A YOUNG Eastern Province side produced one of their best performances to end fourth in the recent under-21 women’s hockey interprovincial in Johannesburg.
Even though they missed out in the playoffs, this was one of the top achievements by the U21 side, with EP Hockey Federation’s Brett Barlow saying it bettered anything in the last 20 years.
Coach Leroy Johnson was delighted with the team’s efforts, given a build-up marked by a feeling that the team would do well to avoid relegation.
“Although there were some negative comments and not much expectation of us doing well, we made a decision to prove them wrong,” Johnson said.
EP had a good build-up to the tournament and opened with a 3-1 win over Wits. They then came up against a strong Northerns outfit and were outclassed 5-0. This was followed by a free day. “Having a day off at that time played in our favour and we were able to prepare for our big game against North West, whom we had never beaten before,” Johnson said. “We won that one 1-0, which was a big win, and we then knew we needed just a draw or a win against KZN the next day.”
EP went on to beat KZN 2-1, ending second in a tough pool.
“Unfortunately, we were outplayed by a very good Western Province side in the semifinal, and then had to face Northerns in the third-place play-off,” Johnson said.
By that time, EP had four players on the injured list and despite taking a 1-0 lead, they ran out of steam to lose 3-1.
Nevertheless, Johnson was happy with their efforts and pointed to the fact that the side had been very young.
“I think we will only lose about two players next year and it is very encouraging for EP hockey,” he said.
Johnson mentioned 16-year-old Pearson pupil Caitlin Gouws as EP’s player of the tournament, while their leading goal-scorer, Toni Marks, and goalkeeper Saskia Cressey also caught the eye. – Neale Emslie