The average age of the squad will be 22.27 by the time Surbiton Ladies travel to Olton & West Warwicks for their first league match of 2014 on 8 February. Annie Tutty and Thea Cosham were the latest youngsters to be added to the squad before the 3 February registration deadline.
So far in 2013-14, Charlotte Calnan, Sophie Fisher-Norton, Sophie Newton and Eloise Stenner have all featured in the IWHL Premier and the Investec Women’s Cup as the squad aim for European qualification and their third appearance in the cup final in four seasons. Goalkeeper, Catherine O’Connor was outstanding in the Maxinutrition Hockey 5s Division One indoor tournament.
With Surbiton having to cope without their international players for the first two weekends after the mid-season break, their youngsters may well have the opportunity to step up, as Surbiton face the difficult task of team selection for their three performance teams within the various league rules. The Ladies 2s are aiming for promotion to the South Clubs’ Women’s Hockey League Division One, and the Ladies 3s are working hard to consolidate their place in SCWHL Division 3B.
Although Surbiton face having to lose their youngsters at some point in the future when they go to university to further their education, the development will not be wasted as players frequently return to Sugden Road. Surbiton’s captain, Sarah Haycroft, returned from the University of Birmingham last season; Harriet Tibble returned this season after studying in the United States at Maryland, and Eleanor Jolly, who has also recently been registered, played in the national league for Liverpool Sefton last season. Away from Sugden Road, Ellie and Maddie Tait are currently at Loughborough Students, Lilie Lamacraft is with Beeston, and Natasha Nichols is at the University of Durham.
Surbiton Ladies’ Head Coach, and Director of Hockey, Brett Garrard pointed out that the youth policy is now starting to pay dividends: “After five years of investment in youth at Surbiton Hockey Club and continuing the progression of our adult teams through the leagues, the club is now beginning to see the result of that investment, (with the club now in the position to field a full team of eleven players aged eighteen or under in the women’s national league)”.
He continued, “We now have a pathway for all our players, especially our performance colts players who now have the opportunity to play at the top level and train in a performance culture with international players. It has always been the aim to form a squad with talented youngsters, current and ex internationals and experienced club players who all buy into the ethos of Surbiton Hockey Club.”
The youngsters have also been able to get experience of playing with experienced players such as Chloe Strong and Abi Walker, whilst Surbiton’s current international players are also keen to give encouragement and advice when they can.
The future is bright for Surbiton as a mixture of youth and experience should be the recipe for success.