last remnants of his burger from Weatherspoon’s. Before we knew it, we entered into the post-apocalyptic expanse of water, knowing we would make history.
As soon as the game started, it became clear that Bristol wanted to play a rough game and were getting rowdy. However, a strong set-up by Cambridge meant that our skill triumphed the ball-crushing physicality they tried to impose. Some strong pressing, outfield blocking and great communication meant that their signature far out shots rarely converted into goals. Fitness became our strength as we bolted up and down the pool, with constant rotation of players meaning everyone was at full intensity whilst in the water.
The solid Light Blue defence meant we were behind by only a very narrow margin for a lot of the match, and Youssef Badr knew he needed to step in. “Join me in my journey to success” he exclaimed, splashing in with his thick, pornstar chest hair and a hand signal one could only interpret as “bless up”. He went on to win MOTM with a fantastic performance of solid deliveries and plays .With a great effort by this man and many others, we started leading. Rob Gourley kept the game spicy with a shocker of a goal from halfway that made even the shooters for Bristol gape in awe.
By the final minute, we were tied and it became a gruelling battle to see who could score a game-winning goal. However, some impressive ‘keeping at the Bristol end meant it was not to be and the final score was 11-11.
All in all, it was a great success and the boys should be super proud. Our game was strong as we combined a furious, blasting energy with calculating precision and thoughtfulness. Bring on the next!
We arrived on poolside, jealous of Oxford’s polo facilities, and unable to breathe in our new suits. “Don’t react, grab them first!” was Laura’s rallying cry as the starting seven jumped in the water. It sounds like the motto of a lad-on-the-pull, but is in fact a totally legitimate water polo attitude to take. It certainly paid off for us, and we came home with an 11-4 victory, our second win against Oxford this year.
The first quarter saw Cambridge take a comfortable lead, with Kate and Laura’s goals boosting us to 3-0. Oxford certainly did get the ball down and try to score, but Lucy was incredible at deflecting all their attempts. Having spent the past week facing terrifying Hungarian teenagers on winter training camp, she found the relatively gentle shots of the Oxford women easy to handle.
In the second quarter, Oxford came back with a goal in the first 30 seconds. Their luck was short-lived, however, and that was their only goal of the quarter. Laura and Kate shot two more for Cambridge, so the score was a nice 5-1 by the end. It was also Liv’s debut in a match, and she did amazingly!
In some ways, the third quarter continued just as the first two had – Kate and Laura scored goals. In other ways, however, it was a little different. After graduating, Robbo’s college grandmother, Rosanna, made the unadvisable decision to move to Oxford, and to play water polo. Robbo was overcome by feelings of betrayal, and fouled her grandmother, which resulted in her being sent off. Once Robbo was back in the game, what was left of their familial relationship continued to disintegrate, as she managed to take the ball from her granny. This quarter also saw a ball mix up, which resulted in us playing with a men’s ball. Partly because we have hands big enough to deal with Size 5 balls, partly because we were grabbing first, and partly because Kate and Laura were on a roll, the quarter left us with an 8-4 lead.
The final quarter brought in some new goal scorers, with Frances, Laure and Laura bringing the score up to 11-4. “But why did Kate stop scoring goals?” I hear you ask. Well, Kate and Lucy had swapped, and Kate was defending our goal against Oxford’s final attempts to equalise. Needless to say, they scored no goals.
Players of the match went to Lucy for some fabulous saves which made it much less stressful for those watching on the bench! And to Kate, who literally was just picking the ball from them in defence, they couldn’t keep it and she did an excellent job of communicating and telling people where they should be.
Overall, the match was fast-paced and fun, and a fantastic game to throw us back into a term of water polo!
Kicking off their Lent term fixture list with a trip to their oldest and fiercest rivals, the Cambridge men’s first team looked to repeat the outcome of their first fixture with the boys in dark blue in the BUCS league, a solid 13-9 victory at Cambridge’s designated home pool in Northampton. Coming off the back of a fantastic tour in Budapest, in which a combination of intense training and team bonding left the core squad feeling both fitter and more together, this seemed completely achievable. However, as is often the case in Oxbridge crunch matches, form often tends to go out the window…
The first quarter was a tight affair with Cambridge finishing marginally behind at 3-2, after goals from captain Robert Gourley and young hotshot fresher Isaac Hinchliffe. Despite the close scoreline the boys were clearly off the pace. There was not enough of the vintage straight driving and lighting-speed counter attacks that had so troubled the Oxford team in the first meeting this year. Whether or not this was due to the lengthy car travel down or the insufficient warm-up, there was no denying that the Cambridge team were in a state lethargy.
