Collegiate were crowned the inaugural champions in the SPAR Eastern Cape Schoolgirls Hockey Challenge when they defeated Hudson Park in an exciting final at Woodridge on Saturday.
In a day of entertaining hockey which saw five teams vying for the honours, PE Coastal winners Collegiate and East London Coastal champions Hudson Park qualified for the final.
Even though Hudson Park lost their final match against EL Inland champions Kingsridge 2-0 they had done enough to contest the title match.
The final, played over 15 minutes in each half, was a thrilling encounter, with both sides having their chances to break the deadlock before it ended 0-0 after full-time.
This resulted in a three-player shoot-out which Collegiate took 3-1 after Hudson Park missed their second shot at goal. That miss gave the PE team a 2-1 advantage and when they slotted their third goal they took an unassailable lead.
The inaugural tournament involved about 50 schools spread across five regions and the good news for the players is that SPAR have extended their sponsorship to next year.
“I can say to all of you that this has not been a one-hit wonder,” SPAR Eastern Cape promotions and advertising manager Wendy Westraadt said at the prize-giving ceremony. “We will be back next year doing it all over again.”
She added they would be aiming to grow the tournament after being delighted with their involvement.
“We came on board almost to see how it went. We wanted to be involved with schools’ hockey and we wanted to grow up-and-coming sportswomen.
“So we dipped our toes in and we have been blown away by the support and reception from the schools. The vibe is so great.
“The shortened format keeps the attention of the players, and there is a very good mix of camaraderie and competitive play.”
Westraadt said they were pleased to see smaller schools competing against more established hockey sides, giving them exposure they “ordinarily would not have received”.
“At SPAR we have the three cornerstones of family, entrepreneurship and passion. We have ticked all those boxes and there has been a lovely synergy between SPAR and the schools.”
Collegiate coach Andrew Beynon said they had thoroughly enjoyed the competition.
“It is just so great to have a major corporate supporting schoolgirls’ hockey and to be involved in a tournament like this,” he said.
“We have had a long season and Saturday was quite tough, playing five matches in the end, but it was a lovely way to end the season.”
The concept was started in KwaZulu-Natal by former SA women’s team manager Les Galloway, who is now the Challenge’s national director.
She said the inaugural Eastern Cape tournament had been “an overwhelming success”.
“It has worked from a player’s point of view where they enjoyed interaction with teams they don’t normally play.
“Then you come into a final like today which sees sides from Border, EP and South Western Districts all competing against each other.”
Galloway was confident the tournament would grow in the future.
“This was the first year and nobody really knew what it was about. Now that they’ve heard about it, I know more teams will want to be involved.”
She paid tribute to SPAR for their commitment to the initiative.
“This would not happen without them – they come in with the family feel and the aim of supporting women in sport. To work with them is an absolute pleasure.”
Regional tournament director Peter Wilson said Galloway’s role should not be forgotten.
“It’s an amazing concept and I think she has made an outstanding contribution. She has been the driving force in spreading the concept to the Eastern and Western Cape and must be congratulated.”
The results were: Hudson beat DSG 1-0, Collegiate beat York 3-0, DSG beat Kingsridge 3-1, Collegiate drew with Hudson 1-1, Kingsridge beat York 1-0, Collegiate beat DSG 1-0, Hudson beat York 4-1, Collegiate beat Kingsridge 2-0, DSG beat York 4-0, Kingsridge beat Hudson 2-0. Final: Collegiate drew with Hudson 0-0, Collegiate won 3-1 in shoot-out.