There is little doubt in the hockey community that the St. Mary’s Investec Hockey Festival is the highlight of the school girl’s hockey calendar in South Africa. The tournament, now in its 18th Year, featured 30 teams from across South Africa joined by a Zimbabwean (Peterhouse Girls) and Namibian (Windhoek High School) school.
Incredibly over the 17 previous years a whopping 38 girls who have played in the tournament have gone on to represent their National side and incredibly 10 players from the recent SA side had played in the festival in the past.
With 2017 seeing South Africa play host to the FIH Hockey World League Semi-Final, the Premier Hockey League making its second appearance and the general excitement around hockey starting to build, there is almost no better way to start it than the St. Mary’s Festival.
Starting on Thursday and finishing on Saturday, there was very little rest time for the ladies in between their games of 25 minutes (1 way, no half-time), but there were some Investec Hockey Academies available for the ladies to push their skills to the next level and to rub shoulders with some of the SA National Women’s team.
Of course the main focus was the hockey and it never failed to live up to expectations although Mother Nature did her best to derail some of it. After an epic two days of hockey the top four were triple defending champions Oranje Meisieskool from Bloemfontein, St. Annes Diocesan College from Pietermaritzburg, Hoerskool Waterkloof and the host side St. Mary’s Waverley.
The opening semi-final pitted the hosts against the holders in a repeat of last year’s final, where the Bloemfontein based side triumphed via a penalty shootout. Once again there was nothing to separate the two sides who played like their lives depended on it and after a tense 1-1 draw it had to go to showdowns. After both sides scored 1 in the initial showdowns, it was OMS who triumphed in sudden death to once again deny the fairy-tale for the hosts.
The second semi-final pitted the surprise tournament contenders St. Annes, who were under the tutelage of former SA Men’s coach, Charlie Pereira, against Waterkloof. It was another pulsating affair that also went the distance after 1-1 draw. In these showdowns St. Annes showed clinical finishing to win 3-2 and secure their spot in their first ever final at the St. Mary’s Investec Hockey Festival.
The final was a competitive affair after St Anne’s opened the scoring through a tap in goal from Sophie McDonald after an exhilarating run down the right by Daniella Rhodes. But relentless running and pressure from the Oranje team saw them run out 3-1 winners on the night and St Mary’s Investec Festival champions for the 4th consecutive year. This is the first time a team has won the tournament four times in a row and you would find few people to bet against them going for five!
Well done to St. Mary’s and Investec on another superb event with great attendance. The love for hockey in South Africa was once again shown superbly in Waverley!