[img_assist|nid=6336|title=Hurst 1stXI – Sussex cup winners 2012|desc=|link=popup|align=left|width=200|height=133]Hurstpierpoint College have progressed to the regional stage of the under 18 Girls’ National Schools Hockey Competition. Hosting the event, Hurst collected the winners’ shield for the first time in over 15 years when a nail biting finale against Eastbourne College went to sudden death penalty flicks.
Ten sides from across Sussex began the day with their sights set firmly on a top three finish and a secure passage to the regionals. In section A of the draw, Hurst opened their account with a 2-0 win over Burgess Hill. Sixth former Lauren Hope scored either side of half time, first skilfully deflecting a powerful cross beyond the keeper and second, showing composure to drive a low shot into the corner of the goal.
Completing Section A of the draw were St Leonard’s Mayfield, Christ’s Hospital and Hurst’s match two opponents, Collyer’s College. In a game of few clear cut chances Hurst’s Amelia Frett side stepped the defence and scored the only goal from a first half short corner. In flood-lit conditions with sporadic downpours the home team entered match three versus Mayfield. Whilst Hurst had the majority of the possession, a hardy Mayfield side defended stoutly without concession, resulting in a no score draw.
Needing just a point to qualify, Hurst’s last group match against Christ’s hospital demanded discipline. With two early goals from Courtney Hansford and Theresa Bilowitzki the girls soaked up the attacks from Christ’s before striking with a third goal through Lauren Hope in the second half. With Hurst and Mayfield through to the semi-finals from Section A, Section B of the draw included Eastbourne College, Brighton College, Lancing College, Ardingly College and St Bede’s School. Eastbourne qualified without loss alongside St Bede’s who edged through on goal difference.
Continuing their march towards the final, Eastbourne defeated Mayfield with a 1-0 score but had to wait to discover who they would play in the final. In Hurst’s semi versus St Bede’s the score was 1-0 at the break after Lauren Hope’s fourth goal of the tournament. With all players suffering from a long day of matches, the crowd played their part in the second half. Amelia Frett gave the home side breathing space with a second goal before St Bede’s netted in the closing moments for a 2-1 full time score.
The final was a match played with zip and grit as the ball flashed across the surface and the girls used the last of their energy reserves. Both teams came close to scoring with Hurst having a shot cleared on the line by an Eastbourne defender in the first half. No goals at full time meant a nervy series of penalty strokes. 2-2 after five shots each, sudden death left Hurst at the brink of defeat on two occasions but for the heroic saves of keeper Holly Sargent. Hurst held their nerve to score again before Eastbourne’s last decisive miss.
After lifting the shield Hurst’s 1st Team Coach, Chris Wilson, said “They are a fantastic group of girls and the best 1st XI we have ever had. They performed extremely well in tough conditions and we are looking forward to the regional rounds where we can test ourselves against some of the best.”
Eastbourne College and Mayfield also progressed to the next stage of the competition as runners up and third place finishers respectively. All three teams will be looking to bring the national trophy to Sussex in 2013.