For a small university, St Andrews has a proud sporting culture. Our teams participate in memorable tournaments and occasions. We have produced Scottish and British champions in a huge diversity of sports and some have even dominated the other teams in the field. However, no St Andrews sports team in recent memory has done this to the same extent as the Women’s Water Polo team this season.
Saints have produced a record-breaking year. Marching undefeated to win both the BUCS Premier North league title, and over Spring Break they added the BUCS National Championship title, their dominance displayed in dramatic terms by the 100 per cent record they maintained all season.
The Water Polo squads are faced with a few obstacles other sports teams do not. The lack of a University-owned pool has caused problems for many of the water sports teams, with the water polo squad having to travel to Dundee for their home games. Still, the club is thriving and is now delivering huge success in BUCS competition.
The Women’s league season went perfectly. Starting with a 19-13 victory away in Manchester the Saints never looked back. An incredible 100 per cent record of 10 victories followed as they marched to the title. Highlights include a remarkable 35-6 early season thrashing of champions Durham and two dominant victories over traditional rivals Edinburgh. Saints deserve credit for showing no signs of complacency as they continued this most impressive winning streak. Durham and Edinburgh would finish second and third respectively but were miles behind the dominant St Andrews team.
The Saints have come a long way in recent years. This was only their third year in the Premier Division and they finished fourth and then third in the previous seasons. The somewhat meteoric rise of the Women’s team can be attributed to a number of factors with Saints player Amelia Fletcher putting it down to the depth of quality in the playing squad as well as their strong bond. She said, “The team this year has been incredible. We have some amazing players who’ve really helped to improve those with less experience and each player has contributed so much to our success this season. As a group we get on so well and that’s definitely reflected by our teamwork in the pool. Having been a part of the team two years ago when we’d just moved up to the Premier League and lost to Durham by almost 20 goals, this win means so much and is a true testament to the hard work put in by both the coaches and players over the years.”
That heavy defeat at the hands of Durham a few years ago is especially significant, considering they were Saints’ opponents in the BUCS Championship final. Despite Saints’ dominance in the league this year, Durham posed a serious challenge. The English side were league and national champions for the last two seasons and were looking to get payback on Saints for that big early season defeat and for ending their dominant run. Before the match, the team received many good luck messages including from representatives of Saints Netball and Saints Football, showing that the full support of the University was behind them. The team certainly did themselves and St Andrews proud.
The final, which took place at the David Ross Sports Centre in Nottingham, was a relatively tight score line but it was a match which St Andrews had total control of. Despite Durham’s persistence, Saints’ maintained a multiple-goal lead throughout, the final-score being 12-7 to St Andrews. Specific credit does go to player of the game Kimberley Watson who scored an impressive five goals but the whole team rightfully deserves praise for a great final performance. The victory capped off an incredible season for St Andrews as they lifted the national championship, for the first time in the club’s history.
The culmination of several years of hard work from coaches and players, this season must have felt extra sweet. On their Facebook page the team thanked all those who have contributed to the Saints Water Polo team over the years, as all their hard work was vindicated by this remarkable season. St Andrews show no signs of stopping though as Director of Water Polo Ian MacCallum told The Saint, “winning the BUCS Water Polo Championship really has been a dream come true and has been very much a team effort. The players, coaches, and administrators have all come together to make this possible. It helps put St Andrews on the elite sporting map and we are already looking forward to defending the title next year.”
Fighting talk from the club’s director then as St Andrews look to add even more success in the years to come. For this year though, the St Andrews Women’s Water Polo team deserve to celebrate their historic season.
The BUCS Championship winning University of St Andrews Women’s Water Polo squad: Alex Maher, Amelia Fletcher, Rebekah Kaufman, Nicole Thompson, Brynn Walsh, Rhiannon MacLeod, Rebecca Yates, Kate Mackie, Ruby Versfeld, Caitlin Donnelly, Meg Hendrick, Kimberley Watson, Laura Jimenez, Elle Futernick, Maya Weerasinghe, Ruby Brown.