Following successful campaigns in the u16 and u18 national Water Polo competitions, it was the turn of Ripley u13’s to make their competitive debut in the Lancaster City Swimming and Water Polo Development competition on Sunday 19 May 2013. The competition provided the ideal opportunity for Ripley’s Year 7-8 students’ (boys and girls) to form a mixed team and take on a number of well-established water polo teams.
Impressively, of the eight teams in the competition, Ripley were the only school team involved and nine of their twelve players were in Year 7 with most having only been to a handful of sessions at school with Lancaster City Water Polo coach, Zak Sly, Mr Teesdale and Year 10 u16 GB Squad Goalkeeper, Owain Llewellyn.
The opening game against Merseyside was always going to provide a steep learning curve and the youngsters quickly found themselves 0-4 down at half time. Not to be discouraged, they rallied in the second half with two goals from Johnny Hocking (Year 8) and a much better idea of how to play the game, eventually losing 2-6 at the final whistle.
Next up were Sheffield and despite a second successive defeat, the game was a much closer affair than the 0-4 scoreline suggested.
Ripley visibly began to grow in confidence and by the third game against Lancaster Stingrays, one of the two Lancaster City Development teams, they took an early two goal lead never looked back as they dominated the game, recording an impressive 7-2 win with goals from Lottie Hulme (2), Tom Horner, Ike Eastwood, Rio Quarry, Kit Nolan-Barnes and Tom McMahon.
Having found their goal-scoring touch, Ripley were keen to continue where they had left off and wasted no time in finding the back of the net again with regularity against Lancaster Sharks. Equally impressive was the clean sheet they kept in the 6-0 win with further goals from Quarry (2), Horner, McMahon, Nolan Barnes and Eastwood.
Sedgefield provided a tougher test and in a game that swung back and forward in goal-scoring saw Sedgefield edge ahead just after half time and manage to keep Ripley at arm’s length for the remainder of the game which they ran out 7-3 winners. Nolan Barnes (2) and Bethany Fletcher getting on the scoreheet for Ripley.
Next up were eventual winners Rotherham who almost found themselves 0-1 down within the opening few seconds when Ripley hit the post straight from the start. Rotherham quickly counter attacked and scored straight away before demonstrating greater experience and physical presence to win record an 8-2 over Ripley. Quarry added another to his tally and a fine instinctive goal from Josh Clarke excited the Ripley team, coaches and supporters.
The seventh and final group game showed how far Ripley had progressed from the opening game as they took on a confident Blackpool side. Ripley were left to rue a number of missed opportunities in front of goal and despite goals from Hocking, Quarry and Nolan-Barnes, were disappointed to lose 3-5 in a game that was there for the taking.
The group results meant that Ripley were in the fifth v sixth place play-off game in a repeat of their opening game against Merseyside, who stunned Ripley taking a blistering 3-0 lead before the end of the first half. Johnny Hocking pulled a goal back before half time as Ripley began to believe they could catch Merseyside, which they did. Two excellent goals from Rio Quarry drew the teams’ level at 3-3 setting up and nail-biting finale in which Merseyside scored the winner with just thirty seconds remaining in the game, confirming Ripley’s sixth place finish in the competition.
All teams were presented with certificates by Great Britain Water Polo Olympians, Ciaran James and Glen Robinson. Well done to all the Ripley players on their performance in their first water polo competition.
Goals: Quarry (7), Nolan Barnes (5), Hocking (4), Horner (2), Eastwood (2), McMahon (2), Hulme (2), Fletcher (1), Clarke (1)
Team: (L-R) Ike Eastwood, Lottie Hulme, Kit Nolan-Barnes, Bethany Fletcher, Josh Clarke, Johnny Hocking, Lily Maher, Rio Quarry, Tom McMahon, Megan Barker, Robin Austin, Tom Horner.