AFTER narrowly losing out in the first round of the Schools’ Cup, Banbridge Academy First XI girls’ hockey team was determined to bring back the Plate for the second time in three years.
The campaign began with the team travelling to Wellington College, Belfast, an unknown quantity, unfortunately without the injured Hannah Lilburn.
An inspirational team talk from skipper Kerri McDonald ensured the team took the pitch in the right frame of mind. Wellington started with the ball, but it was soon intercepted by McDonald who passed it out left to Robyn McKee who drove at the circle. The ball was passed in to Abi Thompson and although her shot at goal was stopped by the ‘keeper, Hannah Russell picked the ball off the ‘keeper’s pads to place it in the back of net.
This settled the nerves and the run of good play continued. Academy continually attacked the opposition’s circle and they were finally awarded a penalty corner. The ball was pulled out to Tara Malcolmson, who struck the ball to the far post, where it was deflected in off Russell’s stick.
This second goal completely settled the nerves and the game started to flow freely, to Academy’s benefit. Any breaks from Wellington were calmly attended to by the defence. Wellington did manage to win a penalty corner, but their shot was stopped by Lauren Johnston, and the follow-up shot was stopped by McDonald who easily cleared the danger.
After an attacking run made by the midfield, McKee slipped the ball on to Russell, who once again placed the ball neatly passed the Wellington keeper. As half-time was nearing the Academy girls were dominating the game, winning another penalty corner thanks to good teamwork and particularly slick skills between Orla Magee and McDonald. The ball was pulled out and switched to Magee on the left who swept it first time into the Wellington goal.
With Coach Neil Madely urging the girls to focus on the passing aspect of their game in the second half, the match got underway with some of the younger team members who had come on as subs hoping to keep up the high standard of hockey. The teamwork and passing led the girls to the fifth goal which was again swept cleanly passed the keeper by Magee.
The girls continued to attack the opposition and soon picked up another goal, with neat passing allowing McKee to enter the circle and sweep the ball in to the left corner, leaving the Wellington keeper with no chance.
In the final attack of the game, the girls won another penalty corner and with McDonald over the ball at the top of the circle, it was calmly passed back to Chelsey Whan, who was able to convert it past the keeper for the final time.
With all the squad members playing to a high standard the girls go into the next round of the competition in confident mood.