Locals proud of their progress

The Cayman Islands women’s hockey team played two hard games last weekend against a powerful Kingston ladies squad.

The sides were evenly matched: 1-0 to Cayman in the first game, 1-0 to Jamaica in the second. The scores seem tame, but the results actually reflect a huge achievement for Cayman.

Five months ago, when a mixed Cayman team took on the St. Andrew and Munroe College Hockey Club at its home ground in Kingston, there was no such thing as a Cayman women’s hockey team – nor had it ever existed.

Women had always featured on the local field hockey scene, but the men far outnumbered the ladies; over the past decade, there had been perhaps just half a dozen regular female players.

In Kingston last November, seven Cayman ladies, backed by a handful of male teammates, had a friendly match against the Jamaican national team, and lost, but only by a narrow margin.

Surprised by their relative success, the idea for a full female team then came to life and the campaign to recruit players and train took off under the leadership of Alex Horner, Emily Walshe, Bryony Platt and Sarah Pinches.

With regular training sessions led by men’s captain Jamie Ware and Aaron Gardner, the team expanded and improved immeasurably, forming a coherent squad with a will to win and some considerable clout.

That was the newly-minted squad that took on the collective skill and experience of Jamaica’s St. Andrew and Munroe ladies, many of whom have close links to the Jamaican national team.

The games were played on the full-sized Astroturf pitch at Cayman International School, Camana Bay. In Saturday’s match, the Jamaicans were tired when they came on, having battled through two mixed games earlier in the day.

But the two sides locked horns aggressively enough, with plenty of speed and skill on display. Cayman had possession the majority of the time and consistently pressured the Jamaican defence, but it was only in the last few seconds before the final whistle that Maggie Garnett found the back of the net after a well coordinated drive on goal by the Cayman forwards.

In Sunday’s game, Cayman had the advantage in that it had sufficient players for plenty of subbing as legs got tired, but Jamaica found new energy and consistently broke through Cayman’s defences by using a long-ball tactic.

Cayman gamely fought off Jamaica’s advances on goal and keeper Ivan Burges did well to keep out numerous tough shots, but in the end it looked inevitable that the reggae girls would score. The blow came in the 45th minute when Michelle Holt, Jamaica’s national hockey coach, thumped home the winning goal.

After the games, Emily Walshe said: “ We’re very excited so far about the progress of our all-ladies hockey team. It went well this weekend. We hope to play more international opponents in the future.”

Women’s team: Bryony Platt (joint captain), Abbie Gamble, Leigh Bottomley, Christel van Vuuren, Helen Forbes, Verity Redrup, Anna-Lisa Hawkes, Sarah Pinches (player/coach), Carol Savage, Maggie Garnett, Anissa Atterbury, Mindy Pistacchio, Eliza Harford, Emily Walshe (joint captain), Gisela Gamba, Petal Toby, Alison Strobridge, Elaine Whitefield, Liz Austin, Gill Comins, Harriet Martin, Janice Gordon, Ji-Ying Chen, Laura Horner, Trudy Saunders.

Making the busy weekend (which involved at least 50 players) possible were the following sponsors: Jacques Scott, Cayman Distributors, Massive, Nautilus, Mike’s Ice, Deutschebank, Camana Bay, Caymanian Compass, Tortuga Rum, CI Dept. of Tourism, Le Bleu, Shamoo Electric, Harry Lalli, Treasure Island, Elements, BB&P, Ronnie Anglin, Welly’s Cool Spot. Also thanks to Jamaica Air Traffic Control – for going on strike which allowed the Jamaicans to stay a likkle longer.