The U14 girls had reached the College’s first-ever Hockey National Finals Day having negotiated 10 previous matches against the best in the county and the south, the toughest region by far.
These opponents included Wellington, Reigate Grammar, Surbiton High, Alleyn’s, St Edward’s and Kingston Grammar School. Epsom had scored 24 goals and conceded just three on their journey, so approached the National Finals Day in confident mood as they prepared to face the best of the rest of the country at the Lee Valley Olympic Park, roared on by over 200 pupils, staff and parent supporters.
Results leading up to Finals Day
- Surbiton High 2-0
- CLFS 5-1
- Alleyn’s 4-0
- KGS 1-1 (3-2 pens)
- Wellington 1-1
- St Edward’s 6-0
- Latymer and Godolphin 1-0
- KGS 2-0
- Reigate Grammar 0-0
- Wellington 2-0
WON 1-0 vs The Perse School – Evans (M)
Lost 1-2 vs Repton – Stephens (R)
WON 1-0 vs Dean Close – Henwood (Wh)
Drew 0-0 vs Kingston GS
(Lost 5-6 on penalties)
Player of the Day: Tabitha Evans (M)
After a long wait and lots of training over the past few months, Epsom made their way to the National U14 finals for the first time in the school’s history.
Placed in a tough group, Epsom would have a hard job to progress to the medal games. The first game, against The Perse School, was a hard one.
Epsom v The Perse School
Perse were the surprise package of the tournament. They had some very strong players in midfield and looked as if they would take the lead but for some great goalkeeping from Amber Roberts (Wh). The first half was not a vintage Epsom display and they limped through to half time with the score at 0-0.
The second half was much changed as the team came out with new conviction and looked a lot stronger in possession of the ball. A number of chances were created, however the Perse goalkeeper stood firm in goal. As the game was drawing to a close it looked as if it would be a draw, however, five minutes from time Epsom won a short corner.
The ball was miss injected, which worked in Epsom’s favour, and Tabitha Evans (M) was able to pick up the loose ball and smash it home to give Epsom a 1-0 lead which they would hold on to.
Epsom v Repton
After a short break Repton were the next opponents, a powerhouse of school hockey having won numerous national titles over the past 20 years.
Again, Epsom started nervously and this was a very poor first half of hockey, Repton took full advantage of this, taking a two-goal lead through two bits of very weak defending from Epsom’s normally very reliable defence. The half would close with Repton maintaining their two-goal lead.
The second half was much changed, with the side finally getting their heads in the game, Repton seemed to have little answer for the Epsom press, finding it difficult to get the ball out of the back and progress it up the pitch. This high level of pressing led to chance after chance and finally, with Repton a player down due to a green card, Amelia Burke (Rv) found Ella Stephens (R) in the circle and she duly smashed the ball home.
With Repton on the ropes Epsom looked as if they would get another through Georgie Jarvis Sobey (Cr), who just slid the ball wide of the target. The game finished 2-1 to Repton, however the goal for Epsom was vital as it put all teams on the same point and goal differences going into the last pool game.
Epsom v Dean Close
Epsom needed a win in the last match against Dean Close to progress to a medal match and the pressure was on. With the large crowd behind Epsom, they played their best game of the day so far.
In an end-to-end game, the girls showed real grit to be able to keep Dean Close out throughout the first half, playing with real intensity enabling the girls to move the ball well, creating a number of chances to take the lead.
With three minutes left in the half, a pass from Yasi Fryer (Rv) saw Amy Henwood (Wh) slap the ball hard past the goalkeeper so that at half time Epsom led 1-0.
The second half was much the same, with Epsom dominating possession of the ball once again. Some short corners were won but could not be put away. As the half drew on, Dean Close ramped up the pressure, but Epsom showed real resolve, blocking crosses into the circle, making a number of tackles, and they were able to see the last few minutes out to win the match and make the final after the other pool match had finished in a draw.
FINAL: Epsom v Kingston Grammar School
After a very short 25-minute break, the side was straight out on the pitch for the final against Kingston Grammar School.
Having played them twice throughout the year and beaten them both times, the team was confident they would be able to pull off one more win.
In what was another end-to-end game, both teams looked tired after a gruelling day’s hockey, and chances fell for both teams as the game could have very easily been won by either side. Epsom again showed real class to get themselves the chance to win the game. However, they missed a couple of key chances and with two minutes left KGS won a short corner and looked as if they could nick the game. The straight shot was blocked and it went down to penalty strokes to decide the final.
A great set of strokes were taken by both teams, with all 10 takers from both sides slotting the ball neatly into the corners. It went to sudden death.
Epsom were up first, and with the keeper sent the wrong way it looked like the ball would go in. However, an outstretched toe was enough to keep it out, and the KGS player stepped up to put the ball in the net, meaning Epsom would miss out by the closest of margins.
After a long season the team can be very proud of what they have achieved, being the first team to reach a national finals day and making the final of what is a very tough competition. Looking forward, it is an exciting time for the group and hockey at the College.