Mid Sussex Marlins ladies have achieved their highest placing for many years in the British Water Polo League (BWPL).
After the final round of matches at Sheffield last weekend they finished in 4th place in the “Championship 1” Division.
It was, however, a bittersweet experience as the team had been occupying one of the places for promotion to the Premier league prior to their final game only to be denied by a surprise narrow defeat to old rivals London Otter.
Nevertheless coach Tony Noble was justifiably full of praise for the team, pointing out that the league position ranked Marlins 9th highest women’s water polo in the whole of Great Britain- a marvellous achievement for a small town club.
The Championship 1 is the BWPL’s play off league for promotion to the premier division. Marlins had qualified by topping the 2nd division in the first phase prior to Christmas.
The top 5 teams from Division 2 were joined by Leeds, Sheffield and London Penguin who occupied the bottom places in Division 1 after the first phase. These eight teams then each play each other over 3 weekends and the resulting top 3 teams are promoted.
Marlins got off to a great start to the second phase of their campaign with resounding wins against Welsh Wanderers (21-13) and Tyldsley(24-9). This was followed by a narrow defeat to eventual champions Leeds (11-13). After the first weekend Marlins were lying in equal 2nd. The second weekend, held at Liverpool, contained two tough fixtures against Sheffield Sharks(loss 5-14) and a hard fought victory over London Penguin Emperors (8-5). Going into the final weekend at Sheffield with 2 matches remaining, Marlins still occupied a promotion slot.
On paper, the harder game was against fellow promotion rivals, Hucknall who were equal on league points but with a game in hand. Marlins put in one of their best performances with key contributions from every team member. Marlins began at a brisk tempo which pressurised their opponents into mistakes. As a result Marlins led 2-0 at the end of the first quarter and had extended their lead to 7-2 by half time.
Both sets of players were aware of what was at stake and the tackling was fierce. This was reflected by a combined total of over 20 sin binnings in the course of the game.
Hucknall rallied in the 3rd quarter to pull back 3 goals but Marlins regained their composure in the fourth to run out 10-7 victors. Marlins scorers were: Lara Partridge (4) and Dani Brazier (3), Lily Turner (2) and Izzy Bates.
Marlins knew then that victory in their final game against Otter (whom they had already beaten earlier this season) would be enough to guarantee a promotion spot, irrespective of Hucknall’s final results.
Marlins’ game against Otter was even more competitive and was a nervy affair. Both teams spurned numerous chances.
As a consequence there was only a single goal apiece in each of the first two quarters. In the third quarter, Marlins again failed to convert all but one of their many scoring opportunities but conceded three goals. Entering the final quarter 3-5 down Marlins finally loosed their shackles to bring the score level at 6 all. Unfortunately they then conceded 2 late goals pressing for victory. Despite the loss in the final game, the season gave Marlins much to be proud of.
There were many excellent all round team performances and no team managed to dominate them. In Dani Brazier Marlins had the league’s top scorer with 33 goals. Lara Partridge and Izzy Bates also made the top 10.
The average age of the squad younger than it has been for some time – 6 players are still under 18 , with 2 girls, Daisy Hazeldine and Lily Turner making their debut this season. The experience gained from this season’s campaign will make them more competitive next year and the future looks bright!
Marlins Full squad: Lucy Deacon(Capt), Amy Styles (GK), Lauren Hand, Izzy Bates, Charlotte Bates, Sherry Skinner, Rachel Moore, Eve Tidy, Abby-Louise Rocky, Lara Partridge, Lily Turner, Grace Walker, Danni Brazier, Daisy Hazeldine. Coach: Tony Noble
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