U18 Indoor Hockey Preliminary Stage
On Friday 8 November, the Wycombe High U18 Indoor Hockey team travelled to Beaconsfield High for their preliminary round of matches. The top two teams on the day would qualify for the next stage to be held the following week. Other teams on the day consisted of Beaconsfield High, Great Marlow, Headington and Magdalen College.
After a nervous warm up, Wycombe high began their first game cautiously against Magdalen. Taking the lead and holding out until half time, led to a positive and vibrant half time team talk. Magdalen hit back in the second half and went on to take the lead. A resilient Wycombe High team, led by captain Jemima adopted a never back down attitude and equalised in the last minutes of the game; finishing 2-2.
A small gap in play whilst the other teams had their matches meant that Wycombe were able to gather their thoughts and make some minor adjustments for their next fixtures. They got off to a flier against Great Marlow and were 3 – 0 up in no time. Plenty of chances came their way and despite missing a penalty stroke, and then conceding late on, Wycombe High held on for a 3-1 and knew a win in the next game would guarantee them qualification.
Headington, coached by a National League star had looked dangerous in their previous games but hadn’t quite found their shooting sticks. Wycombe High took the lead through a silky smooth short corner routine, only for Headington to bounce back with one of their own. The students never gave up and some aesthetically pleasing dribbling skills from the Wycombe High front line, saw a winning goal scored and sealed their spot in the next round.
With the final match against Beaconsfield High a dead rubber, both teams already assured of qualification, only pride was at stake. Wycombe High however, played mind games and rested their entire starting line-up (minus star goal keeper Maya). With only minutes to go the game was poised at 1-1, only for Beaconsfield High to take the lead. A well-deserved victory for them, although Wycombe High knew there was more to come.
Following the success of the previous week, Wycombe High found themselves in a tough and daunting group. The venue, Wellington College, and the teams on the day, Wellington themselves, Worth and again, Beaconsfield High.
Wycombe High were first up against the formidable Wellington and knew that to get any result against a team full of international players would be a challenge. It was to their amazement that after battling so hard for the first 12 minutes the score was still 0-0 at half time. Then the unthinkable happened, Wycombe High took the lead through captain fantastic, Jemima. The place erupted and the other two schools looked shocked. Unfortunately things didn’t stay this way, and with the pressure building, a couple of minor errors saw Wellington score 3 quick goals to take the match 3-1.
The team felt deflated after the match. It wasn’t until the Beaconsfield High coach came over to congratulate them on their effort that their psychology changed. They realised that if they could push Wellington, the supposed favourites, all the way, then surely they should be able to compete against the other two teams.
Compete they did. The high tempo and three-quarter press they had adopted from their match against Wellington, proved challenging for Worth to break down. Mistakes from the Worth defenders saw the battling forward Emily pounce and tap in to take the lead. Mistakes were apparent at both ends though, and some timid defending from Wycombe High on a short corner saw Worth equalise in the second half and leave Wycombe fearing the worst. That was about to chance!
With 20 seconds left on the clock, the rejuvenated and deadly central midfielder for Wycombe High, Sarah, won a short corner that proved to be decisive. A new routine resulted in the injector, Annabel scoring her first Indoor goal for WHS. The final whistle blew and Wycombe High were almost through.
Wellington went on to demolish Worth in the next match. Following Beaconsfield High’s last minute winner against Worth earlier in the day, Worth were now guaranteed to finish bottom of the group and Wellington likely to finish top. This meant that Wycombe High had to win and hope Wellington would beat Beaconsfield High.
Win they did. An exemplary performance on how to counter act your opponent’s strengths and utilise yours effectively was evident throughout. Goal after goal came Wycombe High’s way. Short corner routines were highly effective and the final score a staggering 6-0 to Wycombe High.
With goal difference the key factor, Wycombe High had to hope Beaconsfield high wouldn’t do the impossible and beat Wellington by 7 goals or more. Unfortunately for Beaconsfield High it wasn’t to be as Wellington came out resounding winners.
This meant we were through and will play the South Regional Finals on 8 December at St George’s College. The day will consist of two groups of four teams. The top two teams in each group will progress to a semi-final slot on the day, and the winners of that, contesting a final. The two finalists however, will automatically qualify for the National Final in the New Year.
Wish us luck as we hope to show the rest of the country, what Wycombe High Hockey is all about.