Clarendon High from East London became the new SPAR Eastern Cape Schoolgirls Hockey Challenge champions when they defeated York High in the final at Woodridge just outside Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
The match signalled the end of another exciting schoolgirls’ hockey competition, which SPAR Eastern Cape sponsorships and events manager Alan Stapleton said was here to stay.
The provincial finals involved five regional winners and, after the round-robin competition, the George side qualified to meet Clarendon in the final.
It was a close-run thing for York, however, because they only edged past Kingsridge 1-0 in their final round-robin match, which decided who would go through to play the East London girls.
In the final, Bianca Wood stood out for Clarendon, scoring all the goals in a 3-0 victory.
The East Londoners dominated early on in the 30-minute match and took a 1-0 lead into halftime.
York then showed fine spirit to put their opponents under pressure in the second half, but could not crack a solid Clarendon defence.
As they pushed forward in search of the equaliser, Clarendon were able to exploit some gaps at the back and Wood struck twice late in the game to put the result beyond doubt.
At the prize-giving ceremony, Stapleton congratulated all those who took part and thanked Woodridge, in particular, for their role in hosting the tournament after the devastation of the June fires.
In recognition of the school’s continued rise from the ashes, SPAR Eastern Cape contributed R100 for each goal scored during the day to Woodridge, which resulted in an overall donation of R3 500.
After attending a SPAR national meeting in Durban on Thursday, Stapleton said they were certain the Schoolgirls Challenge would continue to grow and that it had become an important event on the retailer’s calendar.
“The tournament fits in with everything SPAR talk about, especially from a family aspect, so thank you to all the family and friends for coming out and being part of it today,” he said.
“This tournament is also about providing an opportunity for different schools to play each other and to provide an experience where you can grow your players.
“We wanted friendship, camaraderie and competitiveness and we’ve had it all this year.”
He also thanked the coaches and umpires for their contribution.
“Your passion is outstanding and to the umpires, who sometimes take a bit of flak, you are very special and very important to the whole event.”
Clarendon coach Cheryl Pope said the SPAR EC Schoolgirls Challenge had now become a permanent part of their programme.
“It is a fantastic idea and a great competition, with everything done so positively,” she said. “And the nature of the format is that you are never home and dry.
“In fact, in East London we lost a game and had to fight back in the semis before going on to win the final.”
She added that there was a refreshing aspect to the event as they had previously never played teams such as Woodridge and York.
Clarendon captain Caitlin Rushton played in all their matches but was not available for the provincial finals due to other commitments.
The final positions were: 1 Clarendon, 2 York 3 Woodridge, 4 Kingsridge, 5 Kingswood.