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Hillcrest High School’s Emmerson Houghton will be doing much of her schoolwork poolside and in foreign locations over the next few months.
Emmerson, Year 13, has been selected as one of two schoolgirls along with Bernadette Doyle from Auckland’s St Cuthbert’s College in the senior women’s New Zealand water polo team to play in the FINA World Championships in Budapest, Hungary next month.
Then in September Emmerson, Bernadette and Emmerson’s older sister Brogan are off to Volos, Greece with the New Zealand team for the FINA World Women’s Junior Water Polo Championships.
The Senior New Zealand team flies out in a fortnight, and naturally Emmerson is excited and a little nervous about the trip. “We head overseas to Hungary for four weeks and play in a pre-tournament called the Vodafone Cup,” she said.
Emmerson was selected after a series of trial and training camp weekends and on National League form as well. “I’m just really excited to be going and to train and play alongside all the senior girls who have so much experience to pass on and offer me.”
New Zealand will play 2016 Olympic champions USA, leading side Spain and South Africa in the preliminary round of the senior World Championships from July 16-20.
This will be Emmerson’s first trip to Europe, having played for the New Zealand Youth team that finished 10th of 15 teams at the FINA Youth Championships in Auckland last December and also played for the NZSS team in their tri-series in Auckland against Australia and South Africa in which the New Zealand Schoolgirls beat Australia to claim the Trans-Tasman shield for the third consecutive year.
At the same time, Emmerson’s Hillcrest High School teammate Libby Alsemgeest will also be representing a New Zealand side. Libby, Year 11, is also heading overseas on her first trip overseas with a national team. “I’m heading to Sydney at the start of July with the Born 2000 Girls team and against the NSW state side and the possibility of some international sides as well. I’m the youngest in my team and really looking forward to the trip.”
Like Emmerson, Libby is also the only player from Hamilton/Waikato in her squad.
The trio play for the table-topping Waitakere Blue Diamonds in the National League, which involves regularly making the two-hour commute up to Auckland to train and play.
Its semi-finals and finals weekend this Saturday and Saturday and Waitakere are hoping to take the title off defending champions Marist.
Emmerson is a centre back and driver. She is the competition’s third highest goal scorer leading into this coming weekend’s National League finals series, with 18 goals in nine games to her name. Last December she scored four goals in New Zealand’s 15-6 win over Australia and found the back of the net twice more in their 14-6 win over them.
Libby is a centre forward. “So I am the opposite to Emmerson,” said Libby, “she marks me when we are training so that helps me a lot as well.”
Libby is also the youngest participant in this year’s Women’s National League this year.
The pair and Emmerson’s older sister Brogan, two years out of Hillcrest High School, are flying the flag for their school and for the Waikato, neither of which are hotbeds of New Zealand water polo.
What’s their background in water polo?
Said Emmerson: “I’m from a big family and my older brothers used to play at school and my older brother was in New Zealand teams and we trained together and we’ve always been at the pool and I just kind of carried on.”
Said Libby: “I started playing when I was Year 7 and have just continued on ever since. Emmerson and Brogan have helped me out a lot and we do quite a bit and we have always been part of Hillcrest teams together.”
Emmerson and Brogan are also Libby’s Waikato Girls U16 coaches.
Emmerson and Libby are also in the Waikato-BoP U18 representative team, with Libby playing in the upcoming nationals while Emmerson heads to Hungary with the New Zealand squad.
Both Emmerson and Libby also play netball, but being selected in two New Zealand teams means Emmerson pointed out that she has had to put netball on the backburner this winter, while Libby will be in the Hillcrest team playing in the Upper North Island netball tournament later in the year,” said Libby.