My journey to the Worlds started over a year ago, and as soon as we'd won our final match at the Europeans last summer, we knew we'd be spending another year together, but we had no idea how much would change in that time!
The biggest challenge we were facing was the change in rules, as our World Championships had been chosen to be a trial run for changes in international water polo. Key differences were that we had to have six players in the water instead of seven, and a team of 11 rather than the 13 we were used to. These changes meant we needed entirely new tactics, and the outfield players have to swim further as there are loads more counter attacks. As a goalkeeper I knew that I'd have to face more shots every match, and with fewer defenders blocking the goal.
The changes meant we needed entirely new tactics and the outfield players have to swim further as there are loads more counter attacks.
Despite the fact that it was my third summer training full time with a squad, it was still a huge shock moving up to Manchester. Going from training only five or six times a week, while I focused on my exams, to twice a day as well as gym sessions was a struggle at first, especially the early mornings.
Our squad started off with 13 people in June, which meant we were all really close, but also aware that two people would spend all summer training but not come to the competition.
Four weeks into training our coaches sat us down with a big announcement. It was only a month before we were due to fly out, and Mexico had withdrawn from hosting the competition!! We now didn't know where Worlds was going to be, or if it was going to happen at all!
We didn't know where Worlds was going to be.... or if it was going to happen at all!
We all crossed our fingers and carried on training, but morale dropped really low, as no-one wanted the hours and hours of training we'd put in so far to be for nothing. It was another two days before we heard anything about the competition, but it turned out to be worth the wait. Greece had volunteered last minute and I was so relieved that we would still be competing!
As part of our training we flew to Istanbul, spending a week training and playing the Hungarian team. We stayed in a 'boatel', a small converted cruise ship, and every day walked through the gorgeous city to Margaret Island, known for its spa waters.
Everyone loved training outside, even if it was rather overcast until the last day when we went to a water park. The New Zealand team flew out to train with us a week later, and we then played them as part of our preparation for the competition.
We flew out to Thessaloniki at six in the morning from Manchester; checking in at the airport at half four meant that most of the team spent the entire flight asleep. When we arrived in Volos it was 37°C, the sky was perfectly clear, and our hotel looking out onto the port was very nearly perfect.
We played three matches in the group stages, and we knew from the draw that they would be difficult. Our first match was against Greece, and the host crowd was huge; the atmosphere was incredible. We lost 27-4, but given that Greece placed fifth overall, this result wasn't too disheartening.
Our next match was against Japan, and was probably our biggest chance to finish third in our group, and qualify to the top eight play-offs. The whole team was distraught when the Japanese team pulled away to win 8-22. Their chaotic tactics were difficult to defend, and losing this match meant we were extremely unlikely to finish above thirteenth. Our last group match was Russia, who finished third overall, and we went into the match focusing on minimising the number of goals scored against us. When we lost 6-22, we were already starting to think about our next game.
We played the next day against South Africa, which was our most important match so far. In the couple of seconds just before the match started I felt more pressure than any match before. We won 10-4 and knowing we were through to the 13th/14th playoffs was a great feeling. Our final match was against the Netherlands, who had been one of the favourites in the competition, so we faced a tough game. We eventually lost 7-22, meaning that we finished in 14th place.
I had an incredible summer, getting to travel, compete at a World Championship and train with the most incredible team, but it wouldn't have been the same without the support from our brilliant coaches and team manager, and all the friends and family who helped us get there.