11 November 2022

Last Thursday, the Abingdon water polo team embarked to go and compete at Eton at the inaugural Five Schools Challenge. This meant we had to play four other teams: Eton, Marlborough, Charterhouse and Harrow. Although we were playing away, we were able to play in a pool in which our squad thrives in, a full length 25m pool and full depth of 2m. This allowed us to utilise our swimming speed and agility very effectively throughout the entire tournament.

Our first game we played to get started in the tournament was against Harrow, who beat us last year 12-2. We jumped into the pool ready and pumped up for our first game. We started off strong, using all the skills we’ve been developing and with strong passing throughout the first half allowing us to go into the next half ahead. We came out of the half with more strength and skills allowing us to put a couple more goals past the Harrow defence. This ended in a 4-3 victory for our squad, which was an extremely strong start against a difficult opponent to start the tournament off against.

We then jumped into our next game with enthusiasm, feeling upbeat after our first victory of the tournament, setting us up for our match against Eton. Last year Eton just beat us 7-2. However, with the past behind us, our heads were focused for the match ahead with the intention of bouncing back from last year. We started off the game a bit slowly, going 1 goal down, before Can equalised before the half. After the half, Eton slammed home three quick goals, taking the score to 4-1. The team rallied and Can Tugcetin scored a rapid fire hat-trick, we had two missed penalties and the game’s momentum had swung our way. With the scoreline 4-4, we were firmly in the driving seat but unfortunately time got the better of us and the end whistle was blown before we were able to get another attempt on goal. However, the improvement and grit we showed in the second half to come back from a 3-1 deficit was extremely impressive, allowing us to keep our unbeaten streak alive in the tournament.

Due to our 4-4 draw against Eton, we realised that we needed to get a large amount of goals past our next opponents in order to increase our goal difference to try and get above Eton in that column. This meant we came out with all guns blazing against Charterhouse, who beat us 21-1 last year in our first ever game. We started off extremely well getting a 3-1 lead at the half, but we knew that we needed to put many more past our opponents for us to get a high enough goal difference to put in a challenge for the overall victory of the tournament. This meant we had to go all out from the start of the second half and leave nothing out in the pool. We ended the game scoring 10 goals and only letting Charterhouse score 2 past us which was an extremely strong effort by our squad allowing us to have a goal difference high enough to put in a strong claim to being overall victors, as well as carrying on our strong unbeaten streak.

Our final game was against Marlborough who we narrowly lost against last year 4-3. We knew we had to win this game in order to have a chance of beating Eton who were our closest rivals to winning the tournament as a whole. We started off strong going up 2-0 at half time with all of our team playing very well after a very long tournament with fatigue starting to kick in throughout our entire team. However, we had to push through to the end to try and get our goal difference up in the tournament. We eventually ended the game with a 4-1 victory over Marlborough, who were also unbeaten up to that point, showing the extremely high skill level the Abingdon squad was playing at throughout the entire tournament.

It all came down to Eton vs Marlborough to finish off the tournament, but unfortunately they were able to put just enough goals past Marlborough to surpass our strong goal difference, beating us by 1 goal to win the tournament as a whole. However, we were so pleased with the skills we had on display against each of the very difficult opponents. Ending the tournament with an unbeaten record, against teams that had previously thrashed us is a great indication of just how far the team have come. As well as this, our clamp down defending throughout the entire tournament meant we ended the matches allowing the fewest amount of goals past us out of all the teams competing.

We ended the tournament with Can Tugcetin being our top scorer, with him scoring a very impressive 12 goals throughout the tournament, which is a very impressive outing for our team’s top scorer. However, much of our squad was also able to put several goals past opponents with Henry Dearden scoring a total of 5 goals, Johnny James scoring 2, and both Will d’Arcy, Ollie Calcott and Chris Skelton scoring 1 goal each. However, our entire team played very impressively and the overall record we produced was due to the hard effort and work we put into action in the pool.

Many thanks to Mr Mason and Aaron for all the hard work they have put into preparing our squad for the matches in the tournament as well as helping us improve massively from last year which can clearly be seen by the improvements in the scorelines of all the games we played. Massive congratulations to the entire squad for the incredible performance and result. Now time to get ready for the ESSA qualifiers!

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