Following a string of successful preparation sessions to build up to the tournament on the 4th & 5th July , the East region U16 team were looking like a team with something to prove. Resplendent in the new ‘East Angels’ team kit with branded costume, shirt and shorts, they looked like an organised outfit in their uniform before even hitting the water.
Playing within division 2 (division 1 were playing simultaneously in Liverpool) with East were the regional team of London, Midlands, Wales, and South East. So four matches over the weekend, two per day each was setup as a full game of 4 x 7min quarters. The task was understood and the coaches had settled the play tactics and organised the team positions. The team was made up of the following players and the starting seven were selected: Scarce, Colliver, Coyle, Cotton, Wall-Peters, Mayall, Poole.
Game 1: East vs South East
The opening game was key to set the mood in the camp and settle nerves across the team. South East were looking like a well organised side in the first quarter thwarting our chances a number of times in front of goal but the chances were made and eventually the first goal came over 2 minutes from the start and was followed up 30 seconds later with a second, both from Meg Wall-Peters. The quarter ended 2-1 and the match looked set to be quite even. Second quarter started and South East almost immediately settled the scores on 2-2 and time elapsed after this with failed attack after failed attack on both sides until with 1m43s left of the quarter the Angels Poole clawed a goal ahead from a quickly converted long ball from deep in defence off the trusted arm of Mayall. What happened next was the turning point in the game and a remarkable procession of goals from Poole and Cotton from quick turnovers and long balls finding the sprinting Angels. In 1m43s to the whistle there were 5 East goals the last in the final second from Poole who was now nursing a painful shoulder injury. 7-2 at the end of the quarter and the Angels were now starting to get into flow. With Poole retired to the bench and the substitutions starting to rotate East began to dominate now and forced 2 penalties in quick succession with their relentless attacks with captain Mayall converting coolly on the second attempt. Quarter 3 saw two more goals from Cotton and Bailey to finish the quarter 10-3. Quarter 4 saw debutant Nicholson score her first goal for the Angels on her first touch of the ball! Well done Ciara. Coyle was now in her element in pit attack and stuffed 4 goals past the goalie in quick succession as they failed to mark her tight enough. Then it was as though she passed the scoring ‘baton’ to Colliver, another debutant for East Angels, who found the net the next 3 times, the last just on the buzzer to finish the game 18-5. East Angels had found more space and opportunity from quarter 2 onwards which is testament to their superior swim speed and fitness. The key element of the East Angels game was rock solid defence and quick counters, a formula seen at the U14’s in Liverpool earlier in 2015. Eight scorers across the East team showed the threat could come from anywhere in the pool, and our goalie was looking like she was a force to be reckoned with……we had made our mark.
Game 2: London vs East
London were a side we had received a friendly warning about that it was pretty much the successful London Otters side that Mayall was used to playing within, however this wasn’t any deterrent for the Angels. Coaching plan was for more of the same, solid defence being the key.
In blue hats the East team set about business. Starting 7 saw Poole back in the team. The game started and it was clear that London had two main threats from London’s Emma Gillie and Lydia Toth. The Angels organised for some tough man marking to limit the damage of these two and slow down the London advances. The pressure was working and soon East were in the lead with 2 goals from Cotton and Wall-Peters but the tide looked like turning when London had two man-up situations but careful marking and pressure on the ball saw both of these fail. East did concede eventually but the quarter ended 2-4 to us. Quarter 2 saw East creep ahead to 4-7 but Gillie from London kept spoiling the party and they crept back to 6-8 by the 3rd quarter end. A tense start to the quarter 4 saw no goals for nearly 3 minutes but events including a penalty and a yellow card for the London coach kept the entertainment up for the spectators. The tide began to turn in London favour and a succession of goals saw the scores levelled on 9-9 with just over 3 minutes to go. Everyone was tense, the Angels coaches sweating. An inspired goal from Mayall on 2m30s from a good 15 meters out lifted the spirits of all Angels fans and players and gave the buoyancy needed to drag the game to the finish line but not before Colliver made it certain with just 13 seconds to run and the match ended a relieved and hard fought 9-11 to East. What a battle!
8 of the London goals came from Gillie who was a one person scoring machine. Once again Angels had a spread of goals across 7 players – clearly a big strength to our side that many could shoot.
Angels enjoyed a relaxing night revelling in their success before the next days focus began again.
Game 3: East vs Midlands
Day 2 of the event and there was shock news that Wall-Peters had been taken ill with sickness overnight. A major contributor to the team this was a big loss to the team and would bring a different shape to the side for the first game. Starting seven now saw Ward in the mix bringing a defensive strength to the side pushing forward Colliver and Coyle taking the left mid position.
Midlands looked a handful in the games from day 1 with an attack force similar to Angels and fire power across the side it was going to be a full 6v6 battle to defend every attack.
