HC Knole Park’s U14 Girls finish as the 3rd best U16 Indoor team in England!
HC Knole Park’s U14 Girls finished as the third best U16 team in England at the National Indoor Finals in Wolverhampton over the weekend!
In the ten team competition, Knole Park played in a five team round robin where they would have to finish in the top two teams in their pool to make the cross-over semi-finals.
In the first match of the finals they played Surbiton HC. The South champions from Surrey had a number of England U16 players in their squad and had made the semi-finals in last season’s competition so Knole Park knew it would be a tough match. Surbiton started well and after an attack through the left hand side one of their England players slotted the ball past Pascale Pottier in goal. Lottie Bingham came back with an immediate reply after a lovely run by Josefina Hippe. At the start of the second half a solo effort from Lottie and a lovely drag flick from Anna Faulstich took Knole Park into a commanding 3-1 lead. In the dying moments an outletting error however brought the game much closer as Surbiton scored into the top corner! Knole Park however managed to see the game out for three valuable opening points!
In the second match of the competition Knole Park faced the winners of the West region, Isca Hockey Club, from Exeter. In a superb first half the girls raced into a three goal lead through Captain Lottie Bingham. Playing like a girl on a mission she ran through the Isca defence on all three occasions slotting the ball past the Isca goalkeeper. As the half ended a good counter attack by Isca saw them score a nicely worked goal. The second half was much less eventful and the score line remained the same until the last minute when Isca scored a consolation goal from a penalty corner to make the final score 3-2 to Knole Park!
In the third match the girls faced the runners-up from the Midlands - Beeston Hockey Club. The girls started superbly again and raced into a three goal lead. Goals from Josefina and Camille were beautifully set-up by the selfless Lottie, before Summer Knight-Thompson pounced on a loose ball in the D to take the score to 3-0 at half-time. Beeston stepped up in the second half, but the defence of Charlotte Watkins, Anna Faulstich and Jessica Lewis kept them at bay. And in the final moments Camille Poracchia rolled the ball into an empty net for a 4-0 win. With this victory the Knole Park girls were guaranteed a semi-final spot which was truly remarkable!
In the final group game the girls faced Wakefield who had come through as runners-up in the North competition. Unfortunately for Wakefield they had struggled to secure any wins and the Knole Park girls were ready to enjoy their final match before the semi-finals. Two first half penalty corners from Lottie Bingham meant the girls took a good 2-0 lead into half-time. At the start of the second half Lottie completed her hat-trick with a lovely solo effort, before rounding the Wakefield defence to lay the ball off to Camille for the team’s fourth goal. A fourth goal from Lottie from a penalty corner and two late penalty corners were the icing on the cake and the match finished 7-0!
In the Semi-Finals the girls would face the runners-up from the other group Harleston Magpies. Harleston had already beaten Knole Park in the East finals 4-2 so this was a chance for the girls to try and get a reversal of that result and for a place in the final against Midlands champions and the undefeated Repton HC.
The match didn’t quite start as planned although Harleston fully deserved to be 2-0 goals up in the first six minutes. Thankfully Josefina Hippe was able to half the half-time deficit just before the break with a superb individual goal past the Harleston and England U16 goalkeeper.
The second half had to be seen to be believed. In the most remarkable half of indoor hockey, with both teams going for the win the Knole Park girls really stepped up. A penalty corner from Lottie Bingham, and a very well taken counter attack early in the second half suddenly saw Knole Park in the lead! 3-2 to Knole Park. However this was short lived as an innocuous challenge from Josefina Hippe was judged to be a penalty corner which was dispatched by the Harleston and England U18 striker. 3-3. Magpies then took the lead as the Harleston striker scored from a penalty corner rebound. 3-4. Some lovely link-up play between Anna Faulstich and Lottie Bingham then saw the latter thread the most wonderful pass through to Josefina to deflect the ball home. 4-4! Harleston retook the lead after a lovely run down the right hand side and swift finish by their top goal scorer. 4-5. Moments later, in an almost carbon copy link between Lottie and Josefina, Josefina slotted the ball into the back of the net for her hat-trick - all square again at 5-5! This is when the real madness happened! In searching for the winning goal, Lottie was fouled several times. As the whistle blew, everyone expected a penalty corner to Knole Park and the green card to be issued to the Harleston player. Even the Harleston player started walking off to the sin-bin! However, the umpire had got it the wrong way round and sin-binned Lottie instead! Confusion ensued on the pitch and with players in all the wrong places Camille Poracchia made a challenge after not being the required distance from the taker and was also sin-binned. Knole Park were down to 4 players! Making the most of the extra players Harleston attacked the D and goalkeeper Pascale Pottier slid out to play the ball, but took the player first. A penalty stroke and another sin-bin for Knole Park - we were down to three players! The Harleston striker coolly scored the penalty under a lot of pressure. Despite being in a 2 v 5 situation the phenomenal skills of vice-Captain Anna Faulstich won a penalty corner in the dying moments which was saved, and the Knole Park dream was over. A frustrating end to a truly magical indoor season. Repton beat Harleston 2-0 in the final.
Lottie Bingham was voted as the Knole Park player of the tournament, as well as finishing as the tournament’s second top goal-scorer with 11 goals and 4 assists. Anna Faulstich a very close second in the vote, having played almost every minute at left defender and scoring three goal including the winner against Surbiton. Josefina Hippe was the second top scorer for Knole Park with four goals, including a semi-final hat-trick. Jess Lewis was excellent in defence throughout and made some key interceptions and goal saving tackles! Pascale Pottier in goal was absolutely superb throughout and kept Knole Park in the contests on the Saturday in particular to help the team to win. Charlotte Watkins, who had only been playing indoor for two months was superb in her first ever National Finals. Camille Poracchia also scored three goals, with Summer Knight-Thompson collecting the final goal of the 22 scored over the five matches. Olivia Breed, Bella Muñoz and Ellie Powell, our second goalkeeper, were all superb when called upon for the team.
The girls and the club are exceptionally proud of how far they have come in such a short space of time. A new club formed only six months before, the youngest team in the competition by at least one year, if not two or three in some cases where hugely popular at the tournament. The team and coaching staff receive universal praise from the England Hockey technical staff, the umpires, opposing coaches and parents watching on for the quality and intensity of their hockey, as well as the style and graciousness in both victory and defeat. Knocking out the reigning champions in the first match of the indoor season back in December and then playing, competing and beating many big junior hockey clubs on their way to be the 3rd best team in England is an amazing achievement!
The club’s Director of Coaching, Duncan Parnis said: “On and off the pitch the girls did the club proud and had a great time whilst doing it! I’ve never seen them have as much fun for a sustained period of time as this weekend! The girls were excellent in the group matches and gave it everything in the semi-final showing mental resilience way beyond their years to keep bouncing back from conceding and the cards! The hockey they played all weekend was technically and tactically brilliant and we definitely played in the most exciting match of the tournament! I couldn’t be prouder of them!”