Thursday, August 21, 2014

Bronze for Scottish Ladies at Water Polo 5 Nations

The Scotland women earned the bronze medal at the EU 5 nations tournament with a convincing win over a resurgent Denmark in the bronze medal match 15-6.  While the Scottish women had rolled the Danes in the opening match 18-6, the Danes woke up through the rest of the tournament taking a lead over the eventual gold medalist Czechs well into the first half, lost to Ireland only in the last seconds and beat the Swiss to set up this match.

However, it was only Scotland who could contain player of the Tournament Emma Hansen who was a Champions League winner with the Spanish professional club Sabadell. While other teams dedicated two defenders to her, Scotland's Holly Campbell and Fran Collings took solo turns keeping her threat to a minimum while keeper Chantal Guillot seemed to know where the shots were going before they came.

The rest of the team benefitted from the freedom to attack and took an early lead of 5-1 with Laura Mathewson tallying two first quarter goals. Susan Johnston fired in her first two goals of the tournament as the Scots rolled to an easy 9-1 halftime lead. The progress of the Scottish Squad was apparent in these wins as they had lost twice to the Danes in February in Odense.   

In the previous four preliminary matches Scotland had two wins and two losses, starting with Friday's easy 18-6 opening win over a disorganized Danish squad. In game two, the Scots came from ahead to lose to Ireland 6-8 in a tough physical match that was made much tougher when goalkeeper Chantal Guillot went out for the second half with a double leg cramp and was replaced by field player Laura Fox. The youthful Irish didn't waste their luck and came back with fierce determination from two goals down with 12 minutes left.     

On Saturday playing the heavily favorites Czech Republic, Scotland started well going 1-1 for most of the first period, but then gave up seven consecutive goals - mostly on counters.

However, a bit embarrassed by the second period capitulation, the Scots shored up their game and drew the second half 4-4. An unexpected bonus of this match was the emergence of 15 year old Scottish pit player Carys Hardy spinning the tournament's dominant centre defender Lucie Votovova and earning her first international exclusions.

The final result of 5-12 was by far the closest match the Czechs had on their way to gold. Scotland then took on host Switzerland for it's final match of the prelims. The Swiss looked outgunned falling behind 7-3 at the end of the third period, but they refused to give up and the home crowd rallied them with cheers of 'Haupt Swiss' but a little too late, Scotland won 8-7.   

The tournament was a fantastic experience for all the Scottish squad and staff who reveled in the beauty of Thun's lakeside outdoor pool with the background of the snowy Swiss Alps.

The late pull-out of the Serbian Squad (it was supposed to be 6 nations) didn't greatly affect the tournament. The squad welcomed four first time senior squad rookies: Emma Bird (2 goals), Erin Reilly (1), Alison Thomson (4), and Carys Hardy who each demonstrated unique skills that earned them the right to be on this squad.  

Fran Collings (1) showed her speed and defensive skills in only her second tournament for Scotland. Huge offensive outputs and defensive performances came from Holly Campbell (11) and Nicola Tate (14) who both scored in all five matches.

Captain Julia Mackay led both in and out of the pool notching 8 goals while decimating opponents defense by drawing more than 20 exclusions and penalties. Veterans Laura Mathewson (3), Susan Johnston (2) and Victoria Witko (1) gave their all while also teaching the newcomers.

All images from the tournament can be found on our Flickr page