Congratulations to Girls' Water Polo Teams
Girls' Division Achievement

It’s been an exciting year for water polo in the Girls’ Division. Teams have continued to grow and thrive under the coaching expertise of Mr McGinty, Dr Yates and Mr Teasdale. This year the girls competed in the ESSA (English Schools’ Swimming Association) National Championships and achieved podium positions in all three age groups.

The Under 18 team qualified for their national finals with a 10-3 victory over Northampton and a 6-6 draw with St Bede’s. Their second game was particularly dramatic, with Bolton pulling back from being 4-1 down at half time to level the scores at 5-5 towards the end of the second half. Bolton missed a penalty and Bede’s pulled ahead again 6-5 with the clock stopping with just 3.2 seconds left to play! It took a minor miracle from Harriet Dickens (Year 11) to salvage a result from the game: she received the ball directly from the centre and found the top corner of the Bede’s goal from inside her own half and under pressure from the onrushing Bede’s defence.

At the finals, victories in the group stages against Alleyn’s and Highgate saw the U18 girls qualify for the semi-finals and set up a rematch against local rivals St Bede’s. This time they had the edge and went through to play in the final against Alleyn’s School, where they were narrowly defeated to come away with silver meals.

Second place represents a fantastic achievement in a competition for Year 13s when most of the team are currently in Year 10 or below!

The Under 15 team beat St Bede’s & St Joseph’s 11-2 and Manchester High School for Girls 12-1 in their qualification round and also earned a place at the national finals, held in Northampton. There, the girls beat the title-holders, Alleyn’s School, in their first group game, followed by another victory against King’s High School. This qualified them as group winners for a semi-final against Bedford Modern School, and following that victory they played in the final against Highgate School. Another narrow defeat for Bolton meant that they too came home with silver medals.

However, based on their performances in the tournament, Charlotte Harris and Zahara Muhammad were nominated for the Duke of Cambridge Cup team. This is a competition for the best schools’ players in the country who are born in 2006.

In the Under 13s competition, the team made it through the qualification round in second place after beating St Bede’s but losing to Manchester High School. At the finals, they beat Emanuel School 6-5 in a particularly exciting game where they were behind until the final couple of minutes. In their second group game they faced competition favourites Notting Hill & Ealing High School. A strong start led to a 4-0 lead at half time, and the girls maintained their lead to win 4-2! Unfortunately, the team fell to a 3-0 defeat against a physically strong Alleyn’s School in the semi-final, but the game was much closer than the score line suggests. The Bolton girls had a greater share of the possession and created numerous good chances, hitting the woodwork three times and failing to convert a penalty. The U13s’ final game was the third/fourth play-off, which was a rematch with Notting Hill & Ealing High School. This was a fantastic opportunity for the team to show how much they had improved throughout the competition and the entire squad was involved in a 9-2 victory to secure the bronze medal.

The U13s also participated in the U13 ESSA Cadet Competition. To be eligible, players must not have played in the main ESSA competition, so the team was made up of mainly U12s with just three older Year 8 players. The cadet team played matches against teams from St Ambrose and St Bede’s & St Joseph’s and were the only all-girls team in the competition. Two victories saw them finish in third position out of five teams and qualify for the ESSA Cadet Finals in late June.

There were also many individual highlights this year for girls selected to play for the City of Manchester and for Great Britain.

Two players who competed internationally this season were Harriet Dickens and Lucy Blenkinship (Year 9). These two helped England to a fourth place finish in the EU Nations tournament in the Czech Republic in May. Harriet captained the team and finished as the tournament’s top goal scorer with 31 goals, seven ahead of the next highest scorer from the Czech Republic who netted 24! Harriet was also selected to represent Great Britain at the forthcoming European Championships in Israel this July.

Lucy Blenkinship, Amelia Crompton (Year 9) and Emily Whalley (Year 10) were also selected for their age group’s national water polo academies.

In national competitions, girls represented the City of Manchester and in some cases played at multiple levels. Harriet Dickens helped the City of Manchester’s senior women’s side to successfully defend their national league title. She also played for the U19 team along with Ella Carter (Year 11), Lucy Blenkinship and Amelia Crompton to win the title of National Champions. Harriet was again the top goal scorer and received the ‘most valuable player’ award in this competition.

Lucy Blenkinship and Amelia Crompton also played for the U15 side with fellow Bolton School girls Zahara Muhammad (Year 10), Emily Whalley and Ellie-Rose Donnellan (Year 8). They too won their national club competition to become national champions and Lucy was given the award for the ‘most valuable player’.

The U13s and U15s have enjoyed a busy schedule of fixtures throughout the year. Both teams played a number of internal friendlies against Boys’ Division teams. The U15s also took part in an away fixture against St Bede’s & St Jospeh’s and a home friendly against Radcliffe, while the U13s played externally against other leading water polo clubs including Stretford, Sheffield and Tydlesley. For some of these games, the U13s were lucky to be able to use the fantastic all-deep facilities at Bolton One: this was particularly important preparation as the main competitions are played in all-deep pools.

One of the highlights of the U13 season was the ‘tour that doesn’t tour’ at Easter. The original plan was to go away on a tour, but because of the uncertainty around Covid restrictions, this was limited to a series of day trips. Opposition teams were invited to Bolton School and the U13s played games against Radcliffe and the City of Liverpool. There were also away fixtures against Cheltenham and Hucknall. To create a tour-like feel, the team participated in other activities, including watching the sports film ‘Whip it’ and analysing some Olympic water polo matches. For many, the favourite day was the last one: this started with a two-hour training session in the school pool with guest coach, former junior international and Old Boltonian, Thomas Yates (Class of 2021). The team then went bowling and enjoyed dinner at Nando’s. Special thanks to Mr Grieve for helping with this final day of the tour and to Dr Yates and Mrs Teasdale for making the away trips to Cheltenham and Hucknall possible.

Expert assistance at the U13s Friday morning training sessions has been provided by current students Josh and Harriet Dickens, both in Year 11, who have generously given up their time all year to help coach the team. More recently Emily Whalley has begun to help as Josh and Harriet left on study leave. The U12s have also benefited from the coaching of Zahara Muhammed and Olivia Melling (Year 10), who assisted Dr Yates during their lunchtime training sessions.

A huge thank you to everyone who has supported the water polo programme over the academic year especially the coaches, Mr McGinty, Dr Yates and Mr Teasdale. Also thanks to Mrs Heatherington and Mrs Monteith who work so hard behind the scenes to keep everything running.

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