U14 hockey team reach East Regional finals
On Thursday 8 November, our U14A girls hockey team travelled to Norwich for the first stage of regional finals. All the eight teams present had finished first or second in their respective county tournaments, and only two teams would go forward to the East finals on 22 November. We needed to finish in the top two of our morning pool of four to set up a winner-takes-all crossover match in the afternoon for qualification.
Our first pool match was against the Stephen Perse School, Cambridge. The girls made a strong start, and after just two minutes an opportunistic shot from the right from the ever-industrious Phoebe Gough-Cooper was deflected into the net for the first goal. Two minutes later, captain Annabel Cheveley doubled the lead when she was first to react after Esther Adcock’s short corner strike was initially saved. Amelie Tsang soon added a third after a super run down the right wing by Imogen Moran, and then a couple of minutes before half time, Annabel Cheveley added to her personal tally from a well worked short corner. There were no further goals in the second half, but all the squad had a good amount of pitch time, and confidence was high.
We had identified our second match against Norwich School as likely to be our toughest. The girls knew they had to start well, and dictated the pace from the first whistle. They had a couple of early short corners, which were dealt with well by the Norwich defence. But a third corner came, and Annabel Cheveley found the bottom corner with a rocket of a strike. We dominated possession for the rest of the half, with Betrys Galloni, Katie Clyne and Elspeth Watson in the back line keeping the opposition quiet and Telia Green working tirelessly in midfield. However, we failed to convert our attacking opportunities. In the second half, we failed to use the width, and the game became a bit scrappy. We conceded a goal from a well-worked short corner, and in the time that remained just couldn’t find a winner, despite best efforts. The 1-1 result felt like a loss, and left both teams on 4 points after two matches, with Sevenoaks remaining on top of the group by a single goal.
The girls knew that finishing top of their group would guarantee a slightly easier cross-over match in the afternoon, and therefore they knew they had to out-score Norwich in the final group games. All was going to plan when Annabel Cheveley struck another beautifully crisp short corner shot into the bottom corner after just two minutes. However, in a rare moment of lost concentration at the back, we then contrived to concede a scrappy goal just three minutes later. To their credit, the girls at no point panicked, and before long Jess Fleming scored her first goal of the day to get the girls back on track. This was swiftly followed by a great strike from Esther Adcock, and a lovely first-time finish from Ellie Allen, to beat the advancing keeper. Leading 4-1, we kept the pressure up in the second half, with Ellie Allen adding another goal to her tally. With two minutes to go, Annabel Cheveley continued her rich vein of goal-scoring form with a wonderfully composed push into the far corner. Norwich had only managed a 0-0 draw in their final match, and so we topped the pool on 7 points.
Our afternoon cross-over match was against Presdales School, who had finished second in their pool, winning two of their three morning matches. The reward for a win would be a place at regional finals. Happily, Sevenoaks had saved their best hockey for last. After just one minute, Annabel Cheveley found some space on the right, beat her defender and slipped an inch perfect pass to Jess Fleming to open the scoring. The team were now playing with great fluency and confidence, and Annabel led from the front, as she had done all day, adding her sixth and seventh goals in quick succession, after great work from Imogen Moran down the right. Becky McDeigan-Lee made a couple of sharp saves in goal, before Lulu Stephens, having worked tirelessly in central midfield all day, found herself in the D after a mazy run. She unleashed a fierce strike to make the half-time score 4-0.
Built on a solid base provided by Grace Talbot, Ines Whitefoord, and others in the back line, Sevenoaks continued to press, and Jess Fleming delighted the spectators with a sublime first touch to beat her defender followed by a brilliant reverse stick finish. Lulu Stephens then popped up on the left of the D to score a reverse stick shot of her own, before Jess added yet another reverse stick finish to complete her hat-trick. All three were goals of the very highest quality. With a minute to go, Annabel Cheveley found herself in space with just the keeper to beat. Showing great awareness, and even greater unselfishness, she chose not to shoot, sending an inch-perfect pass instead to Ellie Allen on the far post for a simple tap in. 8-0 was the final score.
Sevenoaks now go forward to the East Regional finals on 22 November, as one of the top four schools in the East of England. The team who comes first will go through to nationals.
Squad (goals in brackets): Becky McDeigan-Lee, Elspeth Watson, Katie Clyne, Sophie Walker, Ines Whitefoord, Grace Talbot, Betrys Galloni, Annabel Cheveley (7), Lulu Stephens (2), Telia Green, Phoebe Gough-Cooper (1), Imogen Moran, Esther Adcock (1), Ellie Allen (3), Jess Fleming (4), Amelie Tsang (1)