RIPLEY St Thomas U14 Boys Water Polo team returned from the English Schools National Water Polo Championships at the weekend, having secured a memorable and well earned third place finish.
In a highly competitive field, comprising of the six best teams in the country, Ripley’s representation in the final was even more impressive, given that they were previously the only state school representative in the semi-finals.
With the teams divided into two pools of three, Ripley were drawn against their local rivals, Bolton School, and South Londoners, Alleyn’s School.
In the opening game against Bolton, Ripley began slowly and despite a disappointing 1-6 defeat, they re-grouped and came out attacking more against Alleyn’s School, knowing that a win would give them the opportunity of a semi-final place against Manchester Grammar School or Haberdashers’ Aske’s.
Inspired by team captain Dean Akister and fellow GB squad member Jordan Titley, Ripley made a blistering start, taking an early lead in which they never looked back.
A 5-2 victory ensured that Ripley were guaranteed a top four finish as group A runners-up.
The semi-final against group B winners Haberdashers’ Aske’s was an exciting and evenly contested end-to-end game.
As the teams entered the final two minutes Aske’s held a 3-2 lead and as Ripley chased the game they were eventually undone by some quick counter attacking, eventually losing 2-5 despite a valiant effort.
Aske’s went on to beat Bolton School in the final while Ripley took on Manchester Grammar in a third versus fourth place play-off.
In a close game debutant goalkeeper and Ripley player of the tournament Owain Llewellyn made some outstanding saves to keep the team in the match early on, while the outfield players both defended resolutely and attacked positively so see off the might of Manchester who not only contested the U16 and U18 National finals but were champions of both.
The deserved 4-1 victory was just reward for the patience and belief shown in the team’s ability by the coaches and players alike as they grew in confidence throughout the tournament.
Congratulations to the team which consisted of players from Years Seven, Eight and Nine.
The third place finish concludes a great season of development and improvement for the water polo teams at Ripley in which the U15 mixed team also took on the Lancaster University team comprising of players between 18-24-years-old and ran out comfortable winners 19-6 in the new Lancaster University pool.
The U16 mixed team also just missed out on a place in the National finals, having finished fourth in the North finals and qualifying for the National Bowl finals.
Four Ripley pupils are currently training with their respective Great Britain water polo age-group squads. Zak Lamb, Molly Dixon and Eve Simpson (Year 10), and Dean Akister and Jordan Titley (Year 9) are all involved at National level.
Ripley would like to thank Zak Sly (coach) and Lancaster City Swimming and Water Polo Club for their continued support and wish Zak and his team the best of luck at the Olympic Games as official volunteer ball retrievers for the water polo event.