National hockey title is the goal for Nicole

Tuesday 21 February 2017

Nicole Smith Y11 will captain from the goal line as the U16 hockey team from The Grammar School at Leeds (GSAL) bid for a national schools hockey title next week.

It is the fourth year running that GSAL has won through to the finals of the England Hockey National Schools Championships for Girls, where they will face seven top school hockey teams from across the country.

Many of the team including goalkeeper Nicole have previous experience of playing at this level, having been in the U14s and U16s that reached the national schools finals over the last two years.

To reach the finals, which will be played on 1 and 2 March at Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre, GSAL had to come through a county round and then the north regional round. Nicole feels the tough competition they faced in the regional round should give the team confidence for the national finals to come.

She said: “We had a particularly difficult group in the northern round, and our match against Sedbergh went to penalty flicks. As goalkeeper I look forward to that and I was determined to win after a loss to them last year! Even our younger players stepped up to take flicks which shows great promise, and we came through 3-0 to help us reach the national finals.

“The finals should go well, after our competitive regional round we feel a realistic aim is to progress from the group and reach the top four. Personally, my best finish in the nationals was top four with the U14s so I’m keen to improve on that.”

The team have been putting in additional training sessions with their coach Phil Butler, who coaches for Leeds Beckett University and for England and Great Britain Hockey.

Kate Tiffen, GSAL head of hockey, said: “The team should feel they can do this, it’s attainable with the right mindset and they have the skills. They’ve worked so hard and the extra training will pay off.”

Back (L-R): Lucy Toogood, Lindsey Fowler, Lucy Harrison, Charlotte Manley, Alice Mackenzie, Ailsa Gorman, Jessie Ducker, Beth Jordan, Alice Townsend, Molly Harris, Kate Tiffen
Front (L-R):  Lilly Reynolds, Cesca Akerman, Nicole Smith, Abi Kempley, Charlotte Harris
Not pictured – Rafa Brandao-Lee

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