Sevenoaks compete in national hockey finals

On Tuesday 8 March, Sevenoaks travelled up to East London to the Lee Valley Hockey centre for the finals of the Investec U14 Schools Hockey Championships for Girls. The girls were understandably very excited to have the chance to play on the same pitches as their Olympic hockey heroes, and to have the chance to battle it out for the national title against the other top seven teams in the country.

It has been a hallmark of the girls play this season that they have made a flying start at every county and regional tournament. Happily, it was no different here against our first opponents Cheadle Hulme. After a professional and focused warm-up, Sevenoaks roared out of the blocks, putting their opponents under immediate pressure. The midfield trio of Juliette Briery, Ellie Parton and Claire Morgan spread the ball around confidently, and provided an excellent base for a number of early attacks. The strong close skills in the D of Coco Streets and Michelle Li won a succession of corners, but we unfortunately failed to convert them. The first half finished 0-0, and Sevenoaks had nothing to show for their dominance.

In the second half, the Sevenoaks defenders remained largely untroubled by the opposition attackers, with Georgie Stephens and Rosie Talbot looking particularly assured on the flanks. But, having won a solitary short corner, Cheadle Hulme managed to get a clean strike away which crept into the far corner. Sevenoaks now had to chase the game. Rosie Peachey was at the heart of all of their good work, with Floss Adcock a constant threat down the right wing. Chances continued to come, but several short corners went unconverted. And with a few minutes remaining, our opponents added insult to injury with a second goal on the break. The match finished 2-0, and Sevenoaks were left regretting their missed chances.

They now had to pick themselves up mentally and physically against a strong Wellington side. Sevenoaks competed well against their very talented opposition, with Kate Nicholls and Ellie Price marking Wellington’s two key players particularly well. But in a tightly fought first half, Wellington did well to create a number of clear chances in the D, and were clinical in front of goal, scoring two goals. After half-time, Sevenoaks regrouped, and went toe to toe with Wellington for most of the half. Ellie Williams and Ella Roberts did a particularly good job to neutralise their forward line. But with a minute to go, Wellington scored a third goal, with a wonderful reverse stick strike from the wide left. Despite losing 3-0, Sevenoaks had emerged with a lot of credit. Wellington would go on to become National Champions.

The girls started their final match determined to get on the score sheet and not go home empty handed. They weathered the early storm in their final match against Canford School, but soon began to create chances, particularly through Sophia Anderson down the right hand side. Having worked tirelessly all day, Floss Adcock broke beyond her defender as she has done so many times this season and delivered a trademark cross to the far post, where Phoebe Buckland was on hand to coolly slot the ball home for a deserved 1-0 lead. Sevenoaks had a number of opportunities to go two clear, but Canford defended well, and a minute before half time struck back with a goal of their own to level the scores. The second half was hugely entertaining, with chances at both ends. Charlotte Imbert pulled off a couple of outstanding one-on-one saves in the Sevenoaks goal, and Rosie Peachey was tireless at sweeper, fully embodying the captain’s role, urging her players forward for a winner. As the final hooter sounded, the match finished 1-1, and a tired Sevenoaks squad could take one last look around at the Olympic pitch and the national hockey stadium, and reflect very positively on what might have been.

It has been a tremendous season, and this team of girls have consistently exceeded expectations. At national finals, at the highest level, they competed well, and had they taken advantage of a few more opportunities at key moments then a couple of victories would have been deservedly theirs. But such is sport and the girls’ effort cannot be faulted. Having tasted tournament hockey at this level, they will be fired up to train hard, get back to nationals in the years to come, and deliver an even better performance next time.

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