After the Worthing boys won the silver medal in the final of the boy’s national age group championships in Sheffield on Saturday, on Sunday it was a very young Worthing squad that played in the girls event. The girls all did the club proud playing 5 matches against much more experienced opposition and all of the squad will have gained huge amount from what was a very tough and long day in the pool. This was the first time the club has entered the girls U15 National Age Groups. The squad, consisting of players from Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire (coached by Alastair Roberts) only had three players who were top of the age group. Remarkably, most of the players were playing two or three years up, and only one had ever experienced a National competition.

Worthing U15s:  
L-R – Zoe Luff, Jessica Fleming, Aimee Fleming, Calista Almeida, Imo Read, Abi MacDonald   Elsie Graves, Lily Dallimore, Amelia Cook, Leelou Butcher, Lily-Joy Boyce

Worthing vs Croydon  

A nervy start saw the ball pinged about for almost two minutes before Elsie broke free  to score the Worthing opener with a spectacular back-hander. A game of cat-and mouse pursued, with Croydon levelling after each of Worthing’s three goals. A rocket  from Lily took Worthing back into the lead and Elsie bagged her first half hat-trick 20  seconds from half time, finally putting a bit of daylight between the two sides. 

Lilly making her presence felt

The second half started with more confidence. A goal from Leelou, and some  excellent saves from GK Amelia, kept the score at 3-6. With just over three minutes to  go, Worthing really found their flow. Elsie banged in her fourth, closely followed by Imogen and Jessica’s debut goals. Amelia, and the defence, had worked hard to close  down the Croydon attack, preventing any goals from reaching the back of the  Worthing net. Leelou closed the game with a final goal giving Worthing a brilliant first  match victory. 

Final Score : Croydon 3 – 10 Worthing

Goals : Elsie 4, Lily 2, Leelou 2, Jessica 1, Imogen 1

Worthing vs Sheffield  

Sheffield were the bronze medallists at the pre-covid U15s, and have a long history of  success in the NAGs, so this match was never going to be easy. Despite the Worthing  girls’ young age and inexperience, they threw themselves in to the match. Sheffield 

Calista making a nuisance of herself!

were out of the traps quickly scoring 2 fast goals. Elsie pulled one back, but the older,  stronger Sheffield girls dug in, countering off of every Worthing mistake, scoring five  goals before half time with no reply. 

Interception by 11 year old Aimee

The Worthing girls could have given up, as Sheffield extended their lead after the  restart, but they decided to give it their all. The ball was taken down the wing and  dropped into the path of Elsie, as she hammered another goal home. Sheffield replied  with another two, taking the score to 10-2 in their favour. With three minutes to go,  the Worthing girls went on the rampage! Supported by drives down the wing by  Imogen, Zoe and Lily, Elsie scored a hat trick in under a minute – one of which was a  penalty. Imogen got into the act, with a beautifully taken shot, before Elsie closed a  brilliant Worthing second half performance with her fifth goal of the game. Worthing  may have lost the match, but they beat Sheffield 6 goals to 3 in the second half. A  performance that the whole team can be proud of. 

Final Score : Sheffield 10 – 7 Worthing

Goals : Elsie 5, Lily 1, Imogen 1  

Worthing vs Penguin  

The scoring opened with a cool penalty goal taken by Lily. Penguin hit back with two,  before Elsie levelled the scoreline. The exceptionally tight half finished at 3-2 to  Penguin. 

The second half opened with a penguin goal, but Elsie and Lily levelled the score  once again. This was a game that the Worthing girls could have won, but a few  woodwork rattlers, coupled with fatigue after the efforts of the Sheffield game, saw  Penguin counter off the tiring Worthing defence. Despite a couple of last ditch goals  from Elsie, who completed yet another hat-trick, and Lily.  

Final score : Penguin 10 – 5 Worthing

Goals : Elsie 3, Lily 2. 

Worthing vs Manchester 

Manchester had topped the table and were unbeaten, so Worthing were in for a tough  time! Manchester began how they meant to go on, scoring 3 goals without reply.  Dogged defending from Calista and Zoe slowed the attack, but the organised  Manchester team popped the ball around and breached the tired defence a couple  more times. Amelia made some fabulous saves to frustrate the Manchester attack. A  consolation goal, from Elsie, just before half time saw Manchester enter the half time  break with a lead of 7 goals to 1. 

Manchester, now guaranteed a place in the final, took their foot off the gas and gave  the Worthing girls an opportunity to play more constructively. Abi, Zoe and Aimee  were unlucky not to score, Lily-Joy kept her nerve to bag her first goal for Worthing  and Elsie and Jessica wrapped up the match with two more. 

Final score : Manchester 12 – 4 Worthing

Goals : Elsie 1 Abi 1, Lily-Joy 1, Jessica 1.

Worthing vs Liverpool  

Only 15 minutes had passed since the end of the last match, and the girls were back  in action in the pool against Liverpool in the 7-8 place play-off. By this point, the  squad had played the equivalent of two full matches in under 5hrs which even for an  adult team was a big ask. 

Leelou holding the ball up.

The girls held on to a clean sheet for the first three minutes of the half and despite  their obvious tiredness were the ones to draw first blood. A quick drive through the  centre by the Worthing attack led to a penalty, which was cooly converted by Elsie. It  was at this point that Worthing lost their shape and energy and the Liverpool attack  took Worthing apart, scoring 6 goals on the bounce.  

The second half started like the first, with a Worthing drive leading to a penalty, which  on this accession was not converted. Liverpool scored another 5 before Elsie got a  consolation goal 20 seconds from the end.  

Final score : Liverpool 11 – 2 Worthing

Goals : Elsie 2

Regardless of the results, the girls should be proud of their efforts. Eight of this team  qualify for next years tournament, including the top scorers Elsie and Lily Dallimore.  Although the fatigue was clear to see, the understanding of the game definitely  developed, as did the tenacity and strength of tackles!! The players were as engaged  in the game out of the pool as in, constantly asking tactical questions and following  the match, and it was lovely to see them smiling and gelling as a team. 

Well done girls!

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