On Wednesday 6th March, the ladies’ 1st team came up against their toughest rivals in the South West U-polo League – Cardiff University.
The girls were tense before the match; everyone was very aware that the Cardiff keeper had only conceded two goals in their matches this year, but the knowledge that we were fielding a very strong team kept spirits fairly high.
The match started fast and furiously. It became immediately apparent that although their goalkeeper was skilled, she was nowhere near as fearsome as we were expecting. In addition, flustered mistakes by their defenders, combined with fantastic tackles and ball defence on our part meant that we were dominating the field, keeping possession 70-80% of the quarter. A number of fast swimmers from Cardiff were able to make breaks away from us however, and the quarter ended 2-1 to Cardiff.
Going into the second quarter only one goal behind meant that the team was buzzing; we had realised that we were the stronger team on pitch, and we had re-grouped in the break and were confident in our new tactics. We were then astonished to see that Cardiff had swapped their star keeper out of goal and put her on pitch. We were now attacking the shallow end, and Cardiff were giving away major after major, due to their lack of experience playing in a shallow pool. We unfortunately didn’t manage to convert these majors and again, Cardiff were breaking away from us to score. Then 3 minutes into the quarter the Cardiff keeper – now playing on pitch – was majored, then majored a second time and finally wrapped for swearing at Trevor, the referee. The penalty was easily converted to a goal by Nicole, and the score was set to end the half with Cardiff leading 5-2.
Spurred on by this new development, the knowledge that we had already doubled Cardiff’s goal concessions, the loud and enthusiastic support from the poolside and the fact that we were now attacking the deep end again, the team flew into the third quarter. Yet again, we dominated on the pitch, giving away one major that was converted by Cardiff, while playing against the temper of their pit defenders to get yet more penalties (unfortunately not scored), and another Cardiff player wrapped for the match. The quarter ended 6-4 to Cardiff, and the tension in the pool was rocketing.
Southampton’s final quarter was by far our finest. A full pool press defence meant that Cardiff were forced to set their arc up with their point player almost at halfway. More majors were given, two of which were scored by Nicole. Cardiff were evidently tired, and not a single player was getting free or swimming away from our girls. The last minute of the match was a flurry of distance shots, breaks by Southampton and a man-up situation at 20s remaining, but Cardiff held off just enough to ensure that the score ended in a 6-6 draw.
With the tally of majors ending 14-2 to Cardiff and such a promising final score, the 1st Ladies are already getting revved up for the return leg of our match in the Cardiff International pool next Wednesday afternoon.
Thank you very much to the table and the referees, and also to everyone on poolside who was playing later, coming out afterwards or just came to watch us. Your cheering and support made all the difference to us!
5 – Nicole
1 – Amy