Men's water polo team fight hard against tough opposition
Blues captain Dan Woolcott discusses last weekend's university Championships
by Dan Woolcott
Thursday 1st March 2012, 09:56 GMT
Sat: Cambridge 11-8 Durham
Sun: Cambridge 8-11 Bristol
Cambridge 7-11 Manchester
Cambridge performed admirably in a thrilling weekend of Water Polo at the BUCS National Semi Finals this weekend.
Due to snow related havoc and some bizarre rules on opposition conceding games, he Cambridge team were placed in a veritable group of death with Machester and Bristol – the two best teams in the country – as well as perennial achievers Durham.
With four of the five best teams in the country in one group, Cambridge were always going to have their work cut out for them to go through. However, the prize was high, with first or second place at a tangible grasp.
On the first day, Cambridge dominated Durham in the first three quarters. Easy goals from big shooters Kupavari and Di Pietro alongside tight defence and a monstrous game from keeper Frederico allowed squad rotation with the game finishing at a comfortable three goal lead in favour of Cambridge.
The next day was to be difficult, with the first game up against Bristol. Though being last year's runners-up, they were certainly beatable with Cambridge's highly talented squad.
A sluggish start made it an uphill battle from the off. Three goals were conceded in three minutes, but coach Andy Knight called a time out, refocused the team and a pitched battle ensued.
Bristol were pegged back goal by goal to 9-8, including goals from Di Pietro, Crichton, Maxey and an unorthodox flair goal from captain Woolcott.
But errors crept back and sloppy mid-pool play gave Bristol several unnecessary kick outs which their two big players converted. The game finished 11-8 but with 5 soft goals given away Cambridge let a winnable game slip away to the more experienced side.
This left a must win encounter with champions Manchester, boasting a team of ex-professionals and international players.
Another slow start saw Cambridge looking uphill with the score at 3-1. But the fight back began anew as the Cambridge mental resilience kicked in.
A strong bench allowed Cambridge rotation and at 5-5 after half time, the Manchester coach looked deeply uncomfortable in his tailor-made University of Manchester suit.
Showing the class they for which they are renowned, Manchester reestablished a two-goal lead. Nevertheless, the game was still to be had and a Kupavari penalty was converted to bring momentum back to Cambridge.
However, with two minutes to go an error in marking allowed the Manchester wing to slip in two metres unmarked and power the ball into the Cambridge net point blank.
With their two-goal lead reestablished, Manchester held the ball whilst the game moved away from the Cambridge boys.
Steals from less experienced players led to three goals in the last minute. The end result was a five-goal difference, not a reflective score. Manchester, who will be national champions again, was given the toughest game they'll get all year and Cambridge acquitted themselves well. With a high number of class players staying on, some serious aspirations are on the cards for next year.