U16 girls hockey team crowned runners-up in National Finals
In their maiden appearance at the National Schools Indoor Hockey Finals, the Perse U16 girls progressed all the way to the final. Finishing runners-up to defending champions Repton School, the squad exceeded all expectations on their first visit to the prestigious tournament. The Perse were the only one of the ten sides competing that had not appeared at the U16 indoor finals previously, making their achievement particularly satisfying.
In the pool stages, The Perse started strongly, winning 5-1 against Millfield School. A slow start against Borlase saw the girls face a 0-3 deficit at half-time, before a remarkable comeback sparked a 4-3 victory for The Perse, with Ellie Harrison scoring twice before Tess Howard put the winning goal away. The final match of the day saw the Perse team take an early lead against Midlands Champions Repton School. This game was hotly contested and remained at 1-1 for most of the match but two penalty corners from Repton in the closing stages meant the Perse team had to chase but eventually lost out 4-1.
The next day began with a match against Queen Elizabeth School, Cumbria. Having clawed their way back to 2-2, Perse conceded again and with six seconds left on the clock the ball went dead from a QES penalty corner. The game ended with a 3-3 draw, ensuring The Perse could not be beaten on points by any other team in the pool. The girls had to wait an hour and a half for confirmation of their semi-final space; in the end The Perse finished in second, two points clear of the next team in the pool.
The girls faced King’s Bruton in the semi-final, who had won every one of their matches in the other pool. The score was 2-2 at the end of normal time, meaning that three penalty strokes would decide the outcome. The Perse team took the initiative with Tess slotting home, but the star of the shootout was goalkeeper Sofia Baldelli, who saved two strokes as The Perse won through to the final. With a medal secured already, the Perse team went into the final as underdogs against Repton School, who were looking to secure their third consecutive U16 Indoor title. In a competitive final the Perse refused to just make up the numbers but found it hard to contain a very talented side that was spearheaded by two England junior international forwards, ending the match with a 5-1 defeat.
In front of their very loyal and enthusiastic supporters, the girls were exhausted but elated to have made such an impact at their first National Indoor Finals. It was especially pleasing for the coaching staff to be able to pass on the very kind words that were offered by the officials from England Hockey who had been impressed by the attitude and positivity that the girls had shown throughout the tournament.
The team’s coach Richard Morgan said, “To see the progression that each and every one of these players has made is incredible and the squad deserve the medals they have won on this first visit. We will go back, learn from the experiences we have had and look to return even stronger for our next visit. The one thing we must keep doing though is to play with a smile in each and every game, just as we have done here.”
Last week also saw our U16 and U18 boys’ indoor hockey teams play in the National Finals.
The U16s first game against Trent College was tight from the beginning, with the opposition winning the game 2-1. Egglescliffe were The Perse’s next opponents, and with 10 minutes to play, The Perse were 4-0 down. A stunning comeback then followed, with Zaman Akhter scoring five goals, winning the game 5-4 in the final minute. The final game against Whitgift was particularly tricky, with The Perse being defeated 8-1. Their final match against Dean Close resulted in a 4-3 win for The Perse, but unfortunately this wasn’t enough to take them to the semi-finals. However they left with their heads held high having won 2 of the their 4 games and giving the eventual winners Trent College a tough match. Special mention for Zaman Akhter (captain) who led the team superbly with his on field performances and finished top scorer with eight goals. Other notable mentions should go to Ben Brown in goal and Sam Doel who was playing up a year and was superb in defence.
The U18 team began their campaign at Whitgift School with a 4-3 win over Dean Close. A 4-4 draw followed in their match against Rossal School, having led going into half time. The next day’s match against an experienced Whitgift squad resulted in a 2-7 Perse defeat. Their final match against Trent College resulted in a 5-1 loss after a brave attempt to improve their goal difference, meaning Trent took the semi-final place ahead of The Perse. Captain Connor Magowan was relentless in his efforts to lead counter attacks and combined with Freddie Perkins and Jamie Bolt in goal to stifle the opposition in defence. Leo Bridger provided pace and exposed many opponents down the right side. Both Jamie Bolt for his efforts in goal and Mark Bishop who finished as the team’s top scorer with six out of the eleven Perse goals also deserve much credit for their individual performances.
Head of Hockey at The Perse, Jon Peckett said: “The superb achievement of the U16 Girls and success of the U16 and U18 Boys at the National Indoor Finals reflects The Perse Schools’ support and focus for elite level hockey. The sport is extremely popular and the staff involved, deserve much praise for their commitment, level of expertise and desire to succeed at the highest levels. I look forward to many exciting years ahead as the players and teachers desire to succeed on a national stage escalates at the School.”