Culford girls can hold heads high after finals day

Culford v Queens College, Taunton, U18 NHF, 09-03-2016.
Culford v Queens College, Taunton, U18 NHF, 09-03-2016.

Culford’s head of hockey spoke of her pride after the school’s girls team competed in the Under-18s National Hockey Finals at Queen Elizabeth Park in London.

The girls were rocked by an injury to their key midfielder and England Under-18 player Lucy Holder in their first match, but pulled together to give international-laden teams a real run for their money.

Although they went down to three defeats from three (3-0, 3-1 and 4-3), Culford School’s head of hockey, Blake Burrows, hailed their efforts and the experience as a whole.

“It was an exciting and challenging two days,” she said.

“The girls grew in strength over the tournament, learnt some valuable lessons, and grew as hockey players; competing against more experienced players and teams from much larger schools.

“We were all extremely proud of the girls’ achievements over the two days. They conducted themselves with dignity in some very trying conditions.”

She added: “I would like to thank the team for their hard work and commitment. It has been a pleasure working with them.”

At the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, on Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, the girls’ first match saw them go up against Queen’s College School.

They began slowly but Culford’s forwards began to build pressure on their opponents with some good shots. However, a good counter attack meant Queen’s took the lead.

This was followed by a freak hail storm and Culford’s key player Holder going off with an injury which put her out of the rest of the competition.

The final score was 3-0 to Queen’s College, but the girls remained positive for the second game of the day against Cranleigh School.

A reorganised Culford team faced Cranleigh, and played some strong hockey, with effective tackles and connections between team-mates, with Culford’s Maria Andrews securing a goal.

However, the pace and physicality of the opposition – a team full of England representatives – was daunting and even with some superb saves from Bethany Farrow, Cranleigh managed to equalise before half-time.

In the second half Culford started to dominate and when Ella Dowling broke through the midfield line she ran wide up the right-hand side and crossed the ball into the circle for Katie Farrant to break away from her defender and deflect the ball into the bottom right-hand corner of the goal.

But, to their dismay, the umpires did not acknowledge the touch, and gave a free hit against Culford.

Farrow managed to save a heart-stopping Cranleigh penalty, but Cranleigh emerged 3-1 winners.

The next day the girls faced their final game, against the Grammar School at Leeds who are a notoriously strong team. Culford struggled to find a rhythm in the first half, and were down 3-0.

After a positive pep talk at half-time, Culford dug deep and brought the score to 3-2, the final score being 4-3.