Swim England Water Polo National Age Group Championships 2023 Preview - U19 Boys
In the last of four previews, we take a look at the four U19 boys sides that have made it to the semi-finals at the Sunderland Aquatics Centre.
A second half surge saw Cheltenham become U19 boys champions at last year’s finals and they’re back defend their crown in Sunderland.
Goalkeeper of the tournament, Zach Downer, and top scorer in last year’s event, Will Thompson, were among the members of the successful squad in 2022 and they’ll be looking to repeat the feat this time around.
They come into this year’s finals in a rich vein of form after winning all three of their matches in Group B of the preliminary round.
Cheltenham overcame Watford, Grantham and Barnet, scoring 35 goals in the process as they fired their way to top spot in the group.
The teams head coach, Stu Mckie, is hopeful that his side can retain their championship this weekend.
He said: “We are all excited to have qualified for the finals again as we look for back to back wins.
“Looking at the squads, it seems a lot of 05/06 talent is across the four teams making it a bit of a showpiece for these age groups.
“I’m very happy with the teams input into this. Our boys have trained hard and I’m proud of their commitment to water polo and the club.”
Squad: Zach Downer, Aaron Downer (C), Sam Handley, Rex Lewis, Harrison Walsh, Toby Chilcott, Will Thompson (VC), Thomas Webster, Reuban Powell, Thomas Dally, Henry Young, Louie Mckie, Liam Barnes.
Head coach: Stu McKie. Assistant coach: Jimmy Walsh.
Sedgefield impressed in the preliminary round as they qualified with a 100% record.
They topped Group A, which featured some high quality teams including the City of Manchester, 2022 finalists Bridgefield and fellow semi-finalists Caledonia.
It was a string of strong performances where they also defeated the City of Birmingham and the City of Sheffield to claim the maximum ten points from their qualifying campaign.
That run of games will give them plenty of confidence as they head into an enticing semi-final match up with defending champions Cheltenham.
Their team manager Vicky Alderson said: “Over the years, the club has won a fantastic nine national age group titles over different age groups and this team is very ambitious and aspires to add a tenth win to the collection.
“The team won all five games in the qualifying round in Matlock and are very much looking forward to participating at finals weekend in Sunderland.”
Coaches: John Pratt and James Pratt. Team manager: Vicky Alderson.
Squad: Ben Alderson, Kyle Alderson, Daniel Barron, Cayden Down, Dom Epton, Ryan Griffiths, Rohan Henderson, Will Hartshorn, Dylan Hobman, Henry Jackson, Ryan James, Hamza Tran, Harry Wallbank. Reserve: Gregor Marsland.
Worthing topped Group C with three wins from three on their way to reaching the finals.
Victories against Invicta, West London Penguin and Northampton saw them comfortably top their group by three points to book their place in Sunderland this weekend.
The squad is packed full of talent and they can call on a number of players that helped fire the club to the U17 boys title last year.
That includes the competitions MVP, Tumay Evcimen, and goalkeeper of the tournament, Felix Monaghan as the team look to win back to back national titles.
This time around, the club have teams in both boys’ competitions and their head coach, Alastair Roberts, says they are looking forward to the weekend.
He said: “We were very pleased to win two qualifying groups, but both were very competitive.
“Obviously we hope to do as well as possible in the finals round in both age groups at Sunderland, but for a team from the Sussex coast it’s going to be a huge challenge to play there.
“All of the boys are looking forward to the opportunity and we obviously hope that we play as well as we possibly can.”
Worthing will face Caledonia in the semi-finals on Saturday.
Squad: Joey Taylor, Maty Skoda, Indy Nash, Tumay Evcimen, Nickolas Karamanlis, Olly Phillips, Ethan Lecuyer, Henry Broadhurst, Archie Moon, Sammy Smith, Joe Boot, Luke Heaton, Felix Monaghan.
Caledonia return to the finals for the second consecutive year after finishing runners-up in an evenly contested and closely fought Group A in qualification.
Impressive victories against the City of Birmingham (9-6), City of Manchester (6-3), City of Sheffield (7-2) and last year’s silver medallists Bridgefield (6-5) demonstrated their impressive defensive team work, as well as their fighting spirit.
The only blip on their record was a narrow 7-6 defeat against a strong Sedgefield team, where Sedgefield netted the winner in the final minute of the game.
The Scottish side had to settle for fourth last year, but will be hoping that they can head back over the border with some silverware around their necks this time around.
Head Coach Ali Campbell commented: “I am so proud of the boys for reaching the finals and qualifying from a very tough group.
“I challenged them to play with composure as well as their usual intensity and they did so brilliantly. We are all looking forward to the finals now!”
Squad: Finn Lanyon, Ethan Aiken, Murray Dickson, Cailean Thomson, Alex De Gaetano, Leo Sanders, Euan Mitchell, Adam Primrose, Grier Vandermeulen, Logan Vandermeulen, Nathan Campbell, Ali Shippey, Edwin Walker