The Wellington Girls’ College First XI hockey team have been big improvers in secondary school sport in 2019.
Now they are hoping to carry their good form in the Wellington Secondary School P1 competition on to the national stage when they line up in the Federation Cup/Marie Fry tournament alongside the best 32 girls hockey schools in the country.
Last Friday, they won the Wellington competition in style, beating St Matthew’s Collegiate 5-0 in the final at the National Hockey Stadium. They scored their first goal after 45 seconds and kept the pressure on to the end to register an unbeaten season and to achieve what no WGC side has done since any of the current players have been alive.
“This is the first time we have won P1 in 19 years,” said head coach Riley Jennings.
“In 2000 they drew the final, so they shared the trophy that year, and the last time they won it outright was 1998.”
In 2013 the WGC First XI dropped to Premier 2. “So it has been about a six-year re-build to get them back into the Premier 1 division and then to work their way up the ranks.”
This is coach Riley’s third season in charge of the team, with Bjorn Dix the assistant coach.
The team won all 10 round-robin games heading into the playoffs in the just completed school competition, also winning the annual pre-season grading tournament unbeaten.
They beat St Matthew’s Collegiate 3-1 in their first playoff match to advance straight to the final before beating them again 5-0 in the decider after St Matthew’s had beaten Wairarapa College 2-1 in major semi-final the week between.
“We played St Matthew’s three times this term including the final and won all three and beat them over the hill, and built some momentum and allowed the girls to back themselves and build some momentum.”
The future is bright for the WGC hockey programme.
“We have got a mix of year 10 to year 13 players, said Riley. “With five year 13s in the current group there are a lot of players coming back next year.”
There were five players in the recent Capital U18 side that finished third at the National U18 Championships in July in Wellington and one player that made the New Zealand U18 Women’s squad that was selected afterwards.
That player is Ruby Baker, who is year 11 and the team’s striker, and a player to build the team around in 2020 and 2021.
The WGC second XI also made their Premier 2 final, missing out to Paraparaumu College 0-3 in their decider.
Caitlin Rennie is the team’s centre back and captain. In 10 regular season Premier 1 games, WGC scored exactly 50 goals and conceded just four.
Caitlin put this impressive defensive record down to experience.
“it is a whole team game and there are two other year 13s at the back with me and they have been there pretty much as long as I have so I think the strong bond we have at the back certainly helps,” said Caitlin.
Caitlin said the season as a whole has been a major highlight. “Going undefeated throughout the season was a special achievement for us,” she said. “But one game where we sort of strived to keep the energy up was our traditional against Wellington East Girls’ College. I think the feeling we had in that game and the momentum we built in it is something we are trying to replicate in all our games.”
Several players also play club hockey, and three were involved in the recent Wellington Women’s club final between winners Harbour City and Hutt United - Katherine Winter, Ruby Baker (both Hutt United) and Sorita Pho (Harbour City).
Next up is the Federation Cup NZSS Division 1 tournament in Auckland over Winter Tournament Week.
“It is definitely very exciting for us but it is also unknown territory for us because none of us in the team has ever been to Fed Cup before,” said Caitlin.
Coach Riley agreed.
“We won the [second division] Jenny Hair tournament last year and finished second in Premier 1 in Wellington. We are a little bit unsure of what we are expecting, but we are hoping for a decent finish,” said Riley.
“There are 32 teams and there are four knockout games in a row if you want to win it, so it is pretty cut-throat.”
WGC are in the same pool as Wairarapa College, who finished third in the Wellington competition, and Christchurch schools Villa Maria College and St Andrew’s College.
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