Poole got East off to a quick start but this was not held for long before the Midlands grabbed 2 back in the space of a minute. Another from Poole saw quarter 1 end 2-2. This was looking like an evenly matched game. In fact it was tit-for-tat during the second quarter finishing 4-3 to East following two great goals from Cotton. 3rd quarter was the turning point. Some really great defending (as had been all tournament) had forced turnover after turnover and East were able to convert at the other end with goals from Poole and Mayall winning the quarter 5-2 and we were now at 9-5. Keeping the game even for the final quarter with 2 goals each side the game ended 11-7.
It was great to see Wall-Peters back in the game after she arrived midway through this one and was very keen to take part, which she did and was very effective in linkup play and defence.
A proper game of digging deep and battling hard across all players in the pool. Some tremendous displays of defending, notably Coyle in pit defence pushing the pit attacker Shay out from 2 meters to about 8 meters whilst on the ball, time after time. Great work from her and everyone else in front of our own goal.
A large number of fouls in this game due to the physicality and passion each team exhibited saw East pick up 4 players on 2 majors and 8 of the Midlands team picking up at least 1 major. Total of 17 majors across the teams.
Game 4: East vs Wales
The last game and parents and coaches were starting to do the maths on the league positions to see who was in position to win. With a tip off from the organisers that the way the rules worked East could end up behind London if they won their next two games (which was likely) and we lost to, or drew with, Wales. Newly invigorated by this news the team were briefed and attitudes grounded to the task at hand – we had to win.
Wales had looked a tough opposition but had conceded heavily in their wins giving us some hope that our attack was able to breach their defences without too much effort. But we had to contain the rampant Faye Warren who seemed like a one person demolition in the pit attack position. Coupled now with Sanders in pit defence who had missed the first day of the tournament they were looking strong.
The first quarter saw 7 goals and 5 exclusions across the two teams, finishing 4-3 to East it was apparent this game was going to be physical and tough to get the space East needed to free the counter attackers. Second quarter things started to slide and Wales strength battered us to the point where they were leading 5-7 with just 2 minutes to go, Coyle and Cotton levelling the scores at 7-7 for the end of quarter 2.
The Angels were coming out of the pool, sometimes in tears at how physical the game was and some of the underhand tactics out of the referees sight. The close contact game was playing to Wales strength and their superior size made us an easy target. Things needed to change. Pressing high on Wales we forced errors in handling that started to release our counter attackers who still had energy to spare and speed in abundance. Breaking free into our sweet spot, East scored 8 goals to a single goal in reply as our tour de force of defending hard and counter attack brilliance wore down the less fit and speedy Welsh team. They seemed to almost sigh as the Angels took flight time after time to ping another ball into the back of their net – relentless forward movement resulting in 8 goals shared across Mayall, Poole, Wall-Peters and Cotton.
Welsh were on the back foot and Angels seemed to grow further in stature, confidence and determination, in the face of what was a brutal game for them underwater as frustration was evident across Wales.
A final flurry of 6 goals from East, again with only a single goal in reply, finished the game off making the score line look like a walk over when the game started so hard and tight. Well done to the girls for the resolve and persistence to see this result out when they could have faded to the bullying in the pool.
21-9 must have surprised the Welsh team, whose coach Phil Whiting was very complimentary of the team afterwards.
East Angels were now division 2 champions and returned to the stands to a standing ovation from the parents who were on song throughout with the obligatory chant of ‘Angels, Angels’ as the girls went into the second half of the game and absolutely lifted spirits!
Its difficult to mention everyone’s involvement when the goals attract most of the commentary, but there was not a single performance from any of our players that wasn’t up to the high standard we maintained this weekend. Notably and unanimously, Erin Scarce played out of her skin in goal and saved many shots through her determination and recently acquired goal keeping skills – Well done Erin! Superb performances from the team outside of the aforementioned goal scorers, Ella Ward – one of the best defenders on the team, fantastic power and work rate. Amelia Spinks – working the wings she did a great job defending and adding some breadth to the attacking force. Eloise Bailey – nailed 3 goals on counter attack, watch out for her in 2016! Hannah Osborne – grew as the games went on tracking her mark and getting into space going forward. Paige Flower – strong swimming and keeping her mark under control, winning balls in attack and defence and threatening goal. Ciara Nicholson – our smallest player with the biggest heart, a power house to be reckoned with Ciara picked up a debut goal and was relentless in defence.
East Angels U16 team will be ready for division 1 next year as 10 of them will still be able to play given only 3 of our team were in the top of the age group (2000 born) this year. Watch out Div 1 teams!!!
Top scorer: Eve Poole
Scorers: Eve Poole(18), Ella Cotton (11), Poppy Mayall (8), Rebecca Coyle (7), Meg Wall-Peters (7), Eda Colliver (6), Eloise Bailey (3), Ciara Nicholson (1)
Major Queen: Ella Cotton
Majors: Ella Cotton (7), Poppy Mayall (6), Eve Poole (5), Rebecca Coyle (4), Eda Colliver (1), Meg Wall-Peters (1)
Goals for: 61
Goals against: 30
Majors total: 24
Majors against: 30
MVP (Tournament): Poppy Mayall
MVP (Parents vote): Erin Scarce
MVP (Team vote): Meg Wall-Peters
Team Spirit award: Meg Wall-Peters