Courtney Stone and Tarien Wentzel

The Queenstown Girls’ High School team are determined to adopt a positive attitude when they defend their title in the East London Inland leg of the SPAR Eastern Cape Schoolgirls Hockey Challenge on their home astro on May 16.

This is the message from team leaders Tarien Wentzel (captain) and Courtney Stone (vice-captain) as they excitedly anticipate the return of the popular series for schoolgirls.

The EL Inland leg is one of five tournaments in this annual event, which is back on track after the disruption of Covid-19 last year.

The opening regional playoffs took place yesterday in Port Elizabeth and East London, and further tournaments will be held in Grahamstown and George.

The regional winners will qualify for the provincial finals at Collegiate in Port Elizabeth on July 31 and August 1.

Games are played over 20 minutes, which creates a challenging environment for everyone.

As the EL Inland champions, both Wentzel, 18, and Stone, 17, know they will be in the crosshairs of their rivals.

“It’s always hard to defend the number one position,” said Grade 11 pupil Stone, “and sometimes it is easier to play at number two and fight for the first place.

Courtney Stone and Tarien Wentzel

Queenstown Girls’ High players Courtney Stone, left, and Tarien Wentzel are eager to make an impact when the East London inland leg of the SPAR Eastern Cape Schoolgirls Hockey Challenge takes place in Queenstown on May 16. Photo: Josslyn Duncan

“However, I believe in my team, and I know they will give 100 per cent all of the time.

“Tarien and I are on the same page and we work well together, and I know she will encourage our team as she always does.”

Wentzel said it was important to enjoy the moment.

“My message to my team is let’s go out there with confidence and enjoy the game we love and missed so dearly. Our approach will be to back each other and stay positive.”

The GHS captain competed in the 2019 Challenge and said one of her school career highlights had been winning the regional event in King William’s Town in 2019.

“That was a very tense penalty shootout against Kingsridge and I will always remember that. Also, the vibe of the tournament and the commentator with good music taste make it a special day.”

As a Grade 11 pupil, Stone is focused on making it a memorable farewell for her older teammates.

“We would really like to put in as much effort as possible to make it end on a high for them,” she said.

Both players said they embraced the challenge of the shortened format and the intensity it created.

“My approach is to use the adrenalin during the shortened games and the excitement the match gives me to stay focused and make good decisions,” said Wentzel.

“We will aim to stick to what we have practised as a team and what we are good at.”

Stone said she was comfortable handling the nature of the tournament.

“I feel I work well under pressure, especially in sport, so for me the quicker the game the more intense I try to play.”

SPAR EC promotions and events manager Alan Stapleton said it was a privilege to resume the competition with the province’s rural regions.

“After a year of Covid-coldness, it is wonderful to be able to bring the SPAR Schoolgirls Hockey Challenge back into the country areas, and particularly Queenstown, so well-known for its hospitality,” he said.

“We are really looking forward to some fiercely competitive matches and, despite the fact that we are not able to accommodate any spectators, we know the friendly camaraderie of the event will prevail.”

Supporters can view the matches on the recently launched SuperSport Schools live-streaming platform.

The teams for the EL Inland leg will be divided into two pools, with the winners contesting the final. The tournament will see GHS, Burgersdorp, Stutterheim and St Christopher’s making up pool A and Kingsridge, De Vos Malan, Aliwal North and Templeton contesting pool B.