With nine of last year’s squad returning, there was a certain amount of optimism around at the start of the Autumn term. A hot day and a slow start against a strong Sevenoaks on the first Saturday of term meant that a rousing half-time team talk from the coach was necessary to galvanise the team into action. The result was a very spirited second half fight-back which saw the team narrowly miss getting a draw with a disallowed goal five minutes from time. Growing in confidence, the team then strung three victories together, beating Mill Hill, Kings Ely and Bedford Modern (Jessica Billings scored seven!) but came unstuck against a very strong Uppingham side, who provided a reality check after we played very well for the first 20 minutes but failed to score.
The county Under 18s was a disappointment; although we beat St Francis Letchworth and Dame Alice Owen comfortably, we lost to Queenswood in our group and, despite three superb saves from goalkeeper Claire Burgess in the penalty stroke competition, we lost the semi-final to Bishops Stortford College on strokes. This was the first time Haileybury had not reached the final for five years; what a disappointmen!
A change of formation after half-term and one or two changes in personnel saw even further improvement; narrow defeats to Bancrofts and Queenswood were the prelude to two outstanding wins on the road against The Leys and Bishops Stortford College. On both occasions the team dug deep, defending brilliantly to come out victors. It was such a shame that cancellations in the frosty end of term robbed us of the last three games when we were on such a roll.
Claire Burgess grew in confidence as the term continued and she made a number of really classy saves in goal and will undoubtedly be a stand out performer in the next couple of seasons. Pippa Sheehan tackled well and hit the ball hard from right defender, Sophie Simmonds made excellent use of her long reach in central defence where she was joined by vice-captain Izzy Hunt who showed great calmness throughout the season, reading the game well and tackling magnificently. The back four was completed by Emily Sohler, who made the transition from last year’s third XI look easy and was deceptively skilful on the ball. In midfield, Philippa Lutten showed fantastic ball holding ability and reading of the game, Stephanie van Berckel worked hard and distributed well on the left, captain Alice Coley was dynamic and feisty with excellent stick skills on the right and Tory Hart completed the midfield four playing at the top of the diamond with great pace and determination; she will be a player to watch next year as she will surely dominate games if fully fit. Jessica Billings was outstanding in leading the attack, scoring 13 goals in the regular fixtures and four more at the county Under 18s. It is hard to believe that she is still only fifteen when she regularly has such an effect on games. Charlotte Newton was the other striker and although she did not score nearly as many goals, she set up a good number and worked tirelessly for the team. Eliza Walter came off the bench and grew in positional sense as the term evolved, making some useful contributions, Kyere Macpherson-Smith had some good games at right defender, Alice Billings cheerfully contributed on the flanks and Lizzie Bird grew in confidence and skill as the term progressed and worked hard up front.
This was a great bunch of girls to coach; I was impressed by their enthusiasm and desire to improve. Only six of them are leaving so this augurs well for next season. My thanks go to Mrs Fletcher and Rob Schilling for the help with coaching and advice over the season.
Sevenoaks (A) Lost 1-2
Mill Hill (H) Won 1-0
Kings Ely (H) Won 5-3
Bedford Modern (H) Won 11-0
Uppingham (A) Lost 0-3
Bancrofts(A) Lost 0-1
Queenswood (A) Lost 1-2
The Leys(A) Won 2-1
Bishops Stortford(A) Won 2-1
Chigwell (A) Cancelled
Felsted (A) Cancelled
Brentwood (A) Cancelled
Starting XI: Claire Burgess (Aby), Pippa Sheehan (C) , Sophie Simmonds (Aby), Izzy Hunt (H), Emily Sohler (C), Philippa Lutten (Alb), Alice Coley (H), Stephanie van Berckel (M), Tory Hart (C), Charlotte Newton (H), Jessica Billings (C).
Also Played: Eliza Walter (C), Kyere Macpherson-Smith (M), Alice Billings (Aby), Elizabeth Bird (C), Leanna Jones (H)
Ian Sanders – coach