3-5/02/12 BUCS Qualifying Weekend

The first week of February was pivotal for Edinburgh University’s Water Polo teams as both 1sts and 2nds teams, men and women, played their qualifying matches in the hope of getting all four through to BUCS semis.

The men’s first team were up first, on Wednesday 1st February at home against Leeds. Edinburgh took the early lead, with a goal from captain Ed Grundy within seconds of Edinburgh winning possession. Leeds struggled to breach Edinburgh’s press, forcing them to shoot from far out, into the capable hands of Edinburgh’s goalkeeper, Bojan Donevski. Edinburgh was 6-2 up going into the second quarter. Leeds’ attack continued to be stunted by some excellent defending and goalkeeping from Edinburgh. The goal difference was nonetheless closer, finishing 4-3 to the home team, with Edinburgh leading 10-5 overall. The third quarter followed a similar pattern, with Edinburgh opening the period with a tight defence, denying Leeds any headway until mid-way through. Going into the last quarter, Edinburgh was leading 13-8 and the minutes leading up to the final whistle were filled with a stalemate between the two teams. Leeds managed to put a couple away but Edinburgh maintained the goal difference, with a finishing score of 16-11 to Edinburgh, meaning the men’s firsts have secured their passage to BUCS semis as top of the group.

The following Friday, the women’s 1sts travelled down to Durham to play the first of their two remaining matches in the qualifying round. The girls had to adapt to a wider pool than they were used to; taking it in their stride going into the first quarter, Amy Middlemast took Edinburgh up to 3-1. By using the width of the pool to their advantage in defence, Edinburgh were able to push the opposition and force Durham to shoot from outside 5 metres, handled effortlessly by Edinburgh’s goalkeeper, Jess Ivy. The 2nd quarter saw Middlemast score another three, with one also from Kat McIntosh and captain, Marlies Nicholls. Durham could only manage one in return, so the score at half time was 8-2. The third quarter followed the same pattern, with Edinburgh scoring a further five goals to Durham’s one. Edinburgh’s fitness manifested itself in the concluding quarter, as Durham struggled to fend off Middlemast’s shots. The final score ended 16-4 to Edinburgh. With their place at BUCS semis secured, their meeting with Newcastle on Sunday would determine who would go through top of the group.

The next day, it was the men’s 2nds turn to secure their place in the next stage of the BUCS trophy, playing Stirling at home. In a competitive group, it was the goal difference that would seal their fate. Edinburgh dominated the first quarter, which ended 8-0, but in the second quarter Stirling started to put up a fight. Two goals a-piece saw Edinburgh hold on to an 11-2 lead, but after such a flying start, it was a disappointing quarter. Going into the third Edinburgh got the first goal, but not without reply from Stirling. Holes appearing in Edinburgh’s defence allowed Stirling another goal, and more came with Stirling capitalising on a number of breaks. Despite losing the quarter 5-4, Edinburgh held on to a 16-6 lead. Going into the final quarter Edinburgh began to look threatening again, with a goal from Jordan Taylor and an effective block from Jamie Paterson, denying Stirling any reply. However Stirling fought until the end, with a hat-trick from their number seven. The final score was 17-10 to Edinburgh. The men’s 2nds are waiting to see the results of the final matches in their group, but with an impressive goal difference their chances for qualification look good.

Straight after the men’s 2nds was the women’s 2nds, up against Dundee. Edinburgh had a reduced-strength team with few subs, but put on a fantastic fight against their northern rivals. After a nail-biting first quarter, ending 0-0-, a break from Jenn Davis in the second finally broke the tension and took Edinburgh up 1-0, followed in quick succession by Emily Docherty; Edinburgh 2-0. However Dundee’s reply brought the score back to a 2-2 draw at half-time. Edinburgh took the lead in the third quarter, leading 5-4 into the final period. In a dramatic climax, a scuffle at the goalmouth resulted in Edinburgh’s goalkeeper and captain Siobhan Walshe, being sent out, and a penalty awarded to Dundee, which went wide. The game ended in an 8-6 victory for Edinburgh, and this fantastic result makes it likely that the girls will qualify for the BUCS trophy.

The women’s 1sts wrapped up the weekend with an away match against Newcastle on Sunday 5th February. The girls were prepared for a more physical match, and having lost possession of the ball in the swim-off, Edinburgh pressed Newcastle straightaway. Two goals from Middlemast and a third from Nicholls, with no reply from Newcastle, saw Edinburgh take the early lead and maintain a clean sheet in the first quarter. However Newcastle fought back in the second, scoring two; Edinburgh only just topped this, bringing the score to 6-2 at half time. The first two quarters were tense for Edinburgh, which seemed to affect their play. In the third quarter, Edinburgh played better polo, again maintaining a clean sheet. Going strongly into the final quarter, goals from Middlemast, Liddon, Murphy, McIntosh and Farrants took Edinburgh’s goal count to 6 in this period against Newcastle’s 1. The level of play from Edinburgh formed an upward trajectory to a glorious final score of 14-3.
This concluded the BUCS spectacular, which has seen the remarkable feat of having both first teams reach the semi-finals of BUCS, whilst both the second teams prospects of qualifying look good.

Sally Abernethy