On Tuesday the U14A hockey team took on Banbridge Academy in the final of the Northern Ireland Junior Plate. Having already played and beaten Banbridge this year, the girls were confident that they could lift the trophy and end a long barren spell for VCB. As the warm up was taking place a three-figure crowd of VCB supporters arrived at Stormont to cheer on the girls.
The match began at a frantic pace with both teams looking energetic, but nervous because of the occasion. Neither side was able to string many passes together in the opening exchanges with possession pin-balling around the midfield and the Victoria defence of Jessica Moore, Aimee, Sarah Bunn, Ellen McCandless and Katie McCammon keeping it tight at the back.
The first chance of any meaning came midway through the first half, when the recently crowned ‘Fastest Under 14 in the World’ Anna Hill won possession on the halfway line, turned on the after-burners and left a trail of destruction in her wake. The ball came to Charlotte Houston who did well to win a short corner, when it looked like a hit-out was the most likely outcome. Although the resulting short corner was put wide, this seemed to steady Victoria nerves and they began pressing higher up the pitch with more purpose.
They then won another short corner moments later in which Aimee Christie was able to pick out unmarked Captain Zahra Lowry to slot home. A massive roar went up from the supporters as Victoria went 1-0 up. The half time interval came and the second half restarted with a resurgent Banbridge winning a short corner and then equalising after a quick turnover in possession. From this point, Victoria kicked into life and started to play their trade mark, high pressing fast hockey. With Sophia Mackey, Emma Montgomery, Samantha Murray and Lizette Morwood in attack, surely a second goal was only a matter of time away but unfortunately were unable to find a way past the Banbridge keeper who was having a fine game. The final whistle drew closer and when it sounded, it signalled for an extra ten minutes of silver goal extra time.
Extra time began and for the next ten minutes, it was all one way traffic with Victoria the fitter and more hungry for the win. Unfortunately, despite winning 3 short corners and having some good chances, the girls could not find the goal which would secure the title. The game went to the lottery of penalty strokes where, bravely, 5 girls put up their hands to volunteer- Jessica Moore, Aimee Christie, Zahra Lowry and Anna Glover. Katie Palin, who was rarely troubled during the match was in goals. Katie managed to save 2 flicks and get a hand to anotherin a heroic display of goalkeeping. Unfortunately, Victoria lost the shoot out and the trophy was heading up the A1 with the Banbridge girls.
Coach Mr Gray had some lovely words for the pupils involved. 'I couldn’t be more proud of the girls. They have worked so hard to get here and unfortunately we couldn’t get the goal that would have secured the win. We have some exceptional players in this team and they will go on and win several trophies in the future. Despite not winning, we can be satisfied that came out and gave it our best shot today. We have no regrets.'
Captain Zahra Lowry insisted that 'next year, we’ll be back, hungrier than ever to get our hands on some silverware. I’d like to thank the supporters for the most vocal support of a VCB team in years.'
Thanks to all parents, pupils and staff who have supported the girls throughout their run and came to watch on Tuesday afternoon.