2017 - 2018

Over 40 Year 8 girls practised twice a week under the guidance of a team of coaches. The competitive season began with 8 a-side matches versus Wallace, Methody, Ballymena academy and Armagh Royal when everyone played. The girls then progressed rapidly to 11 –a-side with flair and skill. Talent is clearly evident at this level as the A squad finished runners up in the prestigious Grosvenor Tournament by the smallest of margins in March.

The U13’s coached by Mrs McQueen and Miss Adams played some great hockey throughout the season and continue to develop their potential. The A’s captained by Emma Knox and the B’s captained by Lucy worked with tremendous enthusiasm throughout the year. Along with the U12’s they can look forward to the Bi-annual tour to Holland in September.

The U14A’s captained by Ella Brown and Darcy McGaw had high hopes for the Junior Cup. However, a below par performance away to Cookstown resulted in a penalty shoot-out, which they narrowly lost.

They had a long wait for their Plate competition. Their first match against Grosvenor saw them return to winning ways with a 4-0 away win. However in the next round versus Royal School Armagh they went in front only to be pegged back to a 1-1 draw and unfortunately were again on the wrong side of a penalty stroke competition.

The U14 BXI, captained by Kate Monaghan, had some convincing wins throughout the season and can feel pleased their progress.

For the seniors, the early season training began in August in preparation for the senior tour to Hamburg in September, a new venue, for any Friends’ hockey squad. Our experience of excellent Dutch hospitality was easily matches by our German hosts. The Hamburg Polo Club could not have more welcoming. The high standard of hockey was the perfect start to what would be a truly successful season for Girls’ hockey and matched the accommodation, food and shopping.

Having reached the semi-final of the Super League last season, the aim was to go one step further at least. The campaign began well with wins over Regent House, Down High and an exciting high scoring match against Sullivan. 4-0 up at half time and playing superb passing hockey, swiftly changed to 4-3 until Jessica Sandford settled the win to make it 5-3. Despite a draw against Ballymena Academy, Friends’ topped their section to be awarded a quarter final against the usual opposition…. Wallace.

The match ended in a draw, but superior stroke taking by our girls and more importantly full length saves by Cara McEwen meant Friends’ had indeed reached another semi-final. Sadly, on that day the 1stXI were no match for Rainey Endowed losing 3-0, with the knowledge that they could be so much better.

The structure of the more prestigious Belfast Telegraph Senior Schools Cup is such that Friends’ were ranked in the top 8 and entered at the 3rd Round stage. This campaign began well with a 4-0 win over Coleraine Grammar to then be drawn in the quarter final against………… Wallace again for second consecutive season. It was a fast-flowing encounter with Friends’ snuffing out the central threat from Wallace. In control of the game, they just could not make the break through, only for Wallace to steal a goal with 6 minutes to go. Minutes after, pressurising the Wallace goal, Friends’ felt they should have been awarded a stroke. However, justice was served when captain Rachel Barnes blasted the ball into the net from a straight strike to even the match. The game looked like going to extra time when a swift move down the right, started by Rachel Geddis saw Rachel Kennedy sprint on to the ball. Her cross flashed across the circle and on the half volley Olivia Reid scored the winner. Two goals in two minutes earned them a semi-final place, repeating the success of the 2015 squad.

As with that year Friends’ were drawn against the favourites and their opponents at the same stage in the Super league, Rainey. The preparation was good and armed with their red roses they took centre stage at Playball. Whilst the game went the same way as before the team lead by captain Rachel Barnes, who was majestic, put up a strong contest. No defence could have prevented the first goal, and with Friends’ effort hitting the post, the game was over when Rainey got scrappy winner. Obviously disappointed, Friends’ could have done no more.

With the promotion of several players to the 1stXI, the 2nds had an altogether new look. Hannah Erskine who had made her way up from 2BXI proved to be a committed and worthy captain of a very young side. Their attitude and willingness in training from the outset paid dividends, meaning the 2nd XI began their McDowell Cup campaign, as an unbeaten team. 1st and 2nd round wins against Sullivan and Ballyclare HS drew them against local rivals, Wallace. Much the superior side, Friends’ found it hard to break down a resolute defence. The final score 2-1. Victoria College were the long-awaited semi-final opponents, with half term and snow playing their part. This proved to be the most competitive match of the campaign. It took superb performances from Thea Wilson and Hannah Erskine in midfield to lead the line. Friends’ finished much the stronger as they pressed in the latter stages, but Ella Agnew got the vital goal to seal the match victory.

If it wasn’t Wallace in the path of Friends’ cup runs this year it was Rainey, and so it proved for the 2ndXI. Confident after their Schools Cup victory, Rainey underestimated Friends’. With yellow roses held high Hannah lead them onto the pitch. Playing the classy hockey with passing throughout the team Friends’ dominated the game. Penalty corners told, and Thea Wilson scored. However, the tactic of blasting balls into the circle in hope did pay off and Rainey evened the match. Undaunted, Friends’ launched attack after attack. A swift move down the right saw Ella cross the ball. In true Aiken form Erin hit the ball on the half volley to score a magnificent goal, the winner.

This set the tone for what was the be an historic hockey week for Friends’. The 2BXI captained by Ella Hickland, began their Gibson Cup campaign scoring 16 goals as they swept aside Foyle College, Carrick Grammar and Methody B team to win their section. They defeated Methody A team 2-1 in the quarter final and a superb attacking display by Sarah Sandford saw they reach the final with a 3-1 win over Strathearn. Clutching their white roses, they confidently took to the field at Playball the day after the 2ndXI. The water-based pitch was to become a second home for Friends’. They dominated the game winning 2-0, Imogen Erskine got the first goal with a neat deflection on the back post and for the second goal again Sarah Sandford delighted the crowd with a mesmerising run for the winner. As the wonderful supporters, poster stated, ‘It is meant 2B’.

That left the Helen Martin Trophy. Split over 2 days due to the congested end of season success at Friends’ the six Junior teams played on Thursday. As a result of these six matches, Friends’ trailed by 11 points to 5. That meant the four senior teams required 3 wins and a draw. In Baltic conditions on Saturday the 1stXI began at Wallace and secured a draw. It was up to the others to gain the 9 points needed. Mr Moore was literally ‘on his bike’ peddling the track between the two schools keeping parents and players alike updated with the tally. A well deserved 3-1 win by the 2nds and 2-0 by the 2BXI meant it was up to the last game. Lead by Keri Anderson the 3rdXI came up trumps winning emphatically 5-0. Friends’ had retained the trophy for a 5th season in a row with a 15-12 points margin. As important was the camaraderie in which all games were played, credit must go to the staff and players of both schools.  Thanks go to all the parents who supported throughout the year and coaches- ex players Beth Ravey and Sophie Glass, Hannah Grieve, new recruit Alana Doyle, Mrs McQueen and Ms McMillan, Mrs Kirkpatrick and Mrs Rodgers. New addition Miss Adams with one season one trophy, must realise 2017-18 has set the standard and the pressure is on!