At the end of a long weekend, the U16 Girls were crowned national indoor champions after a titanic struggle with a high quality Repton side. The U18 Girls also reached the semi-finals of their national competition.
The U16s had a tough start but recorded a good 1-0 win over a mature Malvern side with a goal just three minutes from time. The Grange were up next and they had a couple of useful players, but the whole squad passed the ball around and ran out quite comfortable 3-1 winners.
Sunday was an early start against Redmaids – a comfortable 4-0 victory and a semi-final place secured with a game to spare. The final pool game against Bromley High required at least a draw in order to avoid the very strong Repton side in the semis and a 4-2 win left us as pool winners.
Throughout the pool games, in defence we saw Mattie Hamilton using her skills and composure to manage many tight situations, Floss Esplen making a number of sublime passes to our forwards and Siena Keijsers charging forward down the right board. Further forward, Alice Walton carried the ball strongly and tackled with venom; Tilly Gough used her pace to create herself space to become top scorer with five goals; Maddie Atkin had some marauding dribbles that caused opposition’s difficulty.
Eliza Wheeler was composed in the middle in the face of some real pressure; Immi Pilling made some lovely short passes out of midfield; Liv Martin used her skills to drive from midfield and earn a number of short corners. Up front, Boau-Lilly Shepherd drove hard at defences and was never scared to shoot, scoring four goals whilst Georgie Lawes made some great connections with the midfield coming through.
It had become apparent that whilst a few sides had half a dozen very good players, we had the strongest squad overall and so were able to rotate players more often in the pool games and with four games on the Sunday, this became probably the most important factor in us actually going all the way.
It was a tense semi-final against a good Millfield side – nip and tuck for the first half, their keeper made a good save from our penalty flick, so it was 0-0 at halftime. Cranleigh had slightly more possession at the start of the second half but Millfield scored with just three minutes to go. Just 50 seconds later Boau-Lilly scored from a tight angle and Tilly scored from an even tighter angle a minute after that to snatch a victory from the jaws of defeat!
Repton awaited in the final and a new defensive structure meant that they had the majority of possession and we attacked on the break. One of these resulted in a penalty flick. Mattie had this saved but the keeper moved way too early and Eliza put in the retake to put us one up. They replied with a very slick goal to leave it 1-1 at the halftime.
The second half continued in the same vein with Liv Barker making a number of excellent saves to keep them out including two in the last minute to give us a draw and a penalty flick shootout. They scored a good first flick; Eliza had her flick really well saved; they missed their second and Siena scored. Momentum change? All square at 1-1. Liv then made a great save to her right and Mattie stepped up to despatch a class flick into the top left corner over the diving keeper to win the title!
On Friday the U18s started their national campaign with a great 3-2 win against old rivals Framlingham – always ahead in the match, the last five minutes were tense as we held on brilliantly for the win. They followed this with a comfortable 5-1 win over Ilkley Grammar. An end-to-end encounter with Trent College saw Zoe Allchurch score in overtime to earn a 4-4 draw, the opposition’s third draw in a row. This left us with 7 points and a guaranteed semi-final berth.
The game against Millfield the following morning would determine the winner and runner-up of the pool and an excellent first half saw us score two goals in a minute before they replied. We regained our two goal cushion at the start of the second half. Then they scored with five to go, but once again we defended excellently. The 3-2 win left us as pool winners – an excellent achievement with a small squad that had played with great control throughout their pool matches and worked for each other, epitomised by the fact that five players scored – Zoe, Coca and Rosie each with four goals and Laura and Fifi adding another three.
So a semi-final against the traditionally strong Repton who started very strongly and scored early on. Doubling their lead just before half-time, Cranleigh came out fighting in the second half and created a few chances, but were unfortunately not able to take them. Repton scored again to reach the final in which they were surprised by Trent who had beaten Wellington on penalty flicks in the semi and did the same to Repton in the final with their Dutch goalkeeper saving 8 out of 9 flicks.
U18 Squad: Zoe Allchurch, Ella Bounous, Emma Davis, Laura Graham, Coca Hall, Rosie Hope, Ella Job, Lydia Murphy, Fifi Robinson, Holly Stather.