Unfortunately , this early slowness by the boys was not to go unpunished. In the second quarter Oxford wrestled their way into the driving seat, making good use of their physicality to capitalise on the lapses in concentration from the light blues. The quarter ended badly for Cambridge, at 8-4, leaving them a hefty task if they were to go on and clinch the game in the second half.
Despite this, and what seemed like an early sucker-punch goal from Oxford to make it 9-4, the Cambridge boys came storming back in the third quarter and dominated the Oxford team. We started to see much more of that blistering pace that Cambridge usually use so well with speedsters like Alex Norcliffe and James Mok tearing up and down the pool and exposing the wilting stamina of the Oxford players. However, one man above any other sparked this Cambridge revival. In the third quarter the Rosenblatt crowd was treated to what one could only describe as the Robert Gourley show. The co-captain and ex-Great Britain star, hauled the team back into the game with a brilliant goal rush. Tearing up and down the pool, the man was clearly on a mission, leaving helpless defenders in his wake and mercilessly humiliating the keeper with a quite frankly offensive lob at one point. At the end of the quarter the bench reported his claims of back pain from “carrying the whole team”. However, it was not just the attacking prowess of Robert Gourley which got the boys back into the game. Even more vital was the even fiercer and more agressive defending for the team that ex-pit man Patrick Charles was at the heart of. He performed outstandingly at the back, keeping the the centre forward position under lock and key with some very smart and measured defending allowing us to stump the Oxf*** boys. After this revival, Cambridge were right back in the match at 9-7 despite also missing a fair number of important chances.
The fourth quarter started in a familiar vain, with fresher Hinchliffe again popping up on five meters to sling in a clever bounce shot into the left hand side of the goal to put the Cambridge to within a goal of their ancient rivals. Unfortunately, however, the boys came to rue their missed chances and when the Oxford team eventually regained their foothold in the game, the match started to slip away in the dying stages, despite continued hard work from the Cambridge team. Although team golden boy and star player Ben Tinkler-Davies popped up late on to slap in from two meters in the dying stages, it was too little, too late.
The game finished 13-10 despite a late flourish from Cambridge and the lads were left feeling disappointed but not disheartened by the game’s outcome. It was a very hard-fought game of fine margins, and will provide important lessons for the onslaught of BUCS matches to come this term and fire on the team for the imminent varsity match in Cambridge on the 25th of February. A valiant performance by the light blues and one which leave them confident they can progress as a side as the season continues.
“”‘Tour is go!’ – Ben Walker” – Péter Juhasz” – Rhys Goodall
On the 8th of January, miraculously, every UK-based member of the men’s and women’s water polo team met at Stansted Airport for the two hour flight to Budapest. Full from the weeks of break and holiday-ing, the teams were ready to dive into training, but on the first evening they most definitely were not ready for the -15 weather that Budapest had to offer.
Despite the cold, the teams bundled up every morning and made the short walk to the BVSC Zuglo Training Facilities. The facilities boasted at least three indoor, double deep pools and additional kiddie and outdoor pools, a nice contrast to the BUCS regulation non-compliant Ley’s pool. For two and a half hours every morning that week, the teams claimed the 50m pool, rebuilding their strength and stamina, and working on basic drills and new techniques away from the distractions of the usual Cambridge term. Rob Gourley, men’s co-captain this year, accurately surmised “not only was tour this year essential for working on tactics in the water for the team, but also for team bonding, with social events occurring most nights.”
In true water sport style, every non-training and non-eating activity was still on water. From an afternoon at Aquaworld Water Park, filled with heart-stopping slides and traditional saunas, to a ‘rest-morning’ of skating – the teams couldn’t escape water, in whatever form it came. And as we adapted to the cold (in reality the temperature just rose) the streets of Budapest become home to the usual water polo tour antics; TJ’s carrying hats and following friends, while Péter and Balint kept us from getting too bewildered and lost.
In the afternoons, with the help of Péter, matches against the local teams were arranged. The men and women were in the water for an hour and a half each, learning what it meant to play against teenagers who’d been trained for water polo from infancy. Half of the women’s team had only taken up the sport in October, and their growth and development throughout tour was incredible. By the last matches, which the British Ambassador to Hungary came to watch, everyone was a lot more confident. Though we didn’t keep score, the men’s team may have even won their match.
