Water Polo: Making a big splash at nationals

By Peter White

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Tauranga Under-14 A Girls team. (Left to right, standing) Di Hodge (manager), Kayla Dew, Sam Hodge, Tash Ellertson-Mau, Danielle Spreadborough, Grace Elisara, Julia Kayes, Paige Robertson, Shinae Carrington, Caitlin Fenneman, Malia Josephson, Paul Kayes (coach). Front, Sophie Hayden, Georgia Ackroyd, Mercedes Taniwha.
Tauranga Under-14 A Girls team. (Left to right, standing) Di Hodge (manager), Kayla Dew, Sam Hodge, Tash Ellertson-Mau, Danielle Spreadborough, Grace Elisara, Julia Kayes, Paige Robertson, Shinae Carrington, Caitlin Fenneman, Malia Josephson, Paul Kayes (coach). Front, Sophie Hayden, Georgia Ackroyd, Mercedes Taniwha.

It has been a busy and successful week for Tauranga's top young water polo teams.

The Under-14 Division Two NZ Champs were held at Baywave with four Tauranga teams competing - Under-14 B and C Boys and Under-14 B and C Girls teams.

The boys came third and the B girls were second with Ella Pollock named MVP.

The Under-14 Division One National Championships were held in Wellington with the Tauranga Under-14 A Boys and Under-14 A Girls teams competing.

There was special delight for the girls team as they returned home on Tuesday with silver medals around their necks after placing second at the New Zealand Under-14 Division One Championships.

"The girls played eight games in four days including three on the first day, so it was a really good challenge," said coach Paul Kayes.

"The girls' attitude throughout the term has been wonderful. Attendance at trainings was basically 100 per cent, they were punctual, keen and fun to coach. I was confident they would do well, but we hadn't played any of the big clubs from Auckland in warm-up games this year so we didn't really know what to expect.

"On day one we first played Harbour City (Wellington), winning by 10-4, then we took on the team from North Harbour who were gunning for a seventh straight title. We didn't settle very well and lost 7-1, but it was only a succession of small errors that really cost us. Our third game on day one was against Wharenui (Christchurch) who possibly should have entered the Division 2 Nationals; we won easily 20-0."

On day two Tauranga beat Marist Blue (Auckland) 5-0, which is their B team, and Waikato.

Competition on day three intensified as Tauranga had to play their friends from Rotorua in the preliminary semifinal, which Kayes said was a really tough game.

"Rotorua have very good players. We eventually won 6-4, but not after a real battle. Later the same day the girls had the semifinal against North Harbour, winners of the past six titles and having beaten us 7-1 on day one.

"This was the most amazing game of water polo I think I have coached. I loved every moment as coach. Initially very close and tense but then hey! At halftime it was 3-3 and we were in it, then we scored twice to lead 5-3 at the 3rd quarter mark. North Harbour were rattled with their coach given a yellow card.

"The fourth quarter was all ours. The girls were brilliant nailing three more goals to nil, running out 8-3 winners - a huge upset. Malia Josephson scored three goals and Julia Kayes four goals as you might hope they would being New Zealand reps, but it was the sheer guts and determination of the whole team that was impressive.

"All the parents watching were right into it loudly applauding and supporting us at a packed and very noisy Huia Pool."

The final was held on day four with Tauranga up against Marist Red - the undefeated Marist team from Auckland. At halftime it was 2-2 but Marist scored four goals to one in the second half.

"As happens in sport, the final just didn't go our way."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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