Early last Thursday morning, 19 KGGS girls travelled to Northampton School for Boys to represent the school in the U15 and U18 Girls’ English Schools Swimming Association (ESSA) National Water Polo Finals.
It was the fifth consecutive year that KGGS had contested the nationals, having secured at least one medal position in each of their previous four years – three golds, two silvers and a bronze.
Determined, their intention was for the U15 squad to win and retain the title for a third consecutive year and for the U18s to achieve gold to improve upon their silver position of last year.
The morning saw 10 of the girls play in the U15 competition. An opening 5-1 win against St Mary’s, followed by a resounding 10-0 victory over Notting Hill, saw goals from seven of the girls.
Topping their group, they progressed to the semi-finals where they met King’s, Warwick. Another comfortable 5-2 win secured their place in the Grand Final, where they came up against Alleyn’s, the team they had beaten in the semi-finals last year. Feeling buoyant and confident, a very tight and competitive final ensued.
KGGS were 3-2 down at half time, not a position they had found themselves in before. A motivating team talk from their coach, KGGS Y12 student and U18 player Rose Bitowt, saw them enter the pool for the second half with a determination and commitment to win.
It was a close and nail biting second half, but a great save in the final 20 seconds of the match by goalkeeper Elizabeth McLoughlin resulted in a 5-4 win (goals Peters 4, Barnett 1) and saw the girls become U15 national champions for the third successive year – a huge achievement.
Immediately following the U15 medal and cup presentations, two of the girls – Peters and Barnett – joined their U18 team-mates, who were on a mission to emulate the younger squad.
With an age range of 15-17 years, bar one player, the young U18 squad faced northern favourites Crompton House first – the team that had beaten KGGS in the final last year. A calming team talk from their coach, Tim Dunsbee, saw the girls 3-0 ahead at half time and winning the match 3-1. A fantastic start to their quest for gold.
A further superb 9-2 victory over Trinity secured them first place in their group and a place in the semi-finals. Here they met Bedford Modern and an emphatic 8-2 win secured their place in the U18 ESSA national final.
The U18 grand final once again saw KGGS pitted against their old adversary Crompton House. Tension was high, with thoughts of last year’s final and nerves managed by their coach who instilled the belief that they would win.
Goalkeeper Patel, Bosworth, Bitowt, Wilkinson, Coyle, Peters and Barnett took to the pool. An early goal by Crompton House saw them 1-0 up at the break.
A half time team talk saw an unchanged team start the second half with passion, determination and belief. Goals from Peters and Wilkinson secured the victory and the second ESSA National Championship win of the day for KGGS – a truly remarkable achievement, completing the double.
The two squads showed tremendous teamwork and a competitive spirit throughout the day, with both of the teams winning all their matches. They remained undefeated throughout their earlier Preliminary Rounds at Bedford and the Finals.
Their impressive achievements and successes are richly deserved and are due to the dedication, commitment and hard work that the girls give to their water polo, training two or three days a week with Grantham Water Polo Club and other local clubs.
KGGS headteacher David Scott commented: “I would add my congratulations to all of the girls for their astounding achievements. They have once again done KGGS proud, and they continue to be an inspiration to our entire school community.
“I am in awe at how they manage to fit their water polo training commitments alongside the time devoted to their studies. Particular thanks go also to the team coaches and the girls’ parents who have given them massive support and encouragement over several years.”