Glasgow University Women’s Hockey Club’s (GUWHC) first game of the season against Hillhead was never going to be easy. With a squad of twenty arriving to be considered for team selection, new playing rules to contend with, and facing a team from the league above their own, the 3-0 defeat belies the many encouraging signs displayed by the team.
After a disappointing relegation into National 3 League at the end of last season, Glasgow seemed determined to come back strong this year. New coach Nic Pitticas has set about plans to turn their fortunes around by improving both match-play and fitness in the coming months.
Hillhead made a strong start, demonstrating the benefit of their preseason training. They won an early penalty corner but it was comfortably dealt with by a sturdy University defence. The GU girls went immediately on the counter-attack, almost sneaking an early goal after some intense pressure.
The new ‘self pass’ rule did appear to cause some initial confusion for Glasgow due to their lack of training at this early stage in the season. However, two smart stops from goalkeeper Camilla Perselli and a quick attack down the left wing saw Glasgow gain in confidence. Jill Symmington was unlucky not to score after Glasgow’s first penalty corner but saw her effort just about dealt with by a scrambling Hillhead defence.
Given their pre-season training, it was not surprising to see Hillhead back on top of GU seconds later, forcing Glasgow captain Hannah Lavelle into some last ditch defending. Glasgow went to the break level after some gutsy defending against wave after wave of Hillhead pressure.
The game began to lull but a swift attack by Hillhead caught Glasgow napping, and they subsequently took the lead through a sharp finish. Steph Leonard took over in goal for Glasgow, and made some impressive saves before succumbing to a thigh injury.
Glasgow were able to keep the score at 1-0 thanks to solid defending, yet Pitticas will have been frustrated by his team’s lack of creative flare in front of goal.
Kat Kelly was unfortunate not to prevent Hillhead extending their lead after a resolute defensive display, and the scoring was soon finished as Hillhead exploited a tired Glasgow.
A 3-0 victory to Hillhead failed to do justice to the team spirit already evident in the GUWHC side. It was pleasing to see an element of consistency maintained throughout the squad and illustrated that the strength on offer will give Pitticas intense competition for places and a welcome headache when it comes to selection as the season gets underway.