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Who will be crowned U19s girls national age group champions?

This weekend sees the return of the Swim England Water Polo National Age Group Championships as the top four U17 and U19 boys and girls teams compete for national titles.

In the build up to the competition we are taking a closer look at each of the sides competing at the Sunderland Aquatics Centre.

Here, in the third of our four previews, we take a look at the U19 girls sides that have qualified for finals weekend.

City of Liverpool

We start with a City of Liverpool side who won all five of their matches to top Group B in the preliminary round.

The Merseyside club impressed in qualification, especially in their narrow victories over the City of Sheffield (6-5) and fellow semi-finalists Otter (3-2).

They followed that up with big wins against Worthing (7-3), City of Bristol (6-2) and Kirkintilloch & Kilsyth (9-4).

Like their U17 side, they take on the City of Manchester in the semi-finals in an all North West on Saturday.

Squad: Annie Rowland, Lucy White, Harriet Ornsby, Bella Ibbs, Hannah Pyper, Darcey Lawrenson, Hannah Giles, Jess Freeman, Lily Ireland, Milly Martin, Lucy Davis, Amélie Cornell (C), Tilly Connolly. Reserve: Bethany Glover.

Head coach: Joanne Mountfield. Assistant coach: Alice Byrne. Team manager: Nichola McClellan.

City of Manchester

City of Manchester made it into the semi-finals on goal difference after securing five points from their four games in qualifying.

The defending champions suffered a narrow defeat to Cheltenham and drew 6-6 with Watford in Group A of the preliminary round but ensured their qualification after two stunning victories against the City of Birmingham (14-1) and West London Penguin (16-2).

Those victories showed the class that this team possesses and they’ll be confident that with the players at their disposal that they can retain their title.

A spokesperson from the club said: “The first round of the competition saw a few players missing from the team due to holidays and the girls made us sweat a little with some of the results, however the team still qualified for the finals.

“And as last year’s champions, the team are looking forward to defending their title.

“They feel well prepared due to the hard work, dedication and preparation they have put in during training and are looking forward to competing in the finals this weekend.”

Squad: Zara Christie, Evie Brown, Charlotte Pritchard, Abigail Colson, Lucy Blenkinship, Nicole Kelly, Harriet Dickens (C), Lilly Pryce, Ella Carter, Amelia Brooksbank, Izzy Robb, Amelia Crompton, Tilly Armer.

Cheltenham

Cheltenham’s narrow 7-6 victory against the City of Manchester ensured they topped Group A with a 100% record.

The talented squad also saw off City of Birmingham (15-2), West London Penguin (14-1) and Watford (11-6) to finish on a maximum of eight points.

The club also has sides in both the U19 boys and U17 girls competitions so they’ll be hoping that they’ll have some silverware to accompany them on the long trip back from Sunderland on Sunday.

And the teams head coach, James Ross, is confident that the conditions will suit his squad.

He said: “Four wins from four games in the preliminary rounds was a great result for this dedicated group of players. With full length matches in a 25m pitch for finals weekend, the conditions will suit this team.

“Beating defending champions Manchester in the preliminary rounds was a good sign for this squad’s potential, but the route to the final and possibly to the championship title will be a tough one.

“We are lucky at Cheltenham to have access to the amazing facilities at the Sandford Park Lido and the squad have been working hard with some punishing swim sets in the 50m pool.

“We’d be very disappointed not to medal in this competition and will be pushing hard for a place in the final, but this is a very tough age group, with all teams packed with experienced international players and players on the GB talent pathway.”

Squad: Sophie leveridge, Amelie Perkins, Bella Balzaretti, Georgia Haslam, Mara Totolici, Freya Webster, Alice Tubby, Michela Totolici, Lily Ross, Alice Sheilds, Jess Day, Adriana Rodriguez

Head coach: James Ross. Assistant coach: Stu McKie.

Otter

After winning two titles on the spin in this age group, Otter had to settle for bronze in 2022.

The London based club are looking to regain their title this time around however and come into the competition as runners-up from Group A.

Their narrow 3-2 defeat to the City of Liverpool saw them miss out on top spot but there was a lot of positives to take from a qualification campaign that saw them win all four of their remaining matches.

Otter will face Cheltenham in the semi-finals on Saturday and if they keep the Gloucester-based sides scoring down to a minimum, like they did with Liverpool, then they’ll have every chance in regaining their crown.

You can follow all our previews and reports from the Swim England Water Polo National Age Group Championships here.

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