Hayley van Schoor and Thinama Qasana from Queenstown Girls’ High can look back on an exhilarating journey as they head into their final SPAR Eastern Cape Schoolgirls Hockey Challenge in Komani on May 21.
The pair, who are both in matric, have amassed nearly 100 caps between them. Van Schoor recently played her 50th game for the first team while Qasana has run out 44 times.
Between the two, they represent a sizeable chunk of experience for the GHS outfit and that will most definitely come in useful when they attempt to make it a hat-trick of titles in the East London Inland regional leg of the competition.
Both players started their journeys on the bench but recognise today how they have developed as individuals and players since then.
Qasana admitted that she had been almost overwhelmed by the occasion when she got her chance at the highest school level in Grade 10.
“Honestly, it was such a scary experience being a junior in a team consisting of mainly seniors,” said the 18-year-old. “But my selection came to mean a lot more than I could ever have imagined.
“Not only has it carried me through those moments of doubt, but the structure and routine it has provided me has been invaluable in my all-round growth.”
For her, the opportunity came at just the right time as she was on the brink of losing hope in her hockey future.
“I just started thinking that I wasn’t good enough.”
The centre-half’s fondest memory is turning out in the green colours of the Balmoral Primary U8 team for the first time and scoring the winning goal in the last minute.
Passion and dedication went hand-in-hand, she believed.
“As passionate as I was, I needed the dedication within me when times got tough.”
She described the SPAR Hockey Challenge as “one of the most exciting ways to spend a Sunday”.
“Being around so many other teams from different backgrounds really provides a sense of unity and I couldn’t be happier being part of that. The sportsmanship always stands out; despite the results the girls are always friendly off the field.”
Van Schoor, who plies her trade as a centre link, debuted for the first team as a 15-year-old in 2019.
“I will never forget my first game. I was on the bench and played the second half of a match at the Greg Beling Festival just before Covid hit us.”
She rated her 50th cap, which came against Clarendon, as the biggest moment of her career until now.
“It has been such an incredible opportunity to grow and develop as a hockey player,” added the 18-year-old, who honed her skills against her brother in the yard of their Komani home.
Her driving force is clearly the enjoyment of competing and therefore the tournament is close to her heart.
“I like to encourage my teammates to have fun on the field and to play the game we all love to the best of our abilities.”
Pool A: Kingsridge, Hangklip, Invitation team
Pool B: Aliwal North, Stutterheim, Breidbach
Pool C: GHS, Templeton, Mthatha High
Pool D: Burgersdorp, De Vos Malan, St Christopher’s