Championship wins don’t get much more emphatic than the one the Handsworth Royals ripped off Friday at West Vancouver’s Rutledge Field to claim their third straight provincial senior girls AAA field hockey banner.
The Royals dominated play on their way to a 7-0 win over the Kelowna Owls in the championship final to earn that rare sporting feat, the three-peat. Handsworth was on the board within the first two minutes of the final and didn’t look back, dominating possession while rarely allowing the Owls to cross the halfway line with the ball.
The goals poured in for the Royals, and when it was all over they wrapped up a provincial championship tournament that saw the team score a total of 32 goals while allowing only three, posting a perfect 6-0 record against the best AAA teams in B.C. The win also capped off a three-year run that saw the Royals defeat that same opponent, Kelowna, to win the 2017 championship before beating Cowichan in last year’s final.
“It was an amazing experience to watch the team three-peat,” said head coach Graham Walker. “They played well all tournament, growing in game strength and team intensity through the quarter and semifinals and into the championship final against Kelowna, where they really dominated.”
The win also gave team captains Grace Delmotte, Calder Bryson and Kristjana Walker each their third provincial gold medal. Coach Walker credited his three captains with leading and uniting a very talented group of players.
“They are a very diverse, but extremely close knit, group,” he said of the team, adding that the group formed an “extremely strong social bond.”
At this year’s tournament, hosted at fields in West Vancouver and North Vancouver, Handsworth outscored their opponents 16-2 in round robin play before defeating Kitsilano 6-1 in the quarterfinals. The toughest test of the tournament came in the semifinals, against South Delta, with Handsworth coming away with a 3-0 victory to set up the final showdown against Kelowna.
The win marks the end of an era for Handsworth with Walker announcing that he and team manager Michelle Baines will not be returning to go for a fourth-straight title next year.
“[We] could not be more proud of this group of players,” said Walker. “It has been our honour and privilege to watch this team play and develop over the years.”
Remarkably, Walker is not the first Royals coach this decade to step down after completing a three-peat. Walker took over from longtime head coach Paul Winstanly, who led the team to its first ever provincial AAA title in 2011 and followed that up with two more banners before retiring in 2013 as a three-time champion. Walker won two silvers and a bronze in his first three seasons as head coach before taking the Royals to the top in 2017, a perch that they have yet to relinquish.
* * *
Elsewhere at provincials the West Vancouver Highlanders won all three of their pool games – including a 2-1 win over Kelowna – but then lost three straight playoff games to finish in eighth place. The Argyle Pipers placed third in their pool to end up on the consolation side where they ripped off three straight wins to place ninth.