For a squad that won everything in sight this season, the Handsworth Royals senior girls field hockey team sure needed some late heroics to complete their historic campaign.
The dramatic conclusion came on Nov. 10 at Chilliwack’s Townsend Park where the Royals faced Cowichan Secondary in the AAA provincial championships final. With the score tied 0-0 in the dying moments of the game, Handsworth’s Cam Jensen earned the team a short corner as time was about to expire, giving the Royals one last chance to score before regulation play ended. With the title on the line, the Handsworth players and coaches prepared for the final play.
“If you looked over at the bench, I think I was hunched up on the ground praying to whatever deity I thought might answer me,” said head coach Sue Goddard with a laugh. “Some of the girls on the sideline were crying, they wanted it to happen so badly. But the girls on the field were pretty calm and cool.”
The short corner found Handsworth’s top scorer, Sydney Le, who fired off a shot.
“As soon as we heard the ball hit the back of the goal, they all just erupted and started sprinting down to the end of the field to where our goalie was and jumped on her, and there were lots of tears,” said Goddard, adding that she and assistant coach Susanne Morris and manager Jane Taylor “aged about a million years” during the tense championship final that ended as a 1-0 win for the Royals.
“It kind of always felt like it was going to happen, but it felt very surreal that it happened that way,” she said. “I don’t think you could have written a better, and for us a more terrifying, ending.”
The provincial title topped off a season that saw the Royals win all four possible championships available to them. This fall Handsworth started their championship run by winning the prestigious Bridgman Cup invitational, known as the oldest field hockey tournament in North America. There were more late heroics in that tournament, with Handsworth topping Collingwood School in a shootout to win the Cup after battling to a 3-3 tie in the final.
Handsworth then went on to win the local North Shore championship and the regional Vancouver Sea to Sky zone tournament before capping their quartet of championships with a win at provincials.
The team was led by Grade 12 captains Stella Goddard-Despot and Kate Martin, goalkeeper Scarlett Kotar, who recorded 10 shutouts on the season, and Le, who scored six hat tricks on her way to a team-leading 35 goals for the year.
The coach, however, credited the whole team with building and maintaining a fun and positive culture that included a poster they created that came with them to every game.
“This damn poster comes with us everywhere and they all tap it before they go out on the field,” she said with a laugh. “They’ve got so many songs and traditions ... we have to get to games a little bit earlier than other people so they can get through all their different warmups."
But it's that chemistry that helped push them to the top, said Goddard.
"We’ve got quite a few players who are in the junior national development program, but I think the difference is how these girls build each other up and hold each other up.”