Four teams ready to battle it out for the U17 boys national titleApril 26, 2023
This weekend sees the return of the Swim England Water Polo National Age Group Championships as U17s and U19s boys and girls compete as they look to be crowned national champions at the Sunderland Aquatics Centre.
In the build up to the competition we are taking a closer look at each of the sides competing in the event.
Here, in the second of our four previews, we take a look at the four U17 boys sides that have made it to the semi-finals.
Defending champions Worthing topped Group C with five wins from five in the preliminary round.
They overcame Exeter, City of Birmingham, Cheltenham, City of Sheffield and Northampton in their group with narrow 9-7 victories over both Exeter and Northampton where they particularly impressed.
After winning this competition last year, Worthing have squads in each of the boys competitions this time around, as they look to build on their success in 2022.
And their head coach, Alastair Roberts says his teams are looking forward to a weekend of competition.
He said: “We were very pleased to win the two qualifying groups, but both were very competitive.
“Obviously we hope to do as well as possible in the finals round in both age groups at Sunderland, but for a team from the Sussex coast it’s going to be a huge undertaking to play there.
“All of the boys are looking forward to the opportunity and we obviously hope that we play as well as we possibly can.”
Squad: Joey Taylor, Henry Priest, Jamie Miles, Tumay Evcimen, Jamie King, Olly Phillips, Caleb Slingo, Dom Bullen, Sam Collier, Cassius Humphrey, Sammy Smith, Aiden McArragher, William Makepeace.
Exeter are the only side that come into the semi-finals without a 100% record but the club will be looking to make a statement when they take on the City of Manchester in Saturday’s semi-final.
They finished second in Group C, with that narrow 9-7 defeat to Worthing the only blip on their record during qualification.
Victories over Cheltenham (9-7), Northampton (10-3), City of Birmingham (9-4) and the City of Sheffield (6-5) saw them progress as runners-up with eight points from a possible ten.
Coming into the competition, their team manager Nicci Morgan says the club are proud to reach the finals.
She said: “We are very proud to have reached the finals of the U17 Boys’ National Age Group Championships.
“A few of our lads will be acquainted with playing against the tough opposition – big city teams Manchester, West London Penguin and the current champions Worthing – whilst for others this will be their first time competing at the top level.
“It’s a totally new experience for us to travel and compete in Sunderland, but we hope to positively represent not only Exeter but the whole South West of England.
“We aim to come away having played our best and to enjoy the whole experience.”
Squad: Rafael Benchouiha, Stanley McCormick, Ali-James Demir, Harry Colman, Sam Harper, James Rostron, Nicholas Agnew, Harvey Mitchell, Kia Tik Woody Wong, Bernat Amado, Joe Davies, Daniel Harrison, Charlie Dawson.
City of Manchester
Coach Dan Paddon, who represented Great Britain at the World Cup qualifiers in Romania last month, has selected the same squad who topped group B in some style in the preliminary round.
Their attacking play was a joy to behold as they scored 37 goals in their three matches in Northampton.
They followed up a closely fought win over Beckenham (6-3) with a flurry of goals to see off Stretford (13-1) and Rotherham Metro (18-2).
That saw them top the group with a 100% record to book their semi-final matchup with Exeter.
And if Manchester get past the South West side they could set up a repeat of the 2022 final with Worthing, who narrowly beat the club 8-6 in last year’s final.
Squad: George Billington, Harry Butler, Ben Charlesworth, Freddy Dean, Ben Giles, Miles Kinloch, Tobias Khawar, James Logan, Lucas Roxburgh, Oliver Salimbeni, Max Spragg, Darcy Walsh, Eli Wass. Reserves: Jack Chapman, Nate Giles.
West London Penguin
West London Penguin come into the semi-finals after some impressive performances in qualifying where they played against some strong teams including Watford and Caledonia.
Penguin won Group A with four wins from four, scoring 39 goals and conceding just 12 as they topped the group.
A number of the Penguin squad have come from the U15 side that became national champions in December, including that tournament’s MVP (Max Karagiannis) and top scorer (Shai Saltman).
They join up with a squad that features a number of players that have been a part of the national talent programme, so come into the competition hoping they can make an impact.
“We are very pleased to make it into the finals” head coach, Claudio Palumbo, said.
“Our target was to make the final four with our young squad and we’ve done that. The club is happy to have a new generation of players pushing at the door of the national title and we hope to match the squad that won the trophy back in 2019.
“Of course the four teams in the final are all very competitive and Worthing (who they play in the semi-finals) are particularly strong after winning this age group in 2022.
“As the underdogs, we will play our water polo made up of skills and strategy against physical teams.”
Squad: Adriano Porsia, Shai Saltman, Daniel D’souza, Alex Panzaru, Sidney Gruber, Matteo Antonelli, Bayley Sepsed, Maximos Karagiannis, Sam Woods, Jack Benson, Leonardo Benini, Rafail Karagiannis, Riaz Garnie, Michelangelo Antonelli, Rocco Samashine.
You can follow all our previews and reports from the Swim England Water Polo National Age Group Championships here.