The 1st girls travelled to Bede’s School to play in the IAPS qualifiers. We left Edinburgh just before lunch time and flew to Gatwick where we picked up our hire bus. After a brief pit stop at the hotel, we headed out to the bowling alley where the girls had great fun; I’m not sure any of them are destined to be international bowlers however they laughed a lot! A lovely meal at an Italian restaurant in Eastbourne followed, and we headed back to the hotel, tummies full and ready for bed.
We arrived at Bede’s early, and after a good warm up, faced Westbourne House in our first match. We had a shaky start, losing 2 penalty corners within the first 2 minutes. We were punished by our slack concentration, and they scored. This was enough to rile the team, and we attacked pretty much for the rest of the half. Two excellent strikes from Sophie followed, with one skimming the post. With the score still at 1-0, we finished the half. We started well, and Sophie dribbled through the opposition. This resulted in a strong shot from her which was saved well. Further pressure from us saw us win 2 more short corners which were defended well and the play turned. We lost 2 short corners later on in the half but kept the ball out. The game finished a disappointing 1-0; not really a fair reflection of the game in which we pressed hard and had a lot of opportunities.
We knew we had to really give our all in our next match against Dulwich Prep. We started with the centre and attacked from the start. Ellie made a lovely pass through to Saphira who turned and shot but was saved by the GK. A strong early ball through from Sophie soon followed and Saphira got on the end of it and turned well and won a shirt corner. We used our straight strike option and Sophie scored a cracking low ball. Emma and Ellie played very well in defence and cleared the ball wide. We had a passage of play where we played some lovely balls through to our high player, and this style of play was rewarded from a goal by Saphira from Sophie. With the seconds ticking away, we lost a soft goal in the last 10 seconds however we headed in to the half time 2-1 ahead. Izzy came in to her own in the second half and quickly won a short corner. We used our no 2 option which broke down so Sophie took a strike and scored. Further pressure from us followed, and another hard ball from Sophie up to Izzy resulted in a terrific goal and a 4-1 win.
Our last pool game was against Vinehall. We piled on the pressure throughout the game but it ended up being a frustrating match, as we found it hard to score. Izzy and Sophie linked well together and read each other’s play well. We won a long corner but just couldn’t manage to score. Another good break followed with Amelia crossing the ball in well but again we failed to connect. Ellie dominated the defence and cleared the ball well time after time. She saved a would-have-been goal with a lovely reverse tackle and cleared it away wide. The p,at swung to the other end quickly and Sophie passed a great ball through to Izzy who pulled it on her reverse and hit it hard in to the top of the net for what must be the goal of the day! Vinehall hit back and narrowly missed our goal but we hung on with our 1-0 lead in to half time. Vinehall started well and attacked our goal straight away. The play swung back and we had narrow misses from Katie and Sophie who were both well positioned. Amy had a great save to keep their goal out however we stupidly stopped playing when the ball hit our foot and no whistle was blown, and Vinehall utilised this and somehow managed to score. With only 9 minutes per half to play with, we simply ran out of time and the match finishes 1-1.
Our morning scores saw us finish in second place which meant that we progressed through to the Cup semi final against West Hill Park who won their section. After a nervous wait we set up against Westhill Park ready for an important 18 minutes of hockey. Ellie won the toss and we started with the ball. We lost a short corner early on but Izzy ran out well and got the ball away. The play switched to the other end and Sophie was tripped up; in true Sophie style she got up, dusted herself down and proceeded to get the ball in the circle for Izzy to win a short corner. The ball was struck well and saved then Izzy popped it in the goal. We really looked like a very slick team and the next few minutes produced some really good hockey. Izzy sent the ball to Sophie, passed it through to Saphira who neatly slotted it in the back of the net. We held strong and finished the first half 2-0 up.
Westhill Park had the centre at the start of the second half, but we stole the ball quickly from them and won a corner after only 15 seconds. We used no 3 option and Amelia cracked a hard ball in to the goal to take us 3-0 up. Amelia continued to dominate the match and seemed to be everywhere, making very strong tackles and strong leads. Izzy also ran her socks off and played some outstanding hockey. We lost a short corner with 2 minutes to go however Amy saved yet mother shot with only 2 mins to go and we held off to progress to the Cup final against Bede’s. This match was probably the gutsiest performance from the girls all day and their determination and drive was amazing.
The final was a very tense affair and both teams were clearly keen to win. We won the toss and like our first game, were a little slow off the mark though for the first couple of minutes. Once again Sophie battled hard in midfield and Ellie had some cracking tackles. We won a short corner and Izzy had a great reverse strike but sadly we didn’t manage to score. Sophie played a good ball through to Saphira but once again we were denied a goal. Bede’s then came crashing through and slotted one in the goal. We gained possession quickly and won a couple of short corners however we just couldn’t get it past their efficient goal keeper. Amy made a good save and which kept us in the game and the match ended 1-0 to Bede’s at half time. The second half was a little flat at the start and the girls were getting a little frustrated at times. The time was ticking away however it was Sophie who saved the day and scored a cracking goal, literally in the last few seconds of the game. The ball didn’t even have enough time to get back to the half way, and the final whistle blew.
Golden goal beckoned, and the girls knew that they really needed to score quickly. Bede’s pressed hard but the play swung back in our favour and there was a mad scrambled in front of their goal with the ball practically skimming along their goal line however despite a late reverse strike from Izzy, the match stayed at 1-1 and the dreaded penalty strokes beckoned.
The format was 3 penalty strokes and Sophie, Izzy and Ellie all stepped up to take one each. Sophie went first and her shot was saved well by Bede’s. Amy looked determined and stayed big and got a stick to the Bede’s first attempt at goal, however the ball flew past and in to the net. Izzy then stepped up and scored with a high ball to the left. Bede’s second player made a good attempt but Amy was not letting anything past her and saved the shot. Captain Ellie scored with a hard, low stroke so it was all down to the last stroke from Bede’s. Amy was today’s hero and saved the third attempt from Bede’s which meant we won the tournament! The girls were absolutely thrilled and I am so proud of the massive team effort. Good luck at Millfield next month girls; both Cuan and myself and really looking forward to it!