Hockey: Girls prevail against Aussies in thriller

By Anendra Singh

Good things take time but when they materialise there's no better feeling.

Hawke's Bay Academy under-18 girls' hockey coach Matthew Witheford thoroughly enjoyed putting his feet up last night soon after his team pipped Queensland Under-18 4-3 in Napier.

While the hosts had some ascendancy in the middle patch, the tourists kept the Bay honest at the Hawke's Bay Hockey Stadium in Park Island in the tit-for-tat affair.

"We panicked a couple of times and had a slow start with a bit of nerves," Witheford revealed just before finding a comfortable perch to watch the Mark Ramage-coached Bay Academy U18 boys cross sticks with their Queensland counterparts.

It was a day for Bay centre forwards.

Claire Reynolds drew first blood in the seventh minute but Queenslander Katelyn Steemson levelled terms in the 23rd when she pushed one past captain/goalkeeper Brearna Wiig.

Stung into action, Kendele Hawk nudged the home team ahead 2-1 five minutes later as the girls longed to reach for their sippers at the breather.

"The girls came off at halftime quite confident they could win," Witheford sensed during his pep talk.

Not surprisingly, Helaina Snell made it 3-1 in the 44th minute from a penalty corner.

Not done, Queensland were back in the hunt five minutes later with a penalty corner goal to appropriately named Gabrielle Hunt before Aleesha Ferguson questioned the Bay's faith with another shot past Wiig in the 52nd minute.

Former 2010 Youth Olympian Amy Barry was quick on the take, smashing the winner into the back of the net only a minute after the equaliser.

Witheford said Queensland's game was foreign to his girls.

"They concentrate a lot on speed and their basic skills are very strong."

Attempts to pass through the visitors proved futile but the Bay girls showed remarkable resilience, switching rapidly to taking the ball around their markers with aplomb.

It was only the Bay's second victory over Queensland, who won 1-0 in 2010 and 2-1 in 2008, in their last six encounters. The Bay last won 2-1 in 2009.

At 5.30pm today, Wiig and her troops will have to show last night was no fluke, although two strikers have picked up injuries.

Hawk copped a stick to the ribs but Witheford reckons she'll come through it, while Tinesha Carey is doubtful after she rolled her ankle and carries a suspected torn ligament.

The Bay boys were more dominant, beating Queensland 3-1 in an all-field goal affair in the 7.30pm clash soon after the girls.

They went into halftime up 1-0 courtesy of a field goal to centre forward Dylan Thomas in the 14th minute. A staccato of goals to Regan Hughes (61st minute) and Fergus Watts (63rd) took the hosts to an unassailable 3-0 lead before Queenslander Deyonte Fraser pulled one back in the 65th minute.

"We had to scramble a little but we were dominant for the most part," Ramage said.

He named co-captain Oscar Stewart his man-of-the-match for orchestrating the defence and singled out centre-mids Joe Hank (also co-captain) and Matt Wilcox for helping maintain structure.

Today, if the Queenslanders win, then the sides will have an eight-second shootout, with five players going one-on-one against rival keepers one at a time in a penalty shootout style.

"It's a must win for us tomorrow," Ramage said.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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