What A Season. What An Ending. What A Team.
Who Da best – Hillcrest!
After 5 years of development and building, Hillcrest first team finally won the Prem A Surrey League and given the opportunity to attend Country Playoffs. After a tough season of multiple injuries (sprains, ligaments, aches, scrapes and those annoying finger breaks) and continued illnesses (colds, flu, tonsillitis, IC and the odd hangover – let’s just take a moment to remember finding Millie Oughton crouched by the drain outside the courts on an early Saturday morning), Hillcrest first team were determined this was the year we’d see ourselves top of the Prem A leagues table.
A 6 week gap between our final game in the Surrey league and County playoffs allowed all team members to get themselves fit and healthy for what we all knew was going to be a tough few hours on Saturday 20th May. With injuries mostly healed and illnesses a distant memory, Hillcrest County Playoff squad consisted of Millie Oughton, Lily Rogers, Lauren Brown, Fiona Bateman, Laura Cross, Emily Nicholls, Katie Mayo, Anna Gray, Harriet Field, Emily Barber and Captain Becky Crisfield.
The first game was against HS, the team currently in County, fighting to keep their place. With prior experience against them and their tall GS, we knew this would be a tough game and tough it was. Hillcrest demonstrated some fantastic play throughout the court, great team effort working off tips and interceptions and great feeds into shooting kept our centre pass and tip conversions high. HS’s steady play in attack, coupled with their strong shooting stats allowed them to keep on our tails but Hillcrest fought to the end to keep the lead. A final score of 20-17, allowed us to take the first win of the day.
The second game was against Fairlands, again a team we have played before but have beaten and lost against this season in the Surrey and Met leagues. With this being Fairlands’ first game, their fresh legs could have been an advantage, but Anna’s intense fitness sessions allowed Hillcrest to determine the pace and put the pressure on Fairlands’ play where it counted. Shooting remained strong and defence shook up their attack forcing their errors and allowed us to take a strong win 23-15.
With 2 familiar teams defeated but two unfamiliar teams to go, Hillcrest mixed the squad up to create new pressures and plays against the 3rd team, Teddington Swans. Hillcrest started shaky as fresh legs in attack and slightly more tired legs in defence found their rhythm and flow through the court. A shaky start allowed Swans to take the lead, with Hillcrest down by 4. As time started to run out in the first half, Hillcrest found their rhythm and owned the last few minutes bringing the score back within 1. At half time Anna made several changes to mix up play, and after the first 5 minutes, started to regret her decision as the score widened and we went down by 8. In true A team style, keeping our spectators on their toes we bought it back to win by 3 (19-16). Nothing like a bit of exciting entertainment. It is boring to watch a team beat everyone convincingly every time. At least that's what we shall tell ourselves.
3 out of 3, guaranteed our spot for next year in County so with a half hour break before the final game, Hillcrest took the opportunity to play a final few games of killer, before a quick few stretches, massages and a 10 minute warm up, ready to tackle the last game head on. The final game saw us take on Chequers, and with our guaranteed spot in County, the pressure was off and we could play our game. With everyone on court during this game, it really was a team effort to bring in the last win (25-11). An easier game to finish, but still a good performance put out by Chequers.
In the end it came down to how we performed individually and as a team. Defence worked hard to turn over continuous balls, centre court played steady and placed some fantastic feeds, shooters sank dream shots from all over and those off court supported and encouraged. It was most definitely a ‘team work makes the dream work’ day and as a result Hillcrest were the only team to win above 50% of their games. So not only did we win, we won convincingly. A fantastic day, a fantastic result, a fantastic team. Here’s to next season girls and working towards Regional Playoffs. In Millie’s voice: ‘Weee can do ittttt’!
A huge thank you to Anna Harris for her patience with us on and off the court, her tough training sessions which we hate whilst we’re doing but then feel fantastic once we cross the line on the final suicide and her never ending research into new training ideas.
A big thank you to Sandie Richardson for umpiring our games this season and giving us encouragement when we needed it.
A huge thank you to the B team for continuing training when you could have started your summer early and for pushing us hard during training, forcing us to make mistakes to learn from them and better ourselves.
And a massive thank you to all our supporters that have turned up to support regardless of weather, location or time and to all those that supported us on the day. We could not have got this far without you.