Last season’s champions Surbiton face a tough clash with rivals Holcombe as the 2016-17 Investec Women’s Hockey League begins with a mouth-watering clash in Rochester on Saturday.
The first match in a double header with their respective men’s teams, the women’s match starts at 4pm and Surbiton will be hoping for a repeat of the 2-0 win which saw them reach the final last season.
Surbiton will be without their three Rio Olympic stars Giselle Ansley, Georgie Twigg and Hollie Webb until mid-October, but their strength in depth will mean Holcombe will take nothing for granted.
For their part, Holcombe will be without all of their Great Britain stars from the Rio Olympics, but manager Chris Haigh said: “We are a little bit short all round, but it’s a great opportunity for the younger players to come in and show what they can do.”
Holcombe could give debuts to GB international striker Ellie Watton as well as South African internationals Quanita Bobbs and Erin Hunter who signed up this summer.
Elsewhere, top flight newcomers Slough face a trip to Leicester on Saturday.
Having topped the Investec Conference East table last season, Slough battled through the promotion play-offs to secure their place in the top flight, and they will be aiming to preserve that status this season.
Canterbury lost out to Surbiton in a dramatic shootout in last season’s final, and they will want to get off to a winning start when they go to Bristol to play Clifton Robinsons.
The University of Birmingham reached the play-offs last season, and they have a home game to start, with Bowdon Hightown – who narrowly avoided relegation last term – coming to Edgbaston Park Road.
And East Grinstead are also at home, with Reading providing their opposition.
Relegated Buckingham begin life in the Investec Conference West with a trip to Swansea City, while last season’s runners-up Stourport go to Oxford Hawks.
Top of the Investec Conference West last season, Sutton Coldfield have transferred into the Investec Conference North and begin their 2016-17 fixtures with a game at Beeston.
Last season’s Investec Conference North table-toppers, Wakefield start with a home game against runners-up Ben Rhydding.
And in the Investec Conference East Wimbledon – who finished second to promoted Slough last term – begin their new bid for promotion with a trip to Hampstead and Westminster.
For full details of all pre-season player movements see click here.
Photo above shows last year’s champions, Surbiton, celebrating their victory.
FIXTURES – Saturday, September 17
Investec Women’s Hockey League
Investec Premier Division
Univ of Birmingham v Bowdon Hightown 12:30
Clifton Robinsons v Canterbury 13:00
East Grinstead v Reading 13:30
Leicester v Slough 14:00
Holcombe v Surbiton 16:00
Investec Conference East
Sevenoaks v St Albans 12:00
West Herts v Harleston Magpies 13:30
Hampstead and Westminster v Wimbledon 13:30
Southgate v Cambridge City 14:00
Northampton Saints v Chelmsford 14:15
Investec Conference North
Loughborough Students v Brooklands Poynton
Beeston v Sutton Coldfield 12:00
Liverpool Sefton v Timperley 12:30
Wakefield v Ben Rhydding 13:30
Belper v Univ of Durham 14:00
Investec Conference West
Swansea City v Buckingham 12:00
Gloucester City v Exe 12:00
Isca v Trojans 12:00
Oxford Hawks v Stourport 12:00
Olton and West Warwicks v Bristol Firebrands 12:00
Report courtesy of England Hockey via Snowdon Sports