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On the pure facts of the matter, a 9-2 defeat and an 8-7 defeat may appear to demonstrate a disappointing performance from the Lancaster Water Polo club in the pool. However, when the context of the situation is brought into consideration, it is clear that the performance Lancaster delivered on Saturday night was nothing short of outstanding, and fully deserving of a great deal of wider recognition.
For those not clued up on why the performances of the club are deserving of such recognition, the latest issue of ‘Nouse’ (York University student paper) is the first place to look. In their Roses preview, an interview was conducted with Men’s captain Gabriel Cramer. In this article, he launched an attack upon Lancaster swim club which, although we all appreciate a bit of healthy Roses competition, went beyond the mark. He promised to “dominate Lancaster”, highlighting what he considered “Lancaster’s inadequacy in the pool”. Not only did he predict a “good thrashing”, he went further to suggest that he would be “surprised if they score any goals at all”.
Perhaps he felt that he had some grounding to make these statements; after all, York’s women won their BUCS league and their men are solidly positioned in the Premier Division. But for Cramer to make such suggestions seems extremely short-sighted – if Lancaster ever needed motivation to bring their A game to York and prove Cramer wrong, this was it. Their subsequent performances in the pool made Cramer’s comments seem foolish and certainly proved him wrong.
The women were in the pool first, and were met with cheers from the enormous Lancaster crowd that had gathered, poolside. The game started quickly, with York racing into an early 6-1 lead. The quality of the water polo was impressive from both sides – York in particular were racing up the pool and it seemed as though Lancaster had no answer to wave after wave of pressure. York attacker Highton completed her hat-trick, yet Lancaster continued to pose a threat on the counter-attack and narrowly missed a couple of chances with one going wide and another bouncing off the crossbar.
As half-time struck, Coach Gary Elwood of Lancaster called to the crowd to give the girls more backing – they duly responded, and after great defensive performances from Harriet Jackson, Lucy Fischer and Katherine Windsor, Lancaster took the third quarter 1-0. In the final quarter, Lancaster had to attack to try and make up the 7-goal deficit, leaving gaps at the back which the York attackers duly took advantage of. After Highton scored two more goals for York, the game ended with a 9-2 win for York.
It was a frenetic encounter, but one that left Coach Elwood extremely proud of his players – he spoke to SCAN after the game and argued that the girls had just produced “their best game of the season”. Keeper Windsor concurred with this, suggesting that the performance demonstrated “massive progress from last year.” Lancaster women had, despite the score line, caused York a number of problems – the score line does not do justice to the way the women performed in the pool.
The men’s game swiftly followed the women’s, and once again York raced into an early lead, making it 3-0 in a matter of minutes. One goal in particular from Molnar was an outstanding display of skill – after collecting the ball away from goal, he managed to flick it backwards and find the corner of the net. However, after a quality save from Lancaster keeper Heghen, the reds raced up the pool, won and converted a penalty throw, bringing the score back to 3-1. This proved to be the turning point in the fixture – Lancaster, driven on by the attacking force of Rob Graven and Liam Webster took the game to York and, to the delight of the crowd, Lancaster managed to level the game at 4-4.
No sooner had they equalised, Lancaster then took the lead when a fierce shot rebounded off the post before being lobbed into the net. After such a forceful display of attacking prowess from Lancaster, they began to tire and soon York were back in the game, Cocozza being amongst the scorers as York, who racked up four goals to take the score to 8-5. Despite a determined final minute push from Lancaster which saw them net twice, it just wasn’t to be as they fell agonisingly short at the last, losing 8-7.
Gary Elwood, when questioned by SCAN after the game, raised the issue of Cramer’s interview in ‘Nouse’ – he argued that it demonstrated misplaced judgement by the York captain to say such things in student media before such a big encounter. Further, he said that the performance of his players gave the clearest answer to York that they were far from inadequate – “with a men’s team full of rookie players, to take a team such as York’s, which comprises of national players, so close is something we can be immensely proud of. It also provides a great platform to build on for Roses 2015”. Player Jon Elmar suggested that the performance Lancaster gave was the best of their season, and that the disappointment of the loss was negated by the way they had performed.
Despite the two losses, Lancaster’s Water polo teams can be proud of their efforts on Saturday evening. With such promise on display from both the men and women the future looks bright for both teams.