In a reversal of last year’s result, Reading were crowned Investec Women’s Hockey League Champions after beating Leicester in dramatic fashion at their Sonning Lane base on Sunday.
The win earned them the coveted title, £2,500 of prize money from sponsors Investec and top spot in Europe. Leicester take the runners-up spot and a cheque for £1,500.
Level at 1-1 after normal time and extra time, Reading won two-nil on penalty shuffles to spark scenes of jubilation at their home ground, with Olympians Kate Walsh and Alex Danson the only players to keep their nerve and score in the shootout. Sarah Ellis was fantastic in Reading’s goal saving four times from Leicester.
Emma Thomas had given Reading the lead after 52 minutes, scoring from a penalty stroke after Sam Quek had forced a deliberate foul.
They appeared to be heading for victory, but Vanessa Hawkins scored with the very last strike of normal time to force the match into silver goal, five minutes each way.
With both sides desperate not to concede there were no further goals, forcing the match into a shootout of penalty shuffles.
Nerves got the better of both sides, but it was the experienced heads of Danson and Walsh who found the net and won the title and the £2,500 winners cheque, to go with the place in Europe they secured by beating Canterbury in Saturday’s semi final.
Reading captain Emma Thomas said: “It’s been an amazing weekend and after a great performance yesterday we came out today really hoping to coming away with a result and it’s absolutely fantastic to be champions.
“Typically our games against Leicester lack goals, and this was no exception today, but all credit to Leicester for coming back and forcing the extra time and shoot out. I think we just had a little bit more grit at the end to finish it off and Sarah Ellis was brilliant in goal to make the saves against Nic, Vanessa and Chloe.
“This event has been absolutely fantastic. Having the support of Investec and getting the winners cheque is incredible. This will help pay for us to go out to Europe next summer and we want to represent British hockey at its best out there.”
And player of the match Sam Quek added: “It was always going to be a tough game against Leicester and they pushed us right to the last second. It’s a bonus to get player of the match, but I think we all deserved this today, it was a real team performance.”
Ready for your next hockey fix? See the stars from this weekend in action for England at the Investec World League Semi-Final in London this summer from 22-30 June 2013.