U18 SQUADS LOOKING FORWARD TO NATIONAL SEMI-FINALS

Harleston Magpies Hockey Club is eagerly anticipating a thrilling Sunday of hockey on 8th April which will see both its U18 boys and girls squads competing in the semi finals of the Tier 1 U18s England Hockey national competition.
Both teams secured their semi final places after some astonishing hockey on Sunday 11 March in their quarter finals. Harleston Magpies Hockey Club was delighted to with the achievement of both these young teams teams through to this stage of the England Hockey national competition. Being represented by both teams in this age group at this level and at this late stage of the competition has not happened at the Club for well over ten years. And Magpies is the only club nationally to have both a girls and boys team still in contention. A look back to the quarter finals for both teams which sealed their semi final places gives flavor of the intensity of the competition.
In the quarter finals, the U18 girls made the long trip up to the East Midlands to face a Leicester Hockey Club team who had already brushed aside some of the big guns in the competition. The game was played at a ferocious pace, but the Magpies girls showed their class against a good opposition, particularly in their defensive intensity and how well they transitioned from midfield to attack, with the final result an impressive 5 – 1 to Magpies.
Magpies U18s coach Stu Field said: ‘The road to the finals will only get tougher, but this U18 squad gets stronger every game and I know that in the semi finals they will work hard for each other when the going gets tough. The girls have played superbly so far, and their semi-final place is truly deserved.
The girls face last year’s beaten finalists Reading at home in Harleston at 2.30 on Sunday 8 April. Magpies U18s Manager Andrew Woollatt said: The semi-final sees four U16 players being brought into the squad as sadly four of the U18 girls are away on a hockey tour in South Africa. Whilst these four players will be greatly missed, with the quality the club has through its age groups we can be sure that the U16 girls will be more than able replacements. Most of the team have played together through their age groups starting at U10s.  They are very focused and it would be a fitting way to end the season with a National final played at the Olympic park in May. It’s going to be a terrific game!’
Magpies U18 boys were lucky enough to play in their quarter final at home to Rugby and East Warwickshire Hockey Club. Magpies settled into the game quickly and forced the early pace, but against the run of play, Rugby launched a counter attack and opened the scoring from a short-corner. Undeterred, Magpies dominated possession, forcing a series of short-corners and deservedly equalised. Rugby defended resolutely but Magpies always looked dangerous and won through with another goal towards the end of the first half, with the final score 2-1 deservedly to Magpies.

Magpies U18s coach Stu Peters, who has run this boys team for some years and knows them well said: ‘I am so impressed with these lads. They play skillful hockey at a fast pace, but never lose sight of the whole team, and always support each other. The draw away against Marlow Hockey Club in Buckinghamshire will be very tough, but our Magpies U18s are really up for the challenge.’

Looking ahead to the semi finals, both of which will be played on Sunday 8 April, Harleston Magpies Hockey Club Chairman Richard Stacey said: ‘I am immensely proud of the superb quality of play that both our U18s squads have demonstrated in this national competition so far. We are a very ambitious club, but to have both the girls and boys U18s squads in the national semi finals is a real thrill. It’s a credit to our whole youth coaching structure, and to the coaches, managers, parents and helpers that our teams have got this far. Most of these young players have been with us since the tender age of age 7, and their personal hard work and commitment has really paid off. We can’t wait for Sunday 8 April and wish both teams every success!