The club hockey season may well be over, but for the Sevenoaks HC Junior players who have been through the long and gruelling selection process and have been chosen to play for England it has been all go over the past couple of months. Lewis Wilcher (Boys U18), Ryana McDonald-Gay (Girls U18), Venetia Barker (Girls U18) and Tilly Strand Ford (Girls U16) have spent every weekend over the past two months travelling countless miles for training sessions and international fixtures.
This follows many months of selection process, and Sevenoaks HC Chair of Junior club Jacqui Hudson is very proud of their achievements: “It has been incredibly rewarding to watch these talented player on their developmental journey. They all started out at the club when they were very very young and now play in our Ladies 1s and Men’s 1s in the National League. They are also a great inspiration to our junior members who are just starting out in the sport.”
Last weekend saw all four juniors play in high profile international games in extremely hot weather conditions. Lewis played two games against Ireland’s U19 team at Lilleshall National Sports Centre. He played a very effective game and being instrumental in setting up two of the three goals in their 3-2 win on day 1. The next day Ireland’s superior physicality came to the fore and dominated proceedings as they ran out 5-1 winners. Lewis modestly described the camp as “another good learning experience”.
Also at Lilleshall, Ryana and Venetia faced the U19 Ireland girls. Both their matches were extremely tight. On day 1, despite various penalty corner chances for both sides, Ireland was the only one who successfully converted and narrowly won 1-0. The next day, England came out stronger, seeking revenge, and went 1-0 up in the first quarter. They continued to exert pressure with various shots at goal but the Irish defence held firm and in the third quarter managed to equalise. At full time the score remained 1-1 and it went to penalty shuffles, after which England came out on top, with Ryana calmly slotting the winner.
After the game Venetia reflected: “being part of the under 18 squad has challenged me and helped develop me as a player. It is a fantastic experience and playing in the England kit is something I will never forget”.
Tilly meanwhile travelled to Leeds to meet a very feisty Scottish U16 team. On day 1 Tilly captained her team to a 4-2 win, with the score not quite reflecting the closeness of the game. The next day, under a beaming sun, the Scottish girls came out even more determined and quickly slotted in a first goal which put the English girls under a lot of pressure. After the first quarter break, the England team came out stronger and more confident and quickly turned the game around and came out 5-1 winners. Tilly was a rock in the defence and certainly contributed to keeping the Scottish score line down.
A place is the England team follows a long journey on the England Hockey pathway, and Sevenoaks Hockey Club was very pleased to see another four youngsters being selected for the prestigious Futures Cup in St Albans this August. Dan Mir, Alex Manuel and Fin Webster will all feature in the U17 team and goalkeeper Rory Mylroi is a non-travelling reserve for the U15 team. England Hockey coaches will be present keeping an eager eye on these youngsters as they decide on who to invite for trials for the 21/22 season.