It is always with great pleasure that Durham University Hockey Club are able to boast the talent of particular performing individuals as well as having the reputation we do as a collective club. This can include anything from Ed Peel ‘rolling the best fat one’, James O’Neill speaking two coherent sentences in a row or Charlie Stubbings going a week without mentioning his lid.
This summer, however, it was the turn of our prize ladies, and this time a far greater achievement and far more hockey related. It is with further delight that we can report the fantastic accomplishment of Jules Inverdale, Pippa Lewis, Laura Bevan and Mollie Rawnsley in their selection for the England U21 squad that travelled to Holland in June this summer, and Gareth Weaver-Tyler as Coach. In a ‘mini’-World Cup format, the four Durham-bred girls engaged with strong teams from China, Germany, Holland, India and New Zealand having all trained incredibly hard throughout the academic year and continuing into the summer.
Led from the middle by Mollie Rawnsley, whose achievement extended, unstoppably, to being selected as England Captain, the girls had a strong tournament, beginning with a win against Belgium in a practice game, 3-1, and a 2-2 draw against New Zealand in their first pool game. Holland proved a harder game and the home team had obviously abandoned their bicycles and escaped from their coffee shops long enough to practice stok and bal – a 1-5 loss.
A real mental turning point came in the following game against Germany. Despite obvious efficiency and quick Hans from the Germans, the bulldog like approach from the Brits came through, with spitfire-esque skills from Laura in attack, an entrenched performance from Pip in the middle and a stiff upper lip at the back from Jules. Having lost to them in both series during the year, the 1-1 draw was a real boost to confidence.
An unfair 0-3 loss against a predictably ‘robo-tronic’ Chinese team led England into their final game in the pool stages against India. With a team that bragged 16 out of 18 senior internationals, the odds were stacked in India’s favour, but the girls managed to pull off a colossal 1-0 to put themselves into the 3rd/4th play-off.
The young England squad came together magnificently towards the end of the tournament and was aided overwhelmingly by the leadership of our Durham girls. Indeed, even in the 3rd/4th play-off, it saw England come back against India again, this time more suited to the hotter weather on the day, to take the game to 1-1 at the end of time. Shuffles proceeded, with our own Pippa involved in the shuffle line-up. Unfortunately it was not to be and England came home in a steadfast 4th place, having played an amazing tournament and exceeding expectations.
Quentin Sloper, Head of Sport at Durham University, adds that ‘everyone associated with DUHC should be extremely proud’ and ‘as ever, international selection, as a player or a coach, is the culmination of a great deal of hard work. The girls’ achievements are even more impressive when considering the contribution they have made off the field’. Indeed, next year Mollie continues as Durham 1stXI Captain, Jules is
DUHC Club Captain and Pippa is taking an international hockey scholarship to the USA. Laura is just regular. Quentin wishes ‘Pippa the very best of luck for her time in the USA and looks forward to welcoming the others back for pre-season this month’.
Great emphasis must be placed on this extended commitment, and you will find very few people that work as hard and as consistently as Jules, Pippa, Laura and Mollie. Additional pitch, fitness and S&C sessions coupled with travelling 5 hours to Lilleshall and Bisham Abbey to train is only testament to this. It is perhaps most compelling to illustrate this point by the fact that both Pippa and Jules have not previously represented England and so with the right attitude it is clear that you can reap reward – in this case, a place in a major international tournament.
Congratulations to Jules, Pip, Mollie, Laura and Gareth, and long may the excellent hockey programme at Durham continue. Good luck to Pip in the US next year, and good luck to the girls in the forthcoming season.