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The summer holidays saw 19 of the School’s hockey players embark on an exciting hockey tour to Canada. Girls from three year groups represented St John’s in Toronto and Ottawa, remaining unbeaten throughout their campaign. Anna Whitworth (Lower Sixth, South), reports on behalf of the tour:
“Upon our arrival after our 7-hour flight to Toronto, we were transferred to Victoria University, where we would be based for the next four nights in their student accommodation. After a much needed night’s rest, and still trying to battle the time difference, we began our first training session at the Varsity Centre. Training in the intense heat was extremely difficult, however we were able to put this to one side and complete a very effective session. For many of us this was the first training session of the season and it was great to be able to brush away a few cobwebs before our first matches.
“The next day saw us playing our first match against Guelph Gryphons. A university team with five regional players came at us physically and at pace. Playing on an artificial surface that was rubber crumb was difficult initially for us to adapt, but once we put our mind to it we attacked fast and aggressive. Some great build up play from all the squad resulted in some fine goals and we came out with a hard fought 2-2 draw. This was the first time that many of us had played together, but we really gelled as a squad and everyone played brilliantly and to come out with this result against such a powerful side was fantastic. It gave us a lot of confidence in our abilities as a team and put us on the right foot for the remainder of the tour.
“Another highlight of our stay in Toronto was watching the Blue Jays vs. The Astros at the Rogers Centre. The atmosphere was amazing and watching a baseball game live was a new and memorable experience for most of us.
“After four days in Toronto, we set off to Ottawa, where we stayed for two nights. Here we had time to relax and recover, and were able to indulge in the shops Ottawa had to offer. We also managed to soak in some culture with a canal cruise and a tour of the Canadian Houses of Parliament. Our second match saw us playing another formidable side the Nighthawks but by half time we proved the stronger side and were 2-0 up. This lead enabled us to move further up the pitch and everyone played in a more attacking role, resulting in two further goals for us, conceding just one, and giving us a final victory of 4-1. It was in Ottawa that we were treated to a Canadian thunderstorm and the entire match was played in the pouring rain. However, this did not dampen our spirits and once again St John’s were improving at a strong rate of knots. We also had support from an OJ who was holidaying in Ottawa at the time. The post-match hospitality by all the teams was fantastic and our hockey and fitness was quickly getting better.
“Our final two days saw us return to Toronto, where we spent a morning at Canada’s Wonderland Theme Park and played our final matches of the tour. We were successful in both of our games against Burlingham, with 6-0 and 11-0 victories. These scores allowed us all to play in unfamiliar positions and test out new formations, whilst practising what we had learnt in training. Whilst in Burlingham we were treated like local celebrities with the Mayor coming down for a photo along with the local press.
“Our departure day saw us being thrown about on a jet boat at the iconic Niagara Falls which fully matched our expectations. Every single person came away absolutely soaked as we entered a 45-minute whirlwind of white water rapids. A great way to finish our tour. We boarded our coach to the airport and fittingly were able to watch the GB women’s hockey team secure a gold Olympic medal whilst we waited in departures.
“The whole tour was an unforgettable experience and despite the tour squad being made of a mixture of year groups, we formed a cohesive unit and we were able to develop great camaraderie during this trip. Our Canadian hosts were unfailingly gracious and friendly and lived up to their reputation as the politest people on the planet. Finally, huge thanks to our staff team of Miss Moors, Mr Kidd and Miss Hemms who made this trip possible. A great success with 3 wins and one draw and a fab way to prepare for our season.”
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