British League joy for Hucknall Ladies water polo team

BEST OF BRITISH -- Hucknall Ladies celebrate promotion in the British Water Polo League.

BEST OF BRITISH -- Hucknall Ladies celebrate promotion in the British Water Polo League.

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Champagne celebrations were the order of the day for HUCKNALL LADIES after they clinched promotion in the British Water Polo League.

Roared on by an enthusiastic band of supporters, Hucknall faced three tough matches on the final weekend of Championship Two, which acted as end-of-season play-offs.

All three were close and hard fought -- but the dominant locals won them to secure a place next season in Division Two of the league.

Hucknall had gained their place in the play-offs after finishing joint top of the eight-team Third Division. They won six of their seven matches, losing only to Southampton, and carried on their fine form into Championship Two.

In the first two weekends, they won three and drew one of their opening four matches -- before making the trip to Walsall for last weekend’s decider.

First up was a tense match against Liverpool in which Hucknall had 11 man-down plays. They defended them magnificently, conceding only two goals.

Aggressive defence from Liverpool forced the locals to adapt and strengthen their attacking strategies. But goals from Cass Mercer (2), Stacie Roe (2), Laura Woodfield, Helen Reader, Vicki Taylor and Cara Saunders carved out an 8-4 victory.

The second match, against Manchester outfit Tyldesley, also finished 8-4 in Hucknall’s favour. But it was a much clearer outcome, especially in the second quarter, which the locals won 5-0.

The goalscoring of Rachael Endy, who bagged a hat-trick, Woodfield (2), Taylor and Saunders was matched by another astounding display of goalkeeping by Ripley Fidler.

The last game of the weekend, which sealed Hucknall’s promotion, was against old rivals Southampton, who operate without any recognisable patterns of play.

Strong defending was needed to counteract their key players, and Hucknall ran out 6-3 winners to avenge that earlier defeat in the league season proper.

This time, it was the turn of the consistent Woodfield to net a treble, while Endy scored twice and Saunders once to complete fine strategic performances by the centre-forwards.