The Knole Academy U13 Girls handball team entered their first competition at the Kent School Games over at Medway Park back in January, along with other schools in Kent.
The girls had never played a competitive game of handball before, but this did not deter them.
After an incredible afternoon the girls finished in an impressive first place. The second round required students to compete in the Regional finals over at Surrey University.
The standard of play was much higher, and the girls became very anxious. Once again, the girls did not disappoint and once again finished in first place meaning they had made it to the National finals over a Worcester Arena.
Once at the finals, the girls fell agonisingly short of being crowned National Champions, instead having to settle for the highly prestigious prize of National finalists and runners-up – the second best team in the country – after a narrow 6-5 AET defeat to Chadwell Academy, of the London region, in the Final.
It was a truly exceptional performance from the girls, underlining their unwavering commitment, desire and motivation, after a faultless campaign through previous areas and regional competitions.
The National Finals, represented by teams from the South East, London, East, Midlands, North West, North East and the South West regions, was a highly competitive event with some powerful and dynamic handball skills on display.
Knole’s total of four victories and two defeats in the Round-Robin stage, including an impressive 4-1 victory over the North East school, St Wilfred’s School, justified their position as the Regional Champions for the South East.
Even a slow start and an early 3-2 defeat, following some controversial umpiring decisions, which led to an incorrect sending-off, did nothing to unsettle the girls, whose drive to win shone throughout each of the games. They went on to win three other matches, 3-2, 2-0 and 3-2.
A heavy 4-0 defeat to Chadwell in the group stage only inspired the girls once the Final arrived and the girls started strongly, taking an early 1-0 lead after just 20 seconds of play.
They led and were pegged-back a further four times, Knole unable to hold onto a crucial lead at 5-4, allowing the powerful London side to equalise within the final few seconds of regulation play.
It was a truly incredible final, with, unquestionably, the two best teams in the country entertaining the crowd who had stayed on – it was a shame that only one team would win. And that team was Chadwell – with five minutes of extra time played, Knole finally succumbed to the overwhelming pressure inflicted upon them, losing to a last-minute effort on goal. Knole were devastated.
All expectations were surpassed – to finish 2nd out of a total of more than 1,500 schools who had entered was an exceptional result and one that will long go down in the memory of sporting achievements from the Kent school.
What an incredible achievement after their first competitive season. There are definitely some stars to watch out for!
The school would like to thank Nahmi Jari, whose expert coaching has provided the girls with outstanding guidance and tactical knowledge, and to the staff of Knole Academy, whose dedication and determination to see the girls succeed, went above and beyond – an outstanding achievement for all.
Will they be able to go one better next year and take the Championship? You’d be brave to bet against them.