THE KYABRAM-ECHUCA Rats are the 2017 B women champions after Saturday’s Goulburn Valley Hockey Association senior grand finals, scoring a 2-0 victory over SYC at Shepparton.
They were full of trepidation taking on SYC, who beat the Rats 3-0 in their last meeting in the home and away season.
Knowing anything can happen in finals, and that SYC had come off the back of a strong win against Benalla the week before, nerves were high.
A brief pre-game pep talk from coach Katie Tonkin made the girls more relaxed, smiling and ready for action.
As the Rats took to the field there was strong support from the crowd and they were determined to stick to their game and come away with a win.
‘‘The game was hard fought from the first whistle,’’ Tonkin said.
‘‘Neither team wanted to give away any opportunities.
‘‘With no penalty corners given away it was constant game play of attack and defence.’’
However, each time the Rats made some ground minor errors in their play which resulted in a turnover, SYC were stopped short from reaching their circle with determined defence from Ruth Goode and Narelle Thomson.
Despite continued encouragement from Tonkin, the Rats just couldn’t seem to convert the many excellent runs made by the young forwards.
The Rats left the field 0-0 at half time.
‘‘At half time we spoke about concentrating on our own game,’’ Tonkin said.
‘‘Slow things down, as the day turned out to be quite warm, look to each other with simple passes and be strong in defence.’’
The girls ran back out onto the field determined to take the match.
Early runs from Rachael Costello, supported by Chloe Kell and Jenna Park, put SYC on the back foot and had the Rats back in attack mode.
Clever play from Keeley Thompson at the top of the circle drew a short corner and the ball was pushed out confidently to Jenna Park, who had a shot on goal that was deflected directly back at her.
With a second attempt, she pushed it off to the side of the SYC goalie where Chloe Kell was poised, seemingly waiting to just cradle the ball into the goals putting the first score on the board to the Rats.
‘‘The support both on and off field just exploded,’’ Tonkin said.
The Rats were in action.
SYC came back firing with some strong runs down the centre of the field and unfortunate play from Kyabram-Echuca defenders saw two defensive corners in a row awarded.
But the Rats steadied themselves, maintained composure and the defence of Alexia Kell, Ruth Goode and Narelle Thompson appeared impenetrable as they combined skilfully to keep SYC at bay, forcing the ball back down the field to the Rats forwards for continued attack.
The Kyabram-Echuca girls attacked with a vengeance and despite the heat, Tonkin said everyone gave 110 per cent and left nothing on the field.
Time was ticking away, but the Rats were desperate to put another goal on the board and again it was the strength of the young ones in attack that put pressure on the SYC goalie.
Keeley Thompson, Fiona Owen and Chloe Kell combined to feed the ball down the right side of the field towards the Rats goal where Mia Oberin was waiting at the top of the circle for her chance.
But upon receiving the ball, rather than be greedy she saw Rachael Costello waiting out to the right side and putting all those hours of practice into play, Costello competently deflected the ball past the foot of the SYC goalie putting the Rats up 2-0.
‘‘We’ve come a long way this year, we have a good combination of experience and youth in our team,’’ Tonkin said.
‘‘We lost our way towards the end of the season battling injuries, but today everyone did their best and we’ve come away with the back-to-back win.’’