St Matthew’s first XI captain Finola O’Boyle lifting the trophy. PHOTO/SALLY CALDWELL

JAKE BELESKI

jake.beleski@age.co.nz

The St Matthew’s Collegiate first XI hockey team will ride a wave of confidence into next week’s Federation Cup national secondary schools tournament in Napier.

On Friday night in Wellington they won a thrilling Wellington premier 1 girls’ hockey final against Queen Margaret College (QMC).

The teams were locked at 0-0 at the halftime break, but a late goal to Claire McFetridge with only three minutes remaining enabled St Matthew’s to claim a dramatic 1-0 win.

It was a stunning turnaround for the group, who had been beaten 3-1 by QMC earlier this month.

St Matthew’s finished third after the round robin, with wins over Wairarapa College (1-0) and top qualifiers Wellington Girls’ College (5-3) propelling them into the final.

QMC had qualified second for the playoffs.

Year 13 student and St Matthew’s first XI captain Finola O’Boyle said the final was “extremely tense”, and could have gone either way.

“Both teams played really well and we always enjoy playing that team.

“I know how well our team can play, and I thought we would give them a good run for their money.”

Both teams showed their solid defence in the first half, with neither team able to assert their dominance over the other.

O’Boyle was in Year 9 when St Matthew’s last won the competition, and said the team was “in shock” when the final whistle went.

“It felt good to play some good hockey and have a well-deserved win.”

She said the result was equally special for the team management, including co-coach Phil Hall, and her mother Pattie O’Boyle (team manager), who have both been with the side for several seasons.

Co-coach Jenni Lambert said it was undoubtedly their best performance of the season.

“I don’t think I could single out any players from the game because there were so many great performances — everyone wanted to win and left it all out there.

“We have a great team balance, excellent fitness, leadership throughout the field and honest communication between the girls and coaches, and all of those things were top notch on Friday and so the girls really deserved the win.”

They will now turn their attention to next week’s national tournament, with an initial goal of making the top 16 of the 32-team competition.

O’Boyle said it was a realistic goal for the group, who have taken a lot of confidence from Friday’s result.

“Hopefully we can make the top 16, because we’ve been in the bottom 16 for a few years.

“The first two days of pool play are so important to making that happen.”

O’Boyle is one of three Year 13s that will be leaving St Matthew’s at the end of the year, and would love to finish on a high.

Either way, she says the future of hockey at the school is in good hands.

“The team be fine without us — we’ve got a good core of players who will still be there next year.”

The school’s second XI also won the Wairarapa girls’ secondary school competition, highlighting the depth of talent available to the school.