So, for the second time in two weeks, Worcester U12 girls headed to Nottingham in search of hockey glory at the National Finals on 13th May 2017. This time they went as Midlands Champions having seen off the old enemies of Beeston and Stourport the fortnight before and conceding no goals during the entire Regional Finals. They were confident and excited in equal measure and scored early sartorial marks with their bespoke (and somewhat intimidating) black hoodies.
Worcester’s first group match was against Canterbury and they got off to a flying start with a flowing end-to-end move straight off the training ground resulting in a quality goal for the girls. The next 17 minutes were very tense with action at both ends and Canterbury being denied any equaliser by some stout defending and brave goalkeeping. A good start and a collective deep breath. That start was capitalised on in the second game with a comfortable 3-0 win over Wakefield who could barely break free of the well organised Worcester “press”. Almost enjoyable for the coaches and the many travelling supporters.
Next up was Guildford who had looked fairly average in their previous game. But they had obviously been fired up by something and they caused Worcester real difficulties with their passing and movement. The coaches having shaken off the soporific effect of their burger and chips lunch, they made some tactical changes at half time that improved Worcester’s play. A tight game ended 2-2 with Worcester’s slick penalty corner routine saving the day. Fingernails a little shorter.
So to the final group game against lowly placed Yeovil with all sorts of permutations being possible depending on the Canterbury – Guildford game taking place on the other pitch. There was tension in the air and the game was scrappy. Late into the second half Yeovil scored a breakaway goal and things looked grim. What fingernails? But with less than a minute left a deft reverse stick cross set up a poacher’s goal and a draw was salvaged. And what a critical point it was: Guildford and Worcester finished with the same number of points, but Worcester’s superior goal difference meant they were group winners and into the final. And relax (at least whilst the pitches were watered).
The other finalists were Sevenoaks who had seen off the might of Surbiton. They have Men’s and Women’s National League teams and, most impressively, a large squirrel mascot called “Oaksy” (answers on a postcard as to what Worcester’s mascot would be called). They were a quality team and quickly went 1-0 up aided by the umpires giving out more green cards than a US customs official. Worcester had a few chances but the pressure told and in the second half Sevenoaks doubled their lead. The girls kept fighting, but it was not to be. Oaksy did his lap of honour and Worcester collected their hard-earned runner’s up medals, before heading back home in the sunset.
Whatever path the girls take in their hockey, this was a great day for them and for the Club. Well done: Alice Atkinson (captain), Eva Barry (GK), Elyssia Lettori, Chloe McKellar, Ellie Nicholls, Grace Nolan, Lara Shaw, Lucy Short, Katie Ralph.
Updated 21:59 - 14 May 2017 by Brock Miller