11 November 2016
U14 Girls hockey team qualify for the final stage of the regional finals
On Tuesday 8 November, Sevenoaks U14 girls hockey team competed in the first stage of the East Regional Schools finals in Norwich. Having missed out on an automatic qualification spot for these Regional finals (after a desperately disappointing defeat after penalty strokes in the semi-final of the Kent county tournament), Sevenoaks were the beneficiaries of a last-minute spot at regionals when another team pulled out. The squad were determined to make the most of their second chance.
They faced Gresham’s School in their first match. They started at a tremendous tempo, which was rewarded with a goal within the first minute for Sasha Kelly, after good work from Darcey Friend on the right wing. A couple of minutes before half time, Sasha added a second, and went on to complete her hat-trick in the second half, as Sevenoaks ran out 3-0 winners. All 16 members of the squad played a role in the match, and it the high quality of hockey on show set the tone for the day ahead.
Far tougher was match number two, against Felsted, who had won the Essex County Tournament. This time, it was Felsted who scored early, from a well struck short corner in the first minute. Undeterred, Sevenoaks stuck to their game plan and two minutes later scored an excellent breakaway goal through Darcey Friend, who drove 30 yards and coolly finished from short range. And moments later, she once again broke round the back of the Felsted defence. Her initial shot was well saved, but as it looped in the air off the keeper’s pads, Sasha Kelly was on hand to pluck a difficult finish out of the air. Felsted were a constant threat for the rest of the match but Sevenoaks played well. However, after a few missed tackles in midfield, they conceded an equaliser with 3 minutes remaining, and the match finished 2-2. On reflection, a fair result.
With a draw and a win, we knew that our destiny was in our hands. A win in our final group match would guarantee the top spot (and a potentially easier afternoon cross-over match) and a draw would be enough for at least second. Our final opponents in the round-robin were Bedford Girls’ School. Again, we conceded an early goal, from a well-struck short corner. But the girls responded magnificently, and within 30 seconds were level again thanks to Sasha Kelly, who two minutes later added a second. Sevenoaks held that lead until early in the second half, when Bedford scored a super reverse-stick shot from the top of the D. The match was now really in the balance, but Sevenoaks kept their discipline in all areas to close the match out 2-2, and guarantee qualification for the afternoon cross-over match.
As it turned out, we managed to take top spot in our group on goal-difference, and so we faced Bishop’s Stortford in our winner-takes-all afternoon, match. We had played them earlier in the season, when we had shared the spoils in an entertaining 4-4 draw. The girls knew it was a match they could win. Once again, Sevenoaks came roaring out of the blocks, and scored in the first half minute, again through Sasha Kelly after good work from midfield. After nine minutes, Bedford scored against the run of play to even the scores. But Sevenoaks’ constant pressure paid off, and Ana Deeley scored a crucial goal just two minutes before the break. Sevenoaks continued to neutralise the threats in the second half, and when Kate Nicholls scored another with 6 minutes to go, with a lovely strike from a short corner, the end was in sight. Throughout, our captain Ella McCarthy was tireless in marking their best player out of the game, and Rosie Talbot was a rock at the heart of the defence, as she had been all day. We managed to rest some tired legs in the final few minutes, and ran out deserved 3-1 winners.
The girls have now qualified for the final stage of Regional finals for the top 4 schools in the East of England. The winner will go to nationals, and the runner up to play-offs. The team showed tremendous fight and discipline throughout the day, and on this evidence, they will make life difficult for any team they face.
SQUAD (goals in brackets): Sophie Rayment (GK), Lucy Bullock, Grace Reeve, Rosie Talbot, Ellie Petry, Ana Deeley (1), Kate Nicholls (1), Venetia Barker, Ella McCarthy, Sasha Kelly (7), Darcey Friend (1), Kitty Lavercombe, Saniya Patel, Abi Scott, Rose Spurling, Sophie Pryal.