After a wonderful farewell dinner, and a few new fines, the teams were ready to return to the pleasant Cambridge weather, ready to play 8 matches within the next three weeks, and, most importantly, ready for Varsity 2017! #GDBO
Twas the night before Bridgemas, when all through the town
Polo players were sleeping, ready for the drive down;
To Cardiff then Bath for two crucial BUCs games,
In hopes that the match report would mention their names;
But the big weekend did not to go to plan,
And it was at 3pm that our troubles began,
With 5 in one car and 5 in the other,
A broken bag set our start back an hour-
Then the men’s team called, saying they could not make it out
So the girls were alone on this long Bridgemas route.
With Black Friday traffic, three ambulances seen,
Didn’t make it to Cardiff, we were minus one team!
After frantic phone calls on a cold winter’s night,
A Bridgemas miracle! – Kind strangers answered our plight.
While one car turned back the other made it to Bath,
Where we drank Champagne and sat by the hearth
The next day bought pancakes and ice-skating and
Christmas markets and scones and lovely new friends.
More rapid than eagles our players they came,
Ref whistled, Captain Laura called them by name: “Now! Lara, now! Becky, now! Francesca and Lucy, “On, Ella, Frances, Ailsa! On, Laura and Katie!
First quarter of the game did not go our way,
But in the second Francesca saved the day
A brilliant goal followed by a second from Captain.
While pushing top players out stopped their goals from happ’ning.
Some top saves from Lucy (her first full game in goal)
Including one-on-one’s – she was on a roll!
When we got the ball we didn’t give in to fear,
Passing up the wing until we were near,
Where Laura and Frances were able to score,
And Lara her great first in quarter four.
Eight man ups and with some great passing from Katie,
Cambridge’s final score of 5-7 meant victory!
Player’s player to Lucy for fab goal-saving,
And Francesca’s defence and Lara’s goal – amazing!
And so Cambridge exclaimed, as we drove out of sight—
Happy Bridgemas to all, and to all a good night!
The car ride to Bristol was both scenic and life-threatening (shout-out to Nicola for an interesting interpretation of the highway code). We stopped for a light snack at a lovely little hole in the wall where we quickly carbed up for the war ahead of us. On arrival, after a brisk warm-up, the game was afoot.
The first quarter was neck and neck, some truly great polo from us and some dubious refereeing resulted in the quarter ending 4-4. The second quarter is, unfortunately, where the game ran away from us for a variety of reasons, namely fitness and team chemistry. However, I do believe we played the better water polo (especially in the first and third quarters). One particularly memorable moment was the heavenly lob from our TJ, Ben Tinkler-Davies (BTD). The ball soared into the top corner smoother than anything. Another lovely moment was the penalty save from Brian in the final quarter, where he read the opposition like a book getting not one, but two hands to the ball and cradling it back to the safety of Cambridge possession. Goal Scorers: Adam (2), Rob (2), BTD (2), Isaac (1), Alex (1), Youssef (1). Final score: 19-9.
Women’s Water Polo go head to head with Bristol
Women of the match:
Mainly those with names beginning with L were voted for: Laura (Robinson), Laure (Talarmain) and Lara (Tritton) and Ailsa (Kiely) for their first BUCS match which is a big step up. Lucy (Morgan) for super passes in attack, in the right place at the right time.
The first BUCS (National University League) match of the season was against the previous top team in the first division- Bristol. It’s early in the year, and the team have been training together for only a month, with the new coach Bygraves standing by at every match, making sure we play our best. But The Cambridge Women’s Water Polo team were keen to travel up early to support the Cambridge Men’s side. Music on the way up included Berlin’s club scene style (for 4 hours as this was the only CD present) and though legal parking in Bristol’s Clifton is hard to find, we all got to the university’s pool on time. After watching the Cambridge men intensely, the 10 women showing a threatening (winking) lion on their costumes entered the water, warming up with their brand new, Christmas themed and super grippy water polo balls.
The match started up speedily, and Robinson’s description sums it nicely – “Our first quarter was a tricky one- we were too static. Giving Bristol lots of time to set up in defence and counter off us to attack”. Cambridge conceded 6 goals, soon realising that Bristol was just as strong as in previous years, and that this would be a tough match. But with 30 seconds to go, Bristol got an exclusion. Thanks to loud shouts and large hand gestures, Ashley, our coach notified the referees of a time out – a one minute break allow for some quickfire tactics and a well- set up man-up attack. And it paid its worth, as Schubert banged the goal in the corner. 6-1
Many one-on-one counter attacks kept goalkeeper Benezit busy, and with the lack of defensive support it was hard to keep the goals from whizzing into the corners of the 3m wide goal. Another man-up situation was created as Bristol’s Pitsika got excluded for swimming over the top of Schubert, and though passing was speedy to keep the goalkeeper moving, no shot got through the strong defence. A lost hat from Irwin caused a short kerfuffle, a dive down to the bottom of the pool to retrieve the hat. But for now she had swapped from number 8 to 13. With 2 exclusions from Schubert and Turrell, and a number of speedy counter attacks, Bristol scored another 6 goals in this quarter, and at the loud bleep after those 8 minutes of play we swapped ends, refuelled from our bottles and relaunched.
