An exciting weekend of water polo action at the ASA Inter Regional U16 Girls’ Championships 2016 saw a strong Ireland team crowned winners at Liverpool Aquatic Centre.
The tournament, hosted by the ASA North West region consisted of a whopping 34 matches played in two pools across the weekend, with some nail-biting encounters as 11 teams from across England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales fought for the championship title.
Day One – The group stages
The group stages took place on Saturday 28, with Ireland leading the table in Group A, despite an early 3-4 loss to North West Thunder. There was nothing between some of the teams in the the group, with draws between Wales and North West Thunder, Ireland beating Wales by just a goal in a thrilling 4-3 victory, and the South West edging ahead of the Midlands in a 9-8 battle. East Angels took the runner-up spot in Group A, with three wins.
London Sharks took the title in Group B, finishing Saturday with an impressive unbeaten record, beating group runners-up South East in a tense 9-7 encounter which had the crowd on the edges of their seats throughout. Scotland Saltires took the third spot in the group after seeing off North West Lightning 7-5, whilst North East Steelers finished fifth.
Day Two – The play-offs
Sunday 29 was the day for final positions to be decided, with the fifth to eighth place play-offs kicking the morning off. The South West saw-off North West Lightning 9-4, whilst North West Thunder beat Scotland Saltires 5-3 to go in to the fifth-sixth play-off match. The ninth to eleventh place games followed, with the Midlands and Wales both easing to victory over the North East, 12-5 and 9-1 respectively.
Hat tricks from Katie Cutler and Lucy Chard-Maple helped the South West land the fifth place spot in the tournament, as they beat North West Thunder 10-2.
A faultless performance from Ireland in the first of the semi-finals saw the first clean sheet of the competition in a 7-0 shutout against the South East, booking their place in the final. The second semi was a much closer encounter, with London and the East Angels tied at two a piece at half time. Three goals from Meg Wall-Peters in the second half was the undoing as the East dominated to eventually win 7-3.
In the bronze medal match, London Sharks booked their spot on the podium as they beat the South East 8-4, with Emily Campbell claiming four goals for the London side.
A thrilling final followed, with strong defence from both teams keeping the score line low. Ireland took the lead in the closing seconds of the first half, with Robyn Joyce netting a man-up. Aoife Hennessy found the back of the net early in the second half, only for Eve Poole to reply with a goal for East Angels. Just seconds later, Hennessy bagged her second of the game and Ireland held on to take their first ever victory in the competition, claiming gold.
Most Valuable Player Awards went to:
- Ireland - Sophie Moran
- East - Poppy Mayall
- London - Bob Toth
- South East - Lily Turner
- South West - Katy Cutler
- NW Thunder - Emily Pyper
- Scotland - Aithne Lawrence
- NW Lightning - Marieke Head
- Wales - Nia Sanders
- Midlands - Pia Tonks
- North East - Esther Mead
Sponsor awards from Water Polo Market went to:
- Top Goal Scorer - Nia Sanders (Wales)
- Top Goal Keeper - Anna Jenkins Delf (Wales)
- Overall tournament MVP - Sophie Moran (Ireland)
A special thank you goes to all of the Swim North West volunteers who made the weekend such a success, especially Mike Hesketh (Tournament Director) and Damien Taylor (Referees coordinator). If you would like to get involved as a referee or table official, please visit http://www.swimming.org/waterpolo/water-polo-officials-referees-resources-and-licensing/