Consolidation will be Haverhill’s main goal this season
A season of consolidation is the main aim for Haverhill, whose two teams start their East Womens Hockey League campaigns on Saturday.
The first team kick off their Division Three NW challenge at home to King’s Lynn-based Pelicans (2pm) with the second team also at home in their Division Four NW(S) opener, with St Ives 3 the visitors to Haverhill Leisure Centre (10.30am).
With experienced players such as Elaine Ward, Jenni Bradnam, Anne Reed and Mandy Williamson having hung up their hockey sticks and eight new players having joined the club over the summer, Haverhill player chairman Tina Bunch said the main focus now is on retaining their status in both divisions.
“I think more consolidation is the aim,” said Bunch.
“We have lost quite a lot of experience in the last couple of seasons and it’s a chance to hopefully give the youngsters more of a run out.
“We (the first XI) were eighth out of 13 last season but it was a very close thing on those percentage stats.
“We were mid-table and we are looking at probably the same again. I think we need to see how we go with the new recruits.
“I think the main aim is to field two teams rather than the one-and-a-half this year so consolidation would suit.
“We are training on Thursday nights and the split is 50/50 with existing players and new players.
“We’ve had eight new players join us. We are hoping we won’t have to double up as much as previously but we do seem to have a few injuries at the moment.”
The first team will again be skippered by Cara Ainsworth and the second string by Nicole Sisson, who is also the club captain.
Vicky Steed will again lead the line for the first team, as she did last term when she was their top scorer and the club has a newcomer between the posts in the form of Sian Fagg, who will make her debut on Saturday.
The second team was runner-up in Division Four NW(S) last season - a division they had won the previous year before electing not to take up the chance of promotion - ending up just two points behind the title winners and having the best defensive record in the entire league.
With only the winners of the division being promoted last season it meant Haverhill 2s missed out on any chance of promotion, but it was an outcome, said Bunch, that has probably suited the club best as it had relied on so many players turning out for both teams in the last campaign.
While everyone is looking for a positive start to the 2016/17 season, the opening fixture for each side has thrown up a testing opponent.
Bunch said: “Pelicans are a big club based in Kings Lynn so we are expecting a tough game.
“St Ives 3 were one of the three teams in a three-way tussle for promotion (from Division Four NW(S) last season, so that will be a tough game too.”
Haverhill has been pro-actively recruiting players over the summer, including advertising and raising their profile at local schools and it’s commitment to attracting more players continues on Sunday when it holds a Family Fun Day at the leisure centre.
The event runs from 10am to midday and the club hopes it will result in adult and junior players attending and potentially signing.
Included will be a ’beat the ‘keeper and ‘be the ‘keeper’ challenge, recreating the scenario in the Rio Olympics that saw shot stopper Maddie Hinch play such a decisive role in the GB Women’s team defeating the Netherlands in the final to win gold.