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Stunning final quarter comeback sees Cheltenham crowned U17 girls champions

A stunning final quarter comeback saw Cheltenham defeat City of Manchester in an U17 girl’s final that was packed full of goals.

In the first gold medal match of the day at the Sunderland Aquatic Centre, Cheltenham came from 11-14 down at the end of the third period to turn the game on its head and run out 20-17 winners.

They netted an impressive nine times in the final period, with six of those split evenly between Amelie Perkins and Ella Webster.

Ellie Bees and Alice Shields added to their fourth quarter tally as they finally broke down a resilient Manchester side to claim the title.

“An amazing feeling”

Their head coach James Ross explained the changes they made going into the final period.

“I think at the beginning of the game we were playing a little bit more as individuals and not working well enough as a team.

“And in the end, we relied on some of our younger girls who really stepped up for us. Ella Webster scored four goals for us and she’s a 2009 born player and that was really important, especially when Manchester were making efforts to cancel out our more experienced players.”

Manchester led for the majority of the contest after a strong start with two goals from Lucy Blenkinship and a goal each for Amelie Crompton and Ella Donnellan.

That sent them on their way to a narrow 8-7 lead at the half-time interval before Crompton grabbed three more in the third quarter to give them a three-goal lead.

Eventually, they couldn’t hold Cheltenham back to defend the title that they won in 2022 despite three late Blenkinship strikes.

Ross commented on what it means for both his players and the club to come away with the title.

“It’s an amazing feeling

“This group have been together for quite a while now and for some of them it’s the last year in this age group so it was great for them to go out with a win.

“A lot of the girls are on national talent programmes so there’s a lot of time commitment for them in terms of going away at weekends, training and everything else.

“And as a club they’re in the pool at least three times a week for polo sessions and some of them are doing swimming on top of that so a lot of hard work goes into that so I’m really happy for them.

“Cheltenham haven’t always been dominant in the women’s game. We’ve traditionally been known as a men’s club throughout the last 10-15 years. So we’ve really focussed on the women’s side of things and part of that is by building a strong junior women’s setup at the club.”

Perkins grabbed six goals in the final as she won the MVP award for the competition whilst Jess Day (2), Bees, Webster (4), Megan Ross (2), Lilly Ross (2) and Shields (3) all got on the scoresheet for the Gloucester based side.

Blenkinship led the way in Manchester’s scoring charts with eight goals in the final on her way to picking up the competitions top scorer award.

Crompton (5), Abby Colson (2), Donnellan and Alex Watkins also added to Manchester’s scoring tally.

Sheffield see off Liverpool for bronze

A closely fought bronze medal match saw City of Sheffield defeat City of Liverpool 12-11.

Liverpool started off brightly, with Bella Ibbs scoring a hat trick inside the first quarter to give them the early lead.

But four goals from Alice Berrill, two either side of half time, helped put the South Yorkshire side into a narrow lead with just one quarter to go.

And despite a late Liverpool surge, Sheffield held on to their one goal advantage to run out 12-11 winners.

Two goals each from Georgie Coles, Ruby Taylor and Izzy Olcer added to Berill’s four strikes with Anna Woodhall and Severn Annakin also getting their names on the board.

Ibbs added four more in the second half to bring her total to seven for the contest with Ella Meskell, Annie Rowland and Lucy Davis (2) completing the Liverpool scorers.

City of Liverpool goalkeeper Jessica Freeman won the top keeper award after a string of excellent saves throughout the two days.

You can follow all our reports from the Swim England Water Polo National Age Group Championships U17/U19 here.

Photos: Will Johnston Photography.