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Winners - U16 West Regional Hockey Finals
On Thursday 23rd November, the Canford U16 girls’ Hockey team contested the West Regional Finals, as they attempted to emulate their feat of 2015, when they won the equivalent U14 regional competition.
Expectations were high, as the team arrived as one of the pre-tournament favourites amongst a good crop of schools. Wycliffe were the first of the three opponents in the group stages, and after a somewhat nervy beginning, Canford settled into the game with an expertly executed penalty corner by captain Martha Taylor, to give us a 1-0 lead. Taylor then doubled our advantage through another corner on the stroke of half-time. A third followed soon after the break when Sophie Saunders showed composure and instinct to calmly beat the last defender and slot to past the keeper for a 3-0 win at the whistle.
As the squally showers ebbed and flowed, the Canford team adapted well to the change in playing conditions. Millfield had won their first match on the other pitch versus Redmaids, and they were the next opponents. A devastating six minute counter attack spell saw Canford score three times with more chances in the second half, but with the post and the goalkeeper denying adding to the 3-0 lead. Having both qualified for the knockout stages, but with the placings not yet decided, Canford faced Millfield who drew first blood with a close range finish in the early exchanges, in a rare defensive lapse in concentration. This was the first tournament goal Canford had conceded (County Cup and West Preliminary round included), but as the hail lashed down and the pitch briefly turned into a sea of white, the team grew in stature and started to take control of the game. We capitalised on this pressure to equalise through another text book corner routine with the final play of the half. Chances for us to win it came and went, but even though we finished the match stronger, the game ended 1-1 to leave us runners up in the group on goal difference.
Semi-final opponents, Marlborough College, had edged hosts Clifton College into second place in the other group. The Canford focus never wavered as the girls maintained our professionalism and started the game positively. Goalless at half-time, we took the lead from another surge to the baseline, from where Beanie Culley’s cross-shot was turned into her own net by a last ditch challenge from an opposition defender. Marlborough responded, and we were resolute in successfully defending a string of penalty corners with disciplined and committed defending from the excellent Holly Hazzard, Lizzy Balls and Abby Childerley. We continued to search for a crucial second goal, and another positive attack saw us overload the Marlborough defence to pounce on the rebound; 2-0.
The team was buzzing for the fifth and final match of the day; the big one; the final itself against Clifton. A first half penalty corner gave us the chance to take the lead, and we added a second goal to bring a 2-0 victory at the final whistle, which was met with jubilant scenes of celebration and joy on and off the field. The Canford 13 game unbeaten streak had culminated in the West regional title; as well as a richly deserved place at the National Finals at Lee Valley from 28th February – 1st March, amongst the top 8 schools in the country.
Matt Collison, Director of Hockey, commented:
“This result was a reflection of the hard work and dedication which makes these types of moments both possible, and forever memorable. To be among the top 8 schools in the country is a fantastic achievement and it is a very proud day for all involved.”
Sasha Witter, Holly Hazzard, Katie Ashcroft, Lizzy Balls, Abby Childerley, Beanie Culley, Hannah Fairchild, Martha Taylor (Captain)
Reporting by Matt Collison