Following their earlier qualification, Grantham Water Polo Club’s under-17 girls travelled to Manchester Aquatics Centre to take part in the National Age Groups Plate final.
They were determined to make their mark in their first final at national level and the 10-strong squad came out fighting, racking up a 5-3 victory against Caledonia with goals from Amelia Peters (2), Rose Bitowt (2) and India Wilkinson, with support from Millie Stewart. Naya Patel was in fine form, saving five of the eight shots at goal including two penalties.
Buoyed by this performance, Grantham then played Cheltenham in a closely contested match, with the Gloucestershire side scoring the first goal and Bitowt equalising just before half time. In the second half, Wilkinson’s hat trick helped secure a 4-2 final score.
In the third match, Grantham took on favourites Leeds and went 5-0 down in the first half, the quick pace of Leeds’ attack catching them unguarded, but they emerged stronger in the second half.
Wilkinson and Bitowt snatched a goal apiece, with strong defensive support from Katie Knott and Kirstin Vogel, but ultimately conceded an 8-2 defeat.
The final match against Bristol was to decide runner-up and third place positions in the competition.
In a nail-biting affair, Grantham’s Peters and Annabel Blurton took the half time score to 2-1, supported by Natalie Jones and Georgia Coyle.
Grantham were awarded two penalties in the second half, one of which was converted by Peters, who scored a further goal to bring the final score to a 4-2 victory and the runners-up spot behind Leeds.
Grantham Water Polo Club chairman Sally Dunlop said the girls’ first performance at national level at put them firmly on the map. She said: “This is a fantastic achievement for the girls and for the club. We are very proud.”
Grantham Water Polo Club under-17 girls are from left, back – team manager Karina Peters, Natalie Jones and guest coach Tim Dunsbee; middle – Kirstin Vogel, Georgia Coyle, Millie Stewart and Naya Patel; front – Rose Bitowt, India Wilkinson, Amelia Peters, Annabel Blurton and Katie Knott.