As the final whistle sounded at Sugden Road on Saturday, Surbiton’s players had achieved a terrific feat. Not only had they sewn up first place in the Investec Women’s Premier League during the previous round of games, they had now managed to become only the third women’s team – and first London side – to go undefeated all season since 1989.
Their league record reads an impressive played 18, won 15, drawn 3, lost 0. That record swells to played 30, won 27, drawn 3, lost 0 if you add in their triumphant indoor campaign and their cup run which has taken them all the way to the final for another year. It is truly a tremendous achievement and one that the whole squad has played their part in:
“The depth in our squad is what sets us apart.” says Great Britain star Georgie Twigg. “Players like Sarah Page, Julia King, Jenna Woolven, Rebecca Herbert, and Abi Walker are all excellent week in, week out. It’s our juniors who’ve also impressed, though. We haven’t played any internationals in the cup and we’ve had something like five under 18s in the squad. It’s been great for them and for the club and really shows the standards we set across the board for all our players.”
Depth of talent is a recurring theme with the club at the moment, with the 2nd XI also going unbeaten until the final day of the season, when they finally succumbed to their first defeat. It is fair to say all is rosy in the garden at Sugden Road. As well as the quality of the players, Captain Sarah Haycroft is keen to sing the praises of Coach Brett Garrard.
“Brett is really experienced and well respected. He knows what he’s talking about and we all trust what he says because of that. He understands the team and how we all work. He lets us have fun but he manages to balance that with maintaining the focus for us too.” she adds “He handles himself very well and is really calm. You won’t often see him scream and shout. When he’s disappointed we know he is and it’s worse in a way because none of us want to let him down. I like the style he coaches with and I enjoy playing for him. I’m sure the rest of the girls would say the same.”
There is little time for self-congratulation for the team, however as they still have challenges ahead. With the Investec Women’s Cup Final against Clifton to come, and of course their European campaign and the domestic playoff finals, the job is far from done.
“It’s been a fantastic run but it’s crunch time now. It will mean nothing if we don’t win the playoffs.” says Twigg. “We’re really excited about Europe. We’ve been focused on our domestic season so it’s kind of crept up on us but we will be ready. There’s such a buzz about the trip and we’re training hard to really test ourselves against these great teams. It’s our first time at this level so we don’t really feel any pressure, but obviously we want to do well.”
Surbiton will be looking to buck a trend as the team finishing top of the table has never gone on to win the women’s domestic championship playoffs since their inception in 2009/10.
“We’ve been told about the first place curse, but we have to take confidence from the fact we’ve beaten these teams before, so we know we can beat them again.” says Haycroft, the Surbiton captain. “We thrive on the big games, they are the reason we play the sport, to be a part of these big occasions. We were underdogs last year and whilst that might not be the case this time we know we can step up. We’ll embrace the occasion, have plenty of confidence and hopefully we can retain that title and make a little more history in the playoffs.”
Whatever the outcome, it is a season all at Surbiton can be mightily proud of. However, one suspects there will be no resting on their laurels. Not if their coach has anything to do with it.
Article courtesy of Englandhockey.co.uk