Reflecting on Women’s Hockey: I am a Kentish Lass

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It was certainly an eventful few months with University of Kent (UKC) Women’s Hockey Club and the BUCS leagues back in the first term of the year.

The First XI had a cracking start to the season with only one loss out of their seven games played. It is clear the team are gelling well on the pitch with a consistent level of play. Although a few tight matches to begin with, Caitlin Merison, captain of the First Team, as indeed her Vice-Captain, Rebecca Ellis, believe their best game was against St George’s 1’s on 13th November 2019.

UKC started positively securing two goals within the first 10 minutes, a good platform to work from, especially as St George’s are a “strong team, who had been producing good results. It was a very tense and close match, yet we showed amazing fight and determination throughout” states Ellis. Merison adds “everyone stayed in front of their players and made clean and well-timed interceptions.”

On the other side of the stick, it is interesting to note that not always the big wins are necessarily the best wins; their weaker game was the 7-1 win over Hertfordshire. Merison highlights “we first of all went 1-0 down and lost structure. Our passes were not the best and it took us a little time to get into the swing of the game.” What we read as a result does not always portray the level of play to the final whistle.

In response to looking forward, Ellis states: “mental strength is just as important as physical strength in sport and we have a strong squad with talented individuals, so I would love to see the players’ confidence increase, especially the freshers. Our fitness could also be improved, and we have some exciting plans for fitness sessions next term.”

The Women’s 2’s although starting off the blocks a little slower have found their rhythm and stride with victories last term against Kings College 3’s, Queen Mary 2’s and then, Greenwich 1’s.

Grace Gale, captain of the Women’s 2’s, on reflection of their loss against Imperial Medic’s 2’s says, “we have quite a few new members of the team this year and we had not gelled and learnt how we all play and therefore it was quite a messy game.” This portrays how important it is to have a good connection between individual units of play (defence, midfield, attack), but also as a whole unit.

Moreover, Gale believes their best match was against Queen Mary’s 2’s as she states: “we managed to put into practice what we had learnt in training, play as a team and communicate.” Gale like Ellis also underlines the importance of not letting morale drop and to maintain a positive approach throughout.

On the other hand, the 2’s top goal scorer Ellie Richards says the match against Greenwich 1’s was a standout, “we really utilised the skills we had acquired in trainings to a match environment.” With 2020 on the horizon, fitness is suggested to be the focus for the Spring Term to maintain the pace in the last pivotal 15 minutes of each match.

The UKC Women’s 3’s had a good start to the season with two out of three wins. Unfortunately, the lack of matches was due to cancellations. Nevertheless, “it has been amazing to see how far the all the girls have come in such a short space of time- especially those who had never picked up a stick before” retells Millie Sorrel, captain of the Women’s 3’s.

From their goalie’s perspective, Erin McKee states “we have a strong defence who provide a great backline when the ball comes into our half.” Many matches for the Women’s 3’s have been rescheduled for the New Year.

“Going into the New Year there are a number of things that collectively we will be hoping to improve on, such as maintaining shape in our defence” emphasises Sorrel. Goal Scoring does not seem to be a problem for them with their 8 – 2 win away against Kings College 7’s on 4th December.

It can be overwhelming picking up a hockey stick for the first time, but the mental and physical growth that hockey provides can pay dividends even off the pitch. As Ellis and Percival have highlighted, it is just as mental as it is physical. Hockey helps one deal with pressure, how to make a concise decision and gain self-confidence through dribbling or changing direction to get past the opposition with their individual stick skills.

With the above in mind, a large majority of the Women’s 4’s are new to the game, and their captain Gina Percival articulates “progression is one of our strengths as we are getting better as matches go on.” Despite the inconsistencies with a goalkeeper, the 4’s demonstrate their tenacity and enthusiasm to try a new sport.

Chairwoman Natasha Cheeseman is very pleased with the work ethic of the players so far. The 2’s lost a large quantity of players at the end of last year owing to many graduating from UKC or venturing on a Year Abroad. Yet, they have come together as a team and battled hard. Cheeseman says “Women’s Hockey have had an interesting first term so far this year, with a new coach coming in we have all had to adapt to a different style of play.

“Everyone has really put in a lot of effort. We have already seen such an improvement from so many of the girls this year. We would love to continue the success we have had so far into the New Year with potential for our 1’s and 3’s to be promoted.”

With Varsity around the corner spirits seem to be focused. Fitness stands at the forefront in the New Year and addressing mental stamina too, it is clear the pressure and positivity is on, and UKC Women’s Hockey have a game plan.