BELPER Ladies came away from the International HOD HC Under 16 Tournament at Valkenswaard in Holland over Easter with a trophy – but not the one they were initially hoping for.
The competition at this most prestigious European tournament was the hottest ever experienced. Belper were one of only four club teams taking part, the other squads being either international sides (USA and Ireland) or top regional teams from Holland, Belgium and France who used the tournament as part of their selection process for international matches later in the year.
Against the club teams Belper held their own. A 1-1 draw v Amersfoort HC, who eventually finished fifth, a 1-0 loss to hosts HOD HC and an exciting 3-3 scoreline v HC Eindhoven when Belper scored in overtime to snatch a draw and Naomi Cotterill registered a hat-trick.
All the regional and international sides proved too strong for Belper but the matches allowed the Nailers to have many important developmental opportunities that they would never experience in England. Losses of 3-0 to the USA and 2-0 to Ireland only tell a fraction of the story of the intelligent, courageous and disciplined defending that Belper showed to keep the score respectable.
Similarly against the Belgian international selection team, Cats, a 2-0 loss was an excellent achievement in the circumstances and Belper had the better of the game in the 1-0 loss to Pas de Calais (Northern France), one defensive lapse of concentration being the difference between the sides. Only the 5-1 loss to South Holland, one of the finalists, was where Belper were outclassed.
So no winner’s trophy for the side from Christchurch Meadows but to everyone’s delight and surprise, Belper were awarded the Fair Play Trophy. The organisers cited their wonderful competitive spirit in adversity, their excellent on-field behaviour to umpires, officials and opponents alike plus their courtesy to the organisers.
Belper’s own awards saw Jess Horn win the Players’ Player of the tournament award and Yasmin Clough take the management’s most improved player Award. Naomi Cotterill received the Golden Ball award for her hat-trick v Eindhoven, Sorcha Cahill the Silver Ball for her dynamic double save v the USA plus her performance in the penalty shoot-out competition and Ellie Miles picked up the Bronze Ball Award for her outstanding defending throughout the tournament.