With the core of their team the same as last year, defending champions Collegiate are set to hunt in a pack as they target a defence of their SPAR Eastern Cape Schoolgirls Hockey Challenge regional title on March 26.
Nine players are returning for duty this season, which means there will be a sense of continuity among the players when they launch their assault on the Gqeberha Coastal tournament at Victoria Park High.
This, said captain and star player Elizabeth Porter, would form the foundation of their approach in the second regional event of this year’s provincial challenge.
In the opening tournament earlier this month, DSG shaded Kingswood by a goal in Graaff-Reinet to retain the Gqeberha North title.
“The thing that makes our team so competitive is that we don’t just connect on the field but also off of it. The make-up really excites me for the season ahead as everyone is hardworking and determined.”
The matric pupil, who controls the team’s strategy from the midfield, realised that they would face a stiff examination of their credentials.
“It is always a challenging tournament, especially with the short format of 20 minutes a game. We know all the teams quite well so that always makes for a highly competitive event.”
Plenty of pressure was created by the unique format that the family retailer had introduced and a lot depended on how one managed the opening stages of each match, explained the 17-year-old.
“Our focus is to start every game well. If you fall a goal behind in this format it can be really challenging to catch up, so getting a good start is essential.”
The SPAR Schoolgirls Hockey Challenge, which was introduced in the Eastern Cape in 2016, has captured the imagination of players across the province as well as in the Southern Cape.
Porter said it was an important part of their annual programme as it was a “great challenge and an exciting tournament”.
“The big attraction for me is that it involves many different schools from around the province, giving us a chance to play teams we normally might not have met.”
She said her troops were excited about the task ahead and, although it would not be an easy assignment, that they were determined to retain their title.
Tournament director Matt Blair said the event had grown from eight teams last year to 12 for the upcoming showdown.
He welcomed St Dominic’s Priory, Linkside, DF Malherbe, Nico Malan and Victoria Park, who had not competed since the Covid disruption in 2020. The returning teams are Collegiate, Pearson, Alexander Road, Westering, VP, Framesby, Woodridge and St Thomas.
The teams will play in four pools of three, with the four first-place teams advancing to the semi-finals. Those who lost out, will play a consolation fixture.