The UEA women’s water polo team suffered back-to-back defeats against the University of Oxford last weekend. The UEA ladies lost 11-0 in the initial encounter before reducing the arrears to 9-5 in the second encounter of the two hour event.
The daunting prospect of the double-header games did not help the eight UEA women who, given the nature of a sport which requires you to continuously tread water, were understandably exhausted at its conclusion. Oxford, meanwhile, had 13 players to call upon including six substitute options to UEA’s one, putting them at a significant advantage before a ball had been thrown.
Despite the disparity in numbers, UEA started the first game on the attack with a great deal of speed. The team’s defence was also holding strong, more than matching the aggressive style of play shown by Oxford. The women did feel the force of Oxford’s velocity on an individual level, however, as captain Emma Mumby received a black eye during the third quarter. Although UEA performed admirably and gave their visitors little room, in the end they just could not put their chances away. It meant that the first game of the afternoon concluded with a disappointing 11-0 victory for Oxford.
After that energy-sapping encounter, UEA could have accepted defeat. Many of the girls had not had an opportunity to rest, there was little rotation due to the low numbers and their bodies were beginning to tire. However, the team spirit between the women is exceptional, and with Oxford seemingly assured of their own quality and the exhaustion of their opponents, the UEA ladies were spurred on even more.
And in the opening stages of the first quarter UEA shocked their visitors by taking an early lead. Kerry Blair seized her opportunity from ten metres out to lash home a delightful finish to make it 1-0. UEA built on their early dominance and Emma Mumby made it 2-0 soon after, producing the goal of the match by driving the ball beyond two defenders and the goalkeeper who stood despairingly on the goal line. By the time UEA had racked up their fourth goal, Oxford were running scared. In a last ditch attempt to regain control of the contest Oxford completely switched their team in favour of fresh legs, a luxury that UEA could not afford.
Despite the newfound energy of the Oxford team, UEA continued to impress and soon scored another through Kerry Blair to take the tally to five. The visitors soon rallied to record an impressive 9-5 victory, but not without a serious scare from a UEA team flourishing with not only skill and talent, but also great character and determination.
The performance on Saturday was testament to the work that all of the girls have put in during training. UEA water polo has only had a full size squad for the past two years and all of the members have made huge leaps in their performance and skill. To break it down, three-quarters of the squad that lined up against Oxford began playing the sport at university, while a quarter only began playing in September.
The team are going from strength-to-strength and it won’t be long before they are not only matching the likes of Oxford, but beating them. The showing at the weekend sent a clear message out that UEA will not go down without a fight and that for determination and teamwork, UEA remains unrivalled.