The U16s travelled to Old Loughtonians in Essex on Saturday to compete for the National title in the last 8 of the competition. A tough draw saw them first line-up against Surbiton & then Wakefield, last year’s Champions & Runners-up. Belper were the “easy” opposition on Sunday morning with just a couple of internationals in the side.
Local rivals Surbiton had won their last 18 games in the competition over 2 seasons and were hot favourites to triumph again, boasting 3 u16 internationals in their squad.
We started nervously and Surbiton took the initiative and were 2 up at the break. We were battling hard and not being completely over-run but there was a difference in class and experience that put the result beyond doubt. In saying that we won a couple of short corners and never gave up in what was never a totally one-sided game. Two more second-half goals was probably a fair reflection of the game but many teams have lost by plenty more to this impressive side. 4-0 wasn’t close but neither was it a thrashing. We knew the girls would be more confident having got the hardest game out of the way and they were looking forward to the afternoon’s match with Wakefield who had drawn 1-1 with Belper.
Nevertheless, last season’s runners-up might not be that much easier and despite less nerves being on display we went a goal. A controversial goal from a short-corner which didn’t appear to have left the circle and the ball eventually went in on the rebound from a first shot that looked high. From then on Epsom’s girls matched the northerners and the only difference between the teams seemed to be their threat in front of goal. 50/50 in terms of possession, Epsom pressed hard for an equalizer in the second-half and again unluckily conceded late on as they were chasing the game.
Two defeats meant that Epsom couldn’t progress to the 3rd/4th place play-off game at Lee Valley with Wakefield looking favourites for that as Belper had been dismissed 8-1 by Surbiton. Epsom came back on Sunday determined to get something out of their last game against Belper. Once again we conceded in the first half and were left playing catch up but as in the previous match possession was fairly even and we created chances. Tara was fantastic in goal and kept us in the game as we searched for that elusive goal up the other end. Unfortunately, it was not to be and we were beaten again.
No goals and no points from the group was a very harsh result for the girls who definitely deserved more for their efforts and had little luck along the way.
Many people in the know were impressed that we’d only lost 4-0 to Surbiton who went on to retain their title having beaten Wakefield 2-0 in the final pool game. They then squeezed past Beeston in the final, 7-6 on penalties.
On another day we could have got something from both the other games and the team can hold their heads high and say that they really competed and did not look out of place at the National finals.
A fantastic experience for all involved and one which will hopefully inspire them to even better things.