Last Thursday, 24 November, Airthrie entered the National ISA Girls' Hockey Tournament at the Olympic Hockey Stadium, Queen Elizabeth Park. This was the first time that Airthrie girls had entered a national festival, but the school had recent memories of the boys' entry into the same competition in February of this year.
Airthrie had travelled further than the vast majority of schools, so the first match had been delayed until 11.00 am.
A quick change in the same rooms as the Olympians of London 2012 gave five minutes for the team to warm-up and prepare for the first match. Sixteen teams had entered the festival, competing in four pools of four teams, all battling for a successful run in The Cup or The Plate.
The girls knew that with each game lasting for six minutes each way, scoring an early goal was crucial.
The first match was played in the main stadium with the electronic scoreboard and banks of seating looking down upon us from all sides. This was a completely new experience for everyone and concentration suffered. The girls were not sharp enough and chances were missed that have should have been converted. However, defence was strong, and the match against The Park School, Yeovil ended in a 0-0 draw.
Our second group match was played against Alton Convent on one of the outside pitches. The girls had now settled down well and the defence, in particular, were showing calm confidence under pressure. However, we were still unable to score and the second match also ended 0-0.
For our final group match, Airthrie returned to the Olympic stadium and this seemed to inspire the team. Quick, link-up play down the wings gave the opportunity for late goals scored by Emma and Esmee. Airthrie never looked in danger in this match, beating Ashton House comfortably.
Airthrie had now reached the half-way stage undefeated. The team therefore progressed to The Cup Competition at the second stage. The Cup was made up of the four highest scoring teams, who all played each other in a round-robin based competition.
In the first Cup quarter-final, Airthrie was drawn against a school from Surrey called Lingfield. The Airthrie girls dominated play with strong team work. It appeared as if there was going to be an easy win. However, our forwards could not score a goal in wave after wave of attacks. Once again the match ended 0-0.
Our second quarter final was against Burton School who had performed very strongly earlier in the day. Burton played well as a team linking up effectively between midfield and attack. The difference between the teams was undoubtedly that Burton took their opportunities to score and the final result was Burton 2 Airthrie 0.
The third quarter final was a local derby between Malvern St James and Airthrie. The schools battled for every loose ball and both sets of players seemed to use every last bit of energy they possessed. MSJ were a large team and strength won out in the end, as Airthrie lost their final match 0-2.
This was a big undertaking for the girl’s squad and it was an experience that these players will take with them in later years. The small squad of eight bonded together extremely well, supporting each other throughout the day.
A special word of thanks to Mrs Sarah Speakman, who gave up her day to accompany the squad on the journey to and from the Olympic Stadium.
She gave a much needed helping hand and accepted the job of school photographer during the matches.
Goal Keeper: Abigail
Right Back: Annabel
Left Back: Ella
Right Wing: Emma, Sachi
Centre Forward: Lily (capt)
Left Wing: Esmee