Women’s Water Polo: Two matches, Two countries, 24 hours…

by Lara Tritton

Fighting fit, fired up and full of fearsome new tactics from the fiendishly ferocious Hungarians post-tour, the Cambridge Women’s Waterpolo team faced 3 matches in 4 days.

After Wednesday had seen a solid and satisfying trouncing of ‘The Other Place’; the team prepared to do battle against the Welsh dragons in Cardiff on Friday evening followed the next morning by Bristol… back in Cambridge. Well, I say in Cambridge but our ‘home’ pool in Northampton is still a good 1.5 hours’ drive from Cambridge.

We set off for Cardiff at 3pm, leaving 5 and a half hours to get there in order to avoid the slight catastrophe that occurred the last time we attempted England’s traffic on a Friday evening to play Cardiff, whereupon our ETA kept ominously slipping later and later until we had reached Reading and realised that not only would we arrive after their pool closed but one car was an hour behind. If you can’t guess, that match didn’t happen.

Despite this seemingly ample time, someone somewhere had decided to close seemingly every road and junction that we needed, so we arrived, leapt in the pool and rushed through our warm-up before swim-off.

Quarter 1: Our short warm-up left our part-time goalie Lucy Morgan out in the cold, and some successful counters by Cardiff quickly left us 3-0 down. We soon got our act together and made sure we sprinted back to get our defensive arc in gear, with some strong defence put in by Ella Irwin and some excellent saves off one-on-ones by Morgan.

A strong shot by Captain Schubert towards the end of the quarter lifted our flagging spirits, and in the interlude before the next quarter we were reminded to play with ‘High Intesnsity’.

Quarter 2: We were now fully in the swing of things, and our capabilities emerged, with some excellent leftie shots by woman of the match Sarah Flaherty. Despite some distinctly questionable refereeing (we think he was mistakenly caught up in the emerging trend for whistle-blowing), with frequent turnovers, we held our own and caught up slightly.

The third and fourth quarters were hard fought, and despite goals from Frances Turrell, Schubert and Irwin, including a bizarre allowance whereby the Cardiff goalie, poor lass, unfortunately managed to score an own goal when she brought the ball back to throw it her teammate. Chantelle Doran and Laura Robinson made sure the runaway goals of the first quarter were not repeated, keeping Cardiff firmly marked. Meanwhile, Kate kept her cool despite being mauled in an unladylike way to ensure opposition goal scoring was minimised.

Sadly, the match finished with a final strong push from Cardiff to end with an 8-6 loss, but we played well… and then drove back- huge credit to Doran and Turrell in one car and Schubert singlehandedly in the other for the 10 hours driving!

We face Cardiff again in less than a week… spoiler: the scoreline read very differently!

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Just about time for a quick nap (we arrived back in Cambridge at 3am), before a bright and early start to play Bristol! Raring to go, or semi-awake…I personally slept the whole journey and managed to miss a road block, two police cars and an ambulance, and possibly some interesting gossip…. A larger team- a full contingent of 13- was appreciated as we really could play high intensity against this team who beat us quite solidly last time.

The first quarter. We were prepared for the strength of the Bristol team, and right from the word go made sure that we kept their strong players marked at all times, and as far from the goal as possible. Unfortunately, this seemed to make little difference to some, as one of their girls was as happy shooting from 10m as from 2. She notched up 3 goals in this section, and proceeded to score 69% of the team’s total. A tough opponent, one of a few which caused a fair few exclusions and an unfortunate penalty in the 3rd quarter. A lovely loopy shot from Frances Turrell ensured that we ended the first 7 minutes only 3-1 down, a marked improvement from the 12-1 of our first game vs Bristol.

We then saw a lovely first ever BUCS goal from Becky Mackett, new to waterpolo this year, in the last two seconds of the quarter, and another beauty from Captain Schubert. Alas, despite some strong defence from Giardinello and Irwin, they managed to pop another 5 in, to reach half time 3-8 down.

Regular subbing and a fighting spirit meant we kept Bristol on their toes and did not allow them to become complacent. A third set of 7 minutes saw two goals from Turrell and Schubert, though Flaherty was blocked by some solid defence. In a fit of enthusiasm, Captain Laura made a double-quick substitution of the entire bench… only to find that there were two seconds of the quarter remaining.

By the fourth quarter it was clear that we were not going to be able to bring the match back, but carried on playing well, with a wonderful ending goal by Irwin, who had been doing a sterling job to keep a key player out of the match, and some great tackling by Katie Purohit. We finished 6-16, but on reflection we had played a very good game, and anyway Chantelle Doran had made brownies and flapjacks (for the one peculiar member of our team who actively dislikes chocolate) so we promptly forgot about everything else… until our good Captain reminded us that we had 2 hours before we had to be back in the Leys in Cambridge for our Saturday training.