1 December 2021
Abingdon travelled to Northampton School for Boys to participate in the first round of the ESSA National Water Polo Championships. We were drawn against Northampton School for Boys, Queen Elizabeth’s Barnet, Bedford and Warwick. All four opposition schools have played water polo competitively for several years and train regularly. Northampton for example, have several national academy level players and have competed with the top schools in the country in the National Cup. The group stage of ESSA national waterpolo is to help rank the teams before entering them into the next round in February. The top tier teams compete in the ESSA National Cup, the intermediate teams compete in the ESSA National Plate and the teams who are new to the sport or developing compete in the ESSA National Bowl. Using this system means the group stage is inevitably a head first dive into the deep end for new teams, but it does mean all teams are guaranteed good competition next year against similar ability squads. For Abingdon, just starting out on the water polo trail we hoped to use this tournament to continue to learn the game.
Abingdon’s first fixture was against Queen Elizabeth Barnet (QEB) who beat us 6-1. After the game the QEB players helped patch up Jacob who injured his finger and gave our team some useful tips.
“We were 4-0 and the odds were stacked against us however a long deep ball from Henry to Johnny who was on a “run”, managed to break through the line. This freed up Charlie in the centre of the pool who was unmarked – taking a powerful shot at goal which was saved but fumbled by the keeper, allowing Can to use his quick reactions to tap it in the net. Our opening goal of the tournament – perfection.”
Abingdon’s second game was against Bedford, who beat us 2-1. Already Abingdon was showing signs of huge improvement as Charlie put it succinctly; ‘our improvement curve is steep’. Between the Bedford and QEB game, Jacob Lamsdale in goal was having to deal with a finger injury, thankfully the QEB squad lent him some waterproof tape to bind his fingers. Thomas Jackson kept goal for the first half and did a fine job deputising for Jacob.
“Moving into the second match of the tournament the team spirits were high as this was the lowest goal difference we had ever had, taking into the account this is the 4th game the Abingdon team has ever played. We started by keeping to our original lineup from the first match. This seemed to be a fantastic choice as moving into the second half the game was 1-0 down the closest we have ever had. The Bedford team was strong, firing in shots from near the halfway line, but the keeping skills from Jacob Lamsdale were unstoppable. Johnny was left open and with his unmatched speed he was through and a soft flick and the ball was in. The game was afoot with a 1-1 game moving into the final period of the game. However the Bedford attack was a strong one with the ball being fired into the top corner. 2-1 loss, however the spirits of the team were raised even higher.”
Abingdon’s third game was against the host team, Northampton School for Boys (NSB). NSB had been dominant throughout the tournament, the target for us was to keep them from scoring double digits. NSB beat Abingdon 9-0. We started out well, parking the bus and maintaining possession, however it only took a few mistakes for NSB to get the ball back and they showed they could score from anywhere. The scoreline does not reflect how well Abingdon played, thanks to QEB for cheering us on throughout!
Abingdon’s final game was against Warwick. We jumped out to an early 2 goal lead thanks to goals from Johnny and Chris. Warwick clawed it back to 2-2 by the half. Goals from Warwick and another from Alex had the score at 3-3 with a minute to go. A late break down the wing led to Can having possession right in front of goal with seconds on the clock, the shot didn’t quite have enough on it and Warwick held on to keep the draw.
This was Abingdon’s first ever ESSA tournament and first ever draw! Looking back over the term so far we started out losing 21-1 to Charterhouse and now held our own against some seriously strong and experienced opposition. Coach Aaron was absolutely buzzing all the way home and as the team has a better handle on positioning and tactics, training will now move on to work on improving shooting, treading water and communication.
On Wednesday 1 December the water polo team will take on the 1st XV rugby team at water polo. This is another opportunity for the squad to get some game time, in this case against a big, physical team. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.
Water polo squad at ESSA:
Ianto Brewer (c)
Alex Cooper Marcos
Thanks again for NSB for hosting and loaning us some very nice water polo caps, our new ones are still being manufactured.
Henry Dearden also made a quick graph to show our Goal Difference over the course of this term to show just how much progress has been made. It might be worth noting that the y-axis should be inverted as our goal difference has been negative in all but one game.