A very excited bunch of U13 girls set off for England this week to play in the IAPS National Qualifiers at Repton and also to play in a match against Mowden en route to the tournament.
It was very kind of Mowden to agree to play us and the girls played on their lovely new Astro. The setting is gorgeous at Mowden; long sweeping drive, sports pitches galore, beautiful school building …. You really could not ask for more. We played against their A team first and were spoilt as we played 8v8 on the whole pitch which was a real treat for our girls. We enjoyed using the space and it was great to see the girls really have the chance to run in acres of space and play the ball wide. We were 1-0 down at half time and lost a couple of soft goals in the second half; 3-0 was the final score and not really a reflection of a very close match. We were too strong for their B team and won this match convincingly. Mowden were fantastic hosts, feeding us well after the match and it was great to see the girls chatting away happily at match tea.
We continued our journey south and checked in to our hotel in Nottingham, after a meal at Nando’s which the girls really enjoyed.
The day of the qualifiers dawned bright and breezy and we headed across to Repton for a full day of hockey. The matches were 12 minutes each way so we knew they that would be fast and furious. Our first match was against Ashfold from Buckinghamshire. We had a good first half in general and despite a couple of good shots on goal from Ashford, we managed to get the ball away. Our defenders were kept busy and we lost a goal after 6 mins when we forgot to mark tightly and were punished for this mistake. Iris worked very hard in midfield in the first half and ran her socks off. The second half was a little disappointing and we let our heads go down and for some reason we lost our fighting play. Ashfold took quick balls, and their second goal came after a short corner which bounced off Martha’s stick; an unlucky goal to lose. Iris had a fantastic shot at goal and we thought it was going in however the ball was saved then the play quickly turned around and we lost another short corner off Rosie’s feet and they scored off the corner. Esme tried hard in this game to find space but we struggled to get the ball to her. Katie’s fitness shone through and she ran particularly well in midfield, and had a very strong match.
Our second match was against Moorpark and this was an end to end game with some really exciting periods of play. Our midfield were kept busy in this match as both sets of defenders were good and net nothing through. Ellie and Amelia were stars in this match and kept focused and fed the ball well to our midfield. Martha made a crucial save just before half time and it stayed 0-0 as we finished the first half. Moorpark started the second half strongly and made 3 absolutely amazing saves in about 2 minutes which kept us in the game. Amelia once again was particularly strong and Moorpark were unlucky not to score as they had shot after shot on target. Calliope stayed wide and we tried hard to get the ball to her. Fiona had a breath-stopping clearance on our goal line and the ball literally danced along the line before she cleared it away. We managed to hang on and the match finished 0-0.
We then played against The Elms from Herefordshire. This was another exciting match and again, we kept ourselves in the game however just couldn’t manage to score. We lost a goal at a short corner but instead of letting our heads drop, we stayed positive and attacked hard. Fiona had a good attack up front and was well supported by Esme. Rosie came on and played well in this match, trying hard to defend, and she made some crucial tackles. The second half was just as close and we soon found ourselves defending another short corner. Martha made a very impressive air clearance which was strongly swept away by Ellie. We won a short corner in the dying moments but we didn’t let the ball come out the circle so forfeited a crucial opportunity. Final scored was 1-0 to the Elms. I normally would have not been too disappointed with this score against a traditionally strong Elms team however we were really in this match and were unlucky to lose this.
Our 2 defeats and a draw saw us head in to the Plate competition and we played The Downs. We missed a number of good chances in this game and our heads were down which affected our play; sloppy passes, lack of leads and poor tackling were punished by the opposition and we lost this match 2-0.
Our final match was against Sedbergh. We definitely looked the stronger team but just like our other matches, simply could not score. Katie ran well in this match and tackled hard but we struggled to support her. Strangely this match was only 11 minutes one way so it finished 0-0 which meant that we had to play 5 minutes golden goal. Sedbergh looked hungry to score and nearly scored quickly but the ball went wide. We looked panicked and struggled to get the ball away. We lost a short corner and then a goal followed which was a frustrating way to finish the tournament as we really did not play to our full potential.
We headed back on the road and drove as far as Doncaster where we cheered ourselves up with a lovely meal and some retail therapy at the nearby shopping centre. More fun and games were had at the entertainment centre at Xscape, and we all headed to bed, tired but upbeat.
Our journey back home was via the Dandylion hockey trials at Loretto, and well done to Fiona, Ellie and Amelia who were all successful.