What had happened to give a 12-1 at half time? And could we make a comeback? Bristol was strong- we new this, as they are one of the best teams in the country. Their national player Dean was in the water having scored a third of the goals against us.
But turn it around we did- in the second half. The next 8 minutes of play were collected, careful and what we wanted and needed. Feng with her swimming ability sped down to the corners, often free for the perfect pass, and helping us to get the ball down to attack, then a quick pass, then shot. Within the first minute, Turrell got the ball to the back of the net- one of her classic loops scoring our second goal. Another exclusion from Schubert saw 20 seconds of man-down defence, during which Dean scored once again. But not disheartened, we launched attack after attack and made sure to sprint back in defence to catch those counters. Tritton and Talarmain, still new to the team, took on players wherever needed, their awareness being a great asset and Robinson took some mighty shots, her increasing confidence in attack showing through. Thanks to Kiely’s hard work in attack to get free from Bristol’s tight grabs and moving into the right positions, another attack resulted in a shot from Turrell, securing our third goal. In the last minute, direct from a centre ball after Bristol’s 15th goal, a quick careful pass over the top to Schubert saw her score, to end the quarter with a much improved score of 12-4.
The team was exhausted, with only 3 players on the bench at any time to jump in and sub. But that would not stop us, as we wanted the last quarter to be as strong as the third. Some sneaky shots from Bristol saw 3 more goals, including from their main scorer Pitsika. She was fast and strong, and hard to stop. But the whole team, held strong and pressed Bristol out in defence, while fighting against their grabs, pushes and kicks. Yes- that’s water polo. In this battle, our fifth goal came again from Turrell, and what a beauty it was. The last two minutes of play where a flurry: first a timeout to set up a strong attack, an exclusion giving us another man-up, and some erratic passing landed the ball in the defenders hands again. A quick counter from them, and a corner for Bristol in the last 10 seconds, but no more goals. In Robinson’s words: ““All in all a great learning experience” and the 18-5 score was an achievement for us, especially in the second half. Schubert looked at Turrell once the match had ended to to give her a ‘well played’ nod, and her only comment was “Just checking I’ve still got both nipples!”
We are now looking forward to the next BUCS matches against Cardiff and Bath.
The day started quite well, as most of the team turned up at the right place at the right time. Except for the keeper. He was nowhere to be seen. But we set off nonetheless, and after picking up our star player Youssef from Churchill we headed for Warwick. It was only logical that he should get on-demand chauffeur services because he had to preserve as much energy as possible. The chauffeur service paid off because he performed some cheeky manoeuvres, apparently leaving both teams in awe. Not quite sure what exactly he did, but considering he spent an hour mentioning it, it must have been pro.
There were some nice shots (almost goals) by Cam Wallis and Youssef Badr. Warwick’s 1st team was quite aggressive but no one got too seriously injured, though the blow to our egos was catastrophic. Igor failed his aim of respecting the rules and got sent out in the first minute of play. Of course the team lived up to their brainy Cambridge name by failing to count to 6 and the second quarter almost started with more than half the team out of the water.
In other parts of the pool, #roadtofirstteam Leo decided to debut as a keeper in the BUCS league and did a solid job. He is quite sad to report that this was also his last game as keeper in the BUCS league and he hopes that everyone who supported him can respect his decision.
At the end of the game Peter went missing in his search for a vending machine, which turned out to be 5 meters away from the changing rooms. But we found him eventually, and even learned the most efficient way to contact him: by email, for future notice.
On the way back we made a quick detour into Leicestershire after Youssef’s stellar performance as co-driver. Everyone bailed on the post-match Maccy D’s so they were not able to watch Igor attempt to shark on the UEA badminton team.
Shoutouts to Lafferty for top notch hat carrying as TJ. MVP goes to Leo for stepping up to play keeper (still trying to find the actual keeper, if anyone knows where he went…). The score will remain unmentioned because it’s not something anyone wants to think about, ever. The team lost – by a lot – but in doing so, they gained conviction and hope for the future.