Great Britain’s senior women put in some impressive performances and gained valuable international experience as they finished in seventh place at the World Aquatics Water Polo World Cup Division Two last week.
Having expected to take part in the qualification tournament, like the men’s team did earlier this year, the women were thrust into the intercontinental tournament due to a low number of European entries, which includes teams that came first or second in their respective continents’ qualification tournament.
Great Britain’s first group game saw them up against New Zealand, the eventual winners of the competition, who boasted an average of 50 international caps and a significant number of athletes playing either at USA universities or playing professionally abroad. Comparatively, this competition is the first international experience for all of Great Britain’s players.
The group struggled to get used to their heavy press and more aggressive style of play, which is seen more at the international level. Despite the challenges, the team hung on and continued working hard and played with spirit. They adapted quickly and grew into the game which was reflected in the scores in each quarter, managing to score a number of individual and team goals, with goalkeeper Alex Robinson making some significant saves including from two penalties, before the team ultimately fell to the Kiwis by a score of 23-7.
The second match against Kazakhstan came only a few hours later. Despite the high intensity and hard work in the first game, the group approached the game with real enthusiasm and energy – delivering on coach Nick Buller’s plan of high intensity from the outset. Despite being the underdogs, Great Britain scored the first goal and ended the first quarter with the scores level at 2-2.
The 2023 Asian champions showed their experience and conditioning as the game developed – drawing ahead to bring the score to 12-5 with one quarter remaining. The women then bounced back in the final quarter, finishing with a quarter score line of 3-2. The stats also revealed that the British team scored five out of seven of their “man-up” plays, with the goalkeeper again making some outstanding saves to culminate in a final score of 15-7 to Kazakhstan.
The team’s final group game came against Germany the next day, and it was by far the tightest affair of the three. Buller’s squad pushed the hosts throughout the match, with Annie Clapperton continuing what was fine form from the player throughout the tournament with a six-goal haul, coming up just short of victory with a narrow 15-12 loss – seeing the team finish fourth in their group and contesting the 7th-8th place playoff against Ukraine the following day.
It was in the match against Ukraine where the team’s progress throughout the tournament proved fruitful, as they put in a commanding performance across the four quarters, including with a game-ending 4-0 score in the final quarter to round the game off with a 10-4 win for the British team. Kathy Rogers also received the player of the game accolade for her performances, in which she scored four goals and was the key figure for the majority of the events.
The result means that the team finished in seventh overall at the competition, as well as giving them good knowledge of their standing on the international stage ahead of the 2024 European Championship qualifiers this summer and beyond.
Speaking following the tournament, assistant coach Peggy Etiebet was full of praise for the group after what has been a busy few months of preparation.
“I was delighted with the responsiveness of the athletes to improving their play as the tournament progressed. The process of learning and gaining experience at international level competition is a much needed one for the programme and the athletes took full benefit of it. Our thanks go to British Swimming and Swim England for their support in getting the athletes to the competition.”
Full results and goalscorers from Great Britain’s World Aquatics Women’s Water Polo World Cup Division 2 fixtures:
New Zealand 23-7 Great Britain, (7-0, 4-1, 7-3, 5-3)
Annie Clapperton (4), Kathy Rogers (2), Amelia Peters (1)
Kazakhstan 15-7 Great Britain (2-2, 5-1, 5-2, 3-2)
Annie Clapperton (4), Niamh Maloney (1), Rebecca Mulcahy (1), Amelia Peters (1)
Germany 15-12 Great Britain (3-3, 4-3, 3-2, 5-4)
Annie Clapperton (6), Rebecca Mulcahy (2), Mhairi Nurthen (2), Niamh Maloney (1), Kathy Rogers (1)
Great Britain 10-4 Ukraine (3-1, 2-1, 1-2, 4-0)
Mhairi Nurthen (4), Kathy Rogers (4), Rebecca Mulcahy (1), Annie Clapperton (1)