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Interview: GB water polo star Verity McCoy hails "big improvement"

GB water polo star Verity McCoy tells Sports Mole that the side are showing 'big improvements' despite losing three from three at the European Games.

GB water polo centre-back Verity McCoy has said that the side are registering big day-on-day improvements, despite losing all three of their matches so far at the inaugural European Games.

A comprehensive defeat to tournament favourites Greece on the first day of action was followed up by a narrow loss to Germany and a 19-6 loss earlier today to heavy-hitters The Netherlands.

Sports Mole caught up with 16-year-old defender McCoy, who scored a fine backhanded goal from close range during the contest, to find out why there's still cause for optimism with two group games to go.

What are your immediate thoughts on the game you just had?
"I thought it was a big improvement from the Greece game. We thought it would be a similar setup, so we knew we were going to give it our best shot but it was unlikely for us to win. But we knew we were going to fight as hard as we could to get a lower goal difference and improve from the Greece game. I thought the girls did really well. It was a lower goal difference and we managed to score more goals, so it was great for the team."

Holland are a very fierce attacking side. How do you prepare yourself to go up against that?
"You've just got to communicate a lot, so if you're going for the shot you've got to tell the team so that they're able to cover and make sure there's lots of counter-attacks, or else you get stuck behind the ball and they get loads of goals off you. We did do better at that towards the end. At the beginning we were a little bit slow off the box but towards the end we were covering ourselves more and it was a better game."

Team GB water polo star Verity McCoy at kitting out ahead of the European Games in May 2015© Getty Images

Talking about the goals, I think yours was the goal of the game. What was going through your head as you hit it in?
"It was panic, to be honest. I had the ball and I knew I couldn't have turned the other way. I didn't want to not score, so I thought I might as well have a go, and if it goes in it'll be a great goal and if not, I'll just go back and defend, then next time I'll try to get a goal."

Looking ahead to tomorrow, you're playing Israel, who have also lost three games so far but only scored five. You must be feeling confident about this one?
"We're hoping that we're going to improve on ourselves again and have a better game. If we do that it's likely that we'll win, but we're not going to go in thinking that. We can't be over-confident, because if we are we'll be making more mistakes."

Your schedule here is very intense, with a game every afternoon. What's your routine between games?
"We go back to the Athletes' Village, have our dinner, then we get a few hours to ourselves. So we can go round to each others' rooms and just calm down, talk about the game, but also talk to family. I talked to my mum last night, who's at home. It's just nice to hear about what's going on back where we're from, so we're calmer going into the next game. It's a nice thing to have."

What must also help is the very large GB support here - and they're very vocal too! Does that spur you on?
"It's great that loads of the parents decided to come. One of the girls' mum is very loud, so that's always nice to have! Sometimes you go to games in this sport and there's hardly any support because it's such a low-profile sport, so it's nice to have people cheering you on. It gives you more momentum going forward, and you want to prove to your supporters why they've paid all that money to support you."

I've been to the Athletes' Village a couple times - they seem to have everything there, including a nail bar and hair salon! That must be quite an experience for you.
"I haven't had a chance to go to the nail bar yet. We were planning to go before the opening ceremony but we had a game just before, so we didn't quite have time. But it's such a surreal experience for us all. I was in the lift with Jade Jones and Nicola Adams yesterday."

Did you say hello?
"No, I was too nervous! But you'd never expect that to happen. Looking around and you see all these athletes who are the best at their sport. It's a nice thing to be included in that, because you wouldn't think that 16-year-olds would be in that position."

The welcome ceremony must have been pretty special for you girls too.
"It was such an experience that we thought we'd never have. Walking around [in the athletes' parade], it's hard to take in. You wanted to make sure you caught everything so you'd always remember it."

And you must have had a great seat for Lady Gaga!
"All the athletes were on the one side and the piano was just in front of us, so it was such a surprise. As soon as she came out, everyone was turning around asking 'Is it real?' We expected someone to come out because it is the first European Games, but everyone was thinking it was an impersonator! She was actually real!"

Great Britain take on Israel in their fourth preliminary at 11am UK time on Monday.

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