It was a trifecta of good athletes, passion and teamwork that led Collingwood School’s senior girls field hockey team to a 5-0 victory over Crofton House last week to take the provincial AA gold.
Normally, games against their rival from across the Burrard Inlet end in a one-point or two-point difference in score, and the two teams have taken turns winning the provincial AA championship in recent years.
But this year, the West Vancouver team beat them in the provincial final for the second year in a row.
“This is the first time where (we) were able to spread the difference and display the team’s talents that profoundly,” said the team’s coach Ashleigh Gold about the final game on Nov. 9.
The game plan for Collingwood was to work as a team and not focus on individual players, Gold said. They try not to have stars and to bring out the best in each player, she added. “If one of those players is having a rough game, every single other player picks them up. That’s how we’re successful.”
The girls were able to maintain their composure, stick to the plan and use every player on the field, Gold said.
The first half of the game remained scoreless until the very last moment, when Collingwood finally broke the tension with a goal.
“They had a lot of chances and we had a lot of chances, it was very much a classic game of Collingwood versus Crofton field hockey, which was a tight game of hockey with lots of energy, lots of emotion,” she said.
But just before the end of the first half, Seli Edstand scored on the Crofton goaltender.
The team was ecstatic, Gold said, because now they had the upper hand.
“It was such a great team goal, it was a fight in front of the net, and there was just an explosion of emotion and a little bit of a release,” she added.
During halftime, the coaches talked to the girls about maintaining their composure and continuing to press forward, and that’s what they did, Gold said. They got two quick goals right after halftime, one from Bronwyn Bird and another from Rachel Graham.
“Both of those goals in quick succession really just set our train running in the right direction, and at that point, we became unstoppable, it was like a freight train, there was no way we could stop that energy and emotion and the girls held it together,” Gold said.
With two more goals by Collingwood, one from Edstand and one from Kaiden Stanley, and by keeping Crofton out of the net, the game ended 5-0.
“The tactical plan worked and the girls implemented it,” said Sara Bruner, who joins Gold and Catherine Underwood as coaches for the senior team.
“They played as a team, they defended as a team and they scored as a team,” she added.
Momentum was building all season, but in that final match they were firing on all cylinders, Gold said, taking the game to the next level.
Collingwood and Crofton have met in the final in each of the past four years, with Collingwood winning in 2015, 2017 and 2018 and Crofton claiming gold in 2016. The Vancouver school also won in 2014 when Collingwood finished third. The Crofton team is well-coached with “great athletes,” Gold said.
“I think we just played a better game,” she said. “We played with heart.”
Of their 29 games this season, the only ones Collingwood lost or tied were to Handsworth Secondary, who won the AAA provincials on Friday.
“It’s the best season that we, as coaches, have ever seen our team play,” Gold said, who’s been coaching the senior team since 2004.
On the pitch, Handsworth and Collingwood are rivals, off the field they are best friends and many of them play together in the West Vancouver Field Hockey Club, the biggest field hockey club in North America.
“No matter who wins, when the end whistle blows, it’s hugs all around between the two teams,” Gold said.
Field hockey is a very physical sport, Gold explained, combining a “plethora of skills.”
“It’s got the unique aspect of a large field like soccer but the hand-eye coordination like tennis or any kind of stick-and-ball or racquetball sport,” she said. “It’s very multi-disciplinary and technical.”
Right now the team and coaches are “riding that high” of victory, Bruner said, and even though they’ll have to soon start conversations about next year, right now they are sitting back and enjoying their provincial title.