St Matthew’s Collegiate celebrate winning the premier 1 hockey competition. PHOTOS/DAVID BROWNLIE PHOTOS
Single goal the difference in final
An early strike was enough for the St Matthew’s Collegiate First XI hockey team to defend their Wellington Hockey girls’ premier 1 title on Friday night.
St Matthew’s travelled to Wellington as the defending champions, but knew they were in for a tough battle against a Wellington Girls’ College side that had progressed through the round-robin unbeaten.
But an Amy Wood goal halfway through the first half was enough to get the job done, emulating their performance from 12 months ago when they beat Queen Margaret College by a single goal in the final.
Coach Phil Hall was ecstatic with the performance, and said a fast start was the key.
“We went up in the first half which put us on a good footing and put them under a lot of pressure.
“For patches of the first half we probably dominated, and in the second half they came back hard at us.”
St Matthew’s had to repel at least 10 penalty corners from Wellington Girls’ College, but their defence was more than up to the task.
Goalkeeper Natalie Austin – a member of this year’s Capital Hockey National Hockey League squad – led the way with a standout performance at the back.
“We had a plan to hold them out in defence, because we only needed the one goal to win,” Hall said.
“We changed our structure to accommodate that, so it was very pleasing from a defence point of view.”
It is the second year running that St Matthew’s have won the competition after finishing the round-robin in third position, a remarkable achievement in itself.
Wellington Girls’ College had been the most effective team at both the attacking and defensive ends of the turf throughout the season, scoring the most goals and conceding the fewest of any team.
But St Matthew’s showed they know how to win when it really matters, and they will head into next week’s national Federation Cup tournament full of confidence.
“It couldn’t be more perfect ahead of Fed Cup,” Hall said.
“It’s good for their confidence leading into it, to know they can perform at a really good level.”
Hall praised Austin for her composure in goal but said it was a strong performance from the entire squad, and they could not have chosen a better time to produce it.
“If you were going to pick anyone out, our goalie Natalie [Austin] had an outstanding game.
“She certainly kept us in it with a lot of saves, but right throughout everyone played really good hockey.”
He said the elation within his team was clear for everyone to see at the end of the match.
“They were every excited – there was a lot of screaming going on and a lot of photos being taken.
“It was a great team effort across the board.”