The Handsworth Secondary senior girls field hockey team has taken gold for the second year running in the provincial AAA championships, beating the Cowichan Thunderbirds 2-0 on Friday.
The team had not played Cowichan yet this year, but the Handsworth girls knew what they were up against and how well the Vancouver Island team were coached, explained Graham Walker, who is the head coach of the Handsworth senior girls.
“We came into the game knowing they’d be a tough squad, fast and strong and well coached, and able to move the ball intelligently and quickly,” Walker said.
The Handsworth girls had to focus on keeping possession of the ball and getting it into the “D,” the area players can score from, and making sure their forwards and midfielders were there.
Walker said the team had an “extremely strong defence,” so they weren’t concerned about defending against any of the teams, but they knew many in the playoff round also had good defenders and goal-tending.
Leading up to the championship round, Handsworth had beaten Heritage Woods 4-0 in the quarterfinals and South Delta 1-0 in the semifinals before facing off against Cowichan.
“We really focused our whole strategy on making sure we could get goals, because we were pretty confident it would be hard for other teams to score against us,” Walker said.
Grade 12 Tara Hamilton, co-captain of the team, scored the first goal and Luisa Von Der Heidt, Grade 11, scored the second one, both before halftime. They held that 2-0 score to the end of the game to win the provincials.Handsworth’s season also included a gold at the Bridgman Cup, an invitational competition in Victoria where they beat their cross-town rivals Collingwood in the final.
But the team was “elated” to win the provincial gold, Walker explained.
“They had a wonderful season, full of lots of victories, and this is really what they were shooting for all season,” he said.
Walker has been coaching girls field hockey for seven years as his three daughters have gone through the program.
Walker has enjoyed the challenge of coaching the high school team as a parent volunteer, which has meant bringing together players with a “diverse set of skills and making them all work together as a team.”
Most of the girls also play in the West Vancouver Field Hockey Club, in the Greater Vancouver Women’s league which continues into the spring.
“We have players on our Handsworth team that are on the junior Canadian national team and we have players who only play socially, he explained, which means the skills range from fairly inexperienced to extremely experienced.
“You have to bring those 18 field players together and give them the tools and skillset to play as one team unit,” Walker said.
The key to making this happen is to develop very strong bonds between the players and ensure that they are looking out for each other’s interests, including “making sure if there is less skilled player, she is being fully supported and completely enthusiastic about continuing the sport and knowing that she can go out there and have fun and not worry about letting the team down,” Walker said.
This is the second last year Walker will be coaching after overseeing the team while his three daughters played on the high school team. He said the team’s success has also depended on the teacher and parent volunteer support, including that from the team manager, Michelle Baines.