Christ College U18s claim national title after penalty shootout win

By Brecon and Radnor Reporter in Hockey

On Thursday 2nd March, the Christ College U18 girls travelled north to Wrexham hoping to seal an incredible season, which had seen them lose only once and build a 20-match unbeaten streak, with a first National U18 title. 

With four members of the recent U16 National winners in the team, the general mood was very positive despite the early 5.45am departure.  Arriving in good time, the girls had the opportunity to warm-up well before their first pool match against Brynteg.  This turned out to be a tight affair of few concrete chances, with the deadlock only broken in the 2nd half through an excellent goal from L. Mapps – the game ultimately ending 1-0.  Christ College then played their second pool game immediately, this time against a strong Eirias High School from Colwyn Bay.  To the best of our knowledge, CCB had never played a girls’ hockey fixture against Eirias but they had certainly provided very stern opposition in the boys U18 National Finals for the last 3 successive years.  As such, the girls were expecting a real test and that is exactly what they got.  A closely contested first half saw Eirias strong in midfield and defence but Christ College certainly upped their game from the first match, ending the half with a good goal from H. Thomas.  With the game still very much in the balance it was Christ College who reached an even higher intensity in the second half, clinically finishing two further chances through K. de Winton and goal-scoring machine - S. Jeffes, with the game ending 3-0.  With Christ College now booked in the semi-final, the last match against old foes Ysgol Bro Dinefwr became a decider to see who would top the pool.  A very close, end to end game ensued, which saw Christ College pull ahead 1-0 through Jeffes, only for Bro Dinefwr to respond with a goal in the second half.  The game ended 1-1, with CCB progressing as pool winners.  There was then a period of rest whilst they awaited news from the other pool as to who they would play and when this came, our semi-final opponent was revealed: St Joseph’s RC School, Newport.

The girls new that the semi-final would be a no-holds-barred game against a big school with a couple of very strong Wales U18 players and it didn’t disappoint.  Over the next 30 minutes two halves of end to end hockey were played out, with few chances being offered and strong defence winning the day.  Powerful hitting from the St Joseph’s players constantly pegged Christ College back and opened up the dangerous possibility of the counter attack but the girls endured.  At full time the score remained 0-0 – the semi-final would be decided by a penalty shoot-out.  With positive thoughts from practice in their minds and the U16 girls’ recent achievement on penalties strengthening their spirit, the five girls stepped forward: Copp, Mapps, Thomas, Vetter, de Winton.  What followed was nailbiting and tense as players missed and saves were made.  With 9 penalties taken, St Joseph’s led 2-1 with only de Winton standing between them and the final.  She scored, sending the semi-final to sudden death.  St Joseph’s stepped up again and missed, leaving Mapps the opportunity to send CCB through – she did not fail her team sending the ball flying into the corner of the goal.  The girls were in the final and now watched on nervously as Ysgol Bro Dinefwr and Ysgol Glan Taf fought out another 0-0 draw, another shoot-out and another decider on sudden-death, this time with Glan Taf prevailing.

The 2017 U18 National Schoolgirls final would thus be a replay of the U16s, with Christ College facing Glan Taf once again.  The actual final offered few chances for either side to score, with Glan Taf probably in the ascendancy but unable to convert two golden penalty corner chances.  With the sides locked at 0-0 therefore it seemed perhaps fitting that the final would go to penalties and another nerve-shredding shoot-out.  Up stepped the same 5 girls from the 2 semi-finals, each hopeful of repeating their recent success and with 9 penalties taken, the score was 3-3, offering Glan Taf the opportunity to score to take the title.  CCB goalkeeper C. Jones had other ideas and neatly deflected the goal around the post, sending the final to sudden-death.  Glan Taf scored, CCB replied through Mapps, Glan Taf scored again, CCB replied again through Vetter, then came the pivotal moment, as Jones saved the 3rd Glan Taf penalty.  Now it was Christ College’s chance to win.  Up stepped H. Thomas, showing no signs of nerves and, with a deft flick of the stick the ball hit the back of the goal.  Victory then to Christ College ending an unbelievable season of tumbling records, remarkable achievements and ongoing superlatives.  Commiserations to Glan Taf, who did not deserve to lose the U16 final, let alone the U18s but this was undoubtedly the CCB girls’ year to deliver when it mattered most.