Women’s Hockey storm into Cup semi-finals

A 4-1 mauling of Leeds University Seconds, earned through a daring counter-attacking display, has put York within 70 minutes of a BUCS Cup final

Photograph by Rob Newton, UYHC Male President

Photograph by Rob Newton, UYHC Male President

UNIVERSITY OF YORK FIRSTS 4
UNIVERSITY OF LEEDS SECONDS 1

BUCS Cup Quarter-Final – Monday 15th February

For many sports teams, participation in a cup competition is nothing but an unwelcome distraction. Not so for the women’s hockey firsts, who are saving their finest performances for the cut and thrust, blood and thunder of knockout action.

They are in the draw for the BUCS Cup semi-finals tonight after ripping apart a Leeds University team flying high in the league above. The 4-1 scoreline did not flatter them one bit as a brand of lightning-fast, counter-attacking hockey illuminated a miserable evening and punished an opposition who simply didn’t fancy the fight.

While Leeds are left to lick their wounds and focus on promotion from League 2B, York, by contrast, are still unbeaten in BUCS competitions this season and are a good bet to be finishing their season next month by lifting a trophy.

Rachael Faustino got the ball rolling after 12 minutes, Hannah Gage looped in a second late in the first-half before, after Leeds replied to give themselves a glimmer of hope, a quick-fire double mid-way through the second period, from Laura Pepper and Frankie Hall, completed a great evening under the Astroturf floodlights. The four different goalscorers reflected a classic, team performance with every player understanding their roles, enacting the training ground routines and, on the whole, not putting a foot wrong.

Billy Walsh, the erstwhile men’s Captain who has been overseeing the team’s development this season, emphasised the collective strengths post-match.

“It was a terrific team effort,” he said. “There was solid defence and brilliant counter-attacking – we were so fast going forward, with the players making great runs. It was a really impressive performance.”

The team pose for a group photo to celebrate last night’s win. Photograph by Rob Newton.

Leeds, who had twice hit eight goals in their route to the quarter-final stage, started brightly but encountered an obdurate home defence. Charlie Bartlett and Imy Eldergill-Storm were typically alert to the danger, appearing to possess boundless energy as they hunted down the Leeds forwards.

And with their first real foray forward, York stunned their guests by opening the scoring. Hall was thwarted at the near post but, after Leeds dallied in clearing their lines, the ball was nudged to Faustino who slammed the ball home from point-blank range.

Shortly afterwards, Emily Lucas emerged from defence to release Faustino down the right and, although the move came to nothing, it was the first example of the swift breaks from York which meant the visitors could not switch off for one minute.

On 28 minutes, the lead was doubled: Lucas again made headway out wide after Faustino had laid the ball off and fizzed a tempting pass across goal to the onrushing Gage, who lifted the ball over the goalkeeper’s head to put York firmly in command.

The Leeds coach delivered his players a stern lecture at the interval and the home truths paid off five minutes into the second-half. After building up a head of steam and forcing a couple of short corners, they halved the deficit with a calm finish from a threaded through ball. It was the only time the York back four switched off all night.

Unflustered, the hosts drew on their reserves of energy and peppered the Leeds goal – Andrea Pisesky fed the energetic Hall, whose snapshot was blocked by the goalkeeper, and Lucas did likewise seconds later. You sensed a third was imminent and it duly arrived when Pepper, as she has done so often this season, burst past two desperate tackles and arrowed the ball home with Hall ready to pounce.

Unsatisfied, York poured forward again and, for the second time in three minutes, rocked a Leeds defence by this point sorry, sodden and sunk. Hall craved a goal and lurked at the near post waiting for her moment – interplay between Pisesky and Lucas provided it and it was 4-1.

Still York weren’t sated and a goalmouth scramble nearly brought a fifth, but that would have been plain greedy. Seemingly enchanted by the magic of the cup, York will seek to replicate tonight’s impressive showing in the semi-final against Sheffield University firsts, another representative from Division 2B, which is the highest league in this tournament and, on tonight’s evidence, where York will be returning to next month.

York Line-up: GK – Beanie Usher, 12. Rachael McMillan, 19. Hannah Harrison, 27. Imy Eldergill-Storm, 7. Charlie Bartlett, 12. Hannah Gage, 9. Laura Pepper, 11. Andrea Pisesky, 77. Emily Lucas, 24. Rachael Faustino, 25. Frankie Hall
Replacement: 3. Anna Smith

Nouse woman of the match: Imy Eldergill-Storm

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