Newcastle’s women’s firsts headed down to Sheffield last weekend to compete in the BUCS super eights for the opportunity to make it through to Big BUCS Wednesday, and be crowned BUCS champions.
The team, who finished third in the Premier North, were in group one with Bristol, Edinburgh and Sheffield Hallam. To make it through to finals the team had to place in the top two, which meant beating at least two of the teams in their group.This was a daunting prospect since both Edinburgh and Sheffield Hallam are in Newcastle’s league, but Newcastle had yet to beat either of the teams, losing to Edinburgh, and fighting hard for a draw against Hallam (the three year reigning BUCS champions) earlier in the season. Bristol were not to be counted out either, sitting comfortably at the top of the premier southern league with a goal difference of 131 over second place, Cambridge.
Despite this, Newcastle were confident in their chances thanks to an influx of new talent from national league players in the form of Holly Short, Harriet Robinson, and Gemma Deacon, and promising new freshers, Rowena Moores and Tara Twine, mixed in with an already confident and established squad.
Last year Newcastle suffered disappointment in the contest, failing to make it through to finals after a complacent performance at semis following their silver medal finish in the competition the year before. With many squad members graduating in June, the team were determined to make an impact.
Newcastle kicked off their two- day contest against a strong Edinburgh side. Due to academic commitments, key team member (and runner up in the Courier’s sports personality of the year) Emma Little, was unable to play in the match. This loss was certainly felt, as despite the Toon’s best efforts, and Sophie Sowerby’s amazing covers, they succumbed to a crushing 20-4 loss; not the campaign start they were hoping for.
MVP against Edinburgh: Sophie Sowerby
After a hearty feed at a popular chicken restaurant on the Friday night, Newcastle were ready for action on Saturday morning in their 10am fixture against Bristol. With Little back at the helm, and surrounded by a side of national league players Newcastle looked strong, but it was still a palpably tense affair.
Coach, Andy Little, mainly kept the same starting seven in for the entirety of the match, and the team worked as a unit. National league fresher, Holly Short, was the undisputed MVP scoring some ‘absolute blinders’ in the words of captain, Beth Laidlaw, abandoning her trademark bottom left corner shots in favour of some perfectly timed, exquisitely placed lob shots which caught the Bristolians off guard. As the match progressed into the final quarter, Newcastle established a slim, one- goal lead.
A last-ditch attempt to equalise from Bristol was halted by an exquisite save by club president and keeper, Jess Newman, leaving the final score at 11-10.
MVP against Bristol: Holly Short
The final fixture of the day for group one was when Newcastle and Hallam faced off for the last place on offer at finals. With Edinburgh cruising through the group stages undefeated, and Sheffield drawing against Bristol, Newcastle only had to win or draw to secure their place at finals thanks to their win over Bristol earlier in the day.
Although Newcastle scored the first goal of the match, Hallam showed their promise and quickly took the lead 2-1 in the opening minutes. In the water, a Hallam player swum into Sarah Poyntz’s elbow and came out with a broken nose, resulting in table officials controversially branding Newcastle the dirtiest team of the competition.
As if the drama in the pool wasn’t enough, there was plenty unfolding on poolside, with Coach Little excelling himself by managing to get red-carded by the referee for arguing, and asked to leave the pool in only the third quarter. He then went to the viewing gallery and attempted to continue to coach, but was asked to leave poolside altogether.
“Newcastle played well, sealing a 13-10 win, and their place in the BUCS finals”
In the meantime, the drown alarm was set off in the men’s match after a Bristol player received a serious back injury during play, so all matches were halted for five minutes. Thankfully, quick reactions from the Manchester Metropolitan keeper helped to get the player out of the pool safely, and the women’s match resumed.
As the match re-started captain Laidlaw took responsibility for substitutions, and Newcastle played a strong defensive game, with Megan Lord dropping hard on Hallam’s pit, forcing their wingers to shoot when they weren’t comfortable doing so.
Fresher, Moores, made an impact during her time in the water, swimming the ball all the way up to other end of the pool and getting a man sent out, resulting in a penalty for the Toon, which Little seamlessly converted. Despite missing their coach, Newcastle played well, sealing a 13-10 win, and their place in the BUCS finals.
MVP against Sheff Hallam: Megan Lord
Just five days later, the Water Polo Club learned that their Men’s 1st team have also booked their place in Bath. The boys overcame a very strong Liverpool side on penalties, after the game itself finished 7-7. Newcastle keeper, interim 2s captain and club social secretary Owen Herman saved the 5th and decisive Liverpool penalty.
However, whether the team will actually make it to Bath is another question, since they are struggling to find the funds to head down south for the two- day, mid-week competition. Currently their best hopes rest on securing a sponsorship deal from squidgy malt loaf company, Soreen, such is the severity of the situation. It would be a pity for their journey to end here, so we hope the club manage to find the funds to compete.