Meet the challengers for the 2023 U17 girls national age group titleApril 25, 2023
This weekend sees the return of the Swim England Water Polo National Age Group Championships as the U17s and U19s boys and girls compete for titles at the Sunderland Aquatics Centre.
In the build up to the finals we are taking a closer look at each of the sides competing that are looking to become national champions.
Here, in the first of our four previews, we take a look at the four U17 girls teams that have qualified for finals weekend.
City of Manchester
We start with the defending champions, the City of Manchester, who come into the competition after topping Group A in the preliminary round.
The team came away with three victories and one draw, scoring an impressive 35 goals across their four fixtures.
Big wins over Worthing (9-2) and Croydon Amphibians (8-0) sent them on their way to qualification before a vital victory against the City of Sheffield ensured they topped the group.
The club won all three of the girls national age group championships in 2022 and ahead of the competition, team manager Gillian Crompton says the team are looking forward to the challenge of defending the title.
She said: “The U17s girls are a slightly younger team to the one that came 2nd in this age group back in 2021.
“However, with most of the players being part of the U15 team that won the national title in 2022 we are confident going into the finals.
“The team have trained hard, coupled with their determination, helped us to top our group in the preliminaries. We are looking forward and are ready for the challenge this weekend.”
City of Sheffield
Finishing just behind them in Group A was the City of Sheffield, who impressed in the preliminary round.
They missed out on top spot by just a point after wins over West London Penguin (10-3) and Worthing (12-6) before a narrow 9-7 defeat to the City of Manchester.
It was a run of performances that will give them great confidence coming into finals weekend and head coach Gabby Williams says the teams grit and determination will be key to their success in Sunderland.
She said: “We have a brilliant young squad who have so much potential and a fabulous team spirit.
“This group of girls have played together in various forms for a number of years which helped us to quickly settle down and play to our strengths. Our defence was solid, but our grit and determination in attack, even when the scores were close in the first halves of the games, was the key to securing our place in the finals.
“As the prelims went on, the team displayed some great individual performances and fantastic team play. This showed in the game with Manchester, where we held the reigning champions off right up until the last minute of the game – resulting in a phenomenal game of water polo.
“The semi-final game with Cheltenham will be tough, but we are prepared and ready to rise to the challenge that lies ahead. As coaches, all we can ask for is the girls to get in, work as a team, give it 100% and show what Sheffield are made of. Do that and no matter the score, they can leave with their heads held high and a smile on their faces.”
Squad: Severn Annakin (C), Ruby Taylor, Izzi Olcer, Millie Richards, Alice Berrill, Georgie Coles, Caitlin Urquhart, Rowena Kanan, Anna Woodhall, Ida Naseem, Hannah Croker, Evie Cole.
Head coach: Gabby Williams. Assistant coach: James Newsam. Team manager: Liz Taylor.
Last year’s runners up Cheltenham will be looking to go one better in the North East this weekend.
In 2022, they lost out to the City of Manchester in the final and there’s a potential repeat of that final this year, should both teams make it through their semi-finals match on Saturday.
Cheltenham come into this with the best record in qualifying. They topped Group B with a 100% record after defeating Watford (9-4), Kirkintilloch & Kilsyth (16-6) and the City of Liverpool (8-3) to book their finals place.
The squads head coach James Ross said: “The team performed well in qualifying, winning all of their preliminary matches. With three of our squad training with the 2006 national squad and another nine in the national talent pathway, it shows the depth of talent that this group has.
“Our club coaches Amy Berry, John Spicer, Lee Barnes and Paul Crerar need a mention as they have worked with this squad since they joined the club, which for some would have been as young as eight years old.
“The girls are a real great group to coach and improving all the time. As a 2007 age group they have already won the U15s competition so they come into this one with high expectations.”
Cheltenham will take on the City of Sheffield in the semi-finals.
Squad: Sophie Levereidge, Amelie Perkins, Lily Ross, Alice Shields, Georgia Haslam, Jess Day, India Knights-Hume, Megan Ross, Ella Webster, Alex Haslam, Ellie Bees, Clemmie Hitz, Alice Ross.
Head coach: James Ross. Assistant Coach: Stu McKie.
City of Liverpool
The final team to qualify for the National Age Group finals was the City of Liverpool.
An 8-3 loss to Cheltenham was the only blip on their record in qualification as they look to improve on last year’s fourth place finish.
Impressive victories against Watford (5-3) and Kirkintilloch & Kilsyth (9-5) saw them finish on six points in the preliminary round as they comfortably booked their semi-final return.
On Saturday, they will face the City of Manchester in a repeat of last year’s semi-final where they will be looking to get revenge on their rivals.
In 2022, they suffered a heart-wrenching 10-9 defeat to their fellow North West side, a result they’ll be desperate to reverse this time around.
Squad: Annie Rowland, Fleur Morris, Abigail Harrison, Lily Watson, Lucy Davis, Harriet Ornsby, Bella Ibbs (C), Tillie McGeehan, Abbie Evans, Ella Meskell, Abigayle Irving, Esther Clark and Jess Freeman
Head coach: Alice Byrne. Assistant coach: Joanne Mountfield. Team manager: Ian Ornsby
You can follow all our previews and reports from the Swim England Water Polo National Age Group Championships here.