Hat-trick of hat-tricks gives UEA women first league win

UEA’s Lacrosse women got off the mark in BUCS Midlands 2A thanks to a comfortable 14-5 win over Warwick 2s at Colney Lane in their first match back after Christmas.

In front of a vociferous crowd, hat-tricks for Fiona Smith, Phoebe Hartz and man of the match Tilly Pembroke were added to by a brace from Emily Winter, plus strikes from Adela Milà-de-Puri, Amelia Ford, and Georgie Sutton, who swapped places with Winter in goal for the final quarter with UEA cruising.

And it was a dominant display from UEA, who despite having similar personnel looked a different side to the one beaten 11-3 in the blazing heat of the West Midlands on the opening day of the season in October.

UEA were 2-0 up early on through Smith and Winter, before Hartz and Olivia Stock both saw attempts saved by the Warwick keeper as the home side burst out of the traps. Tilly Pembroke then added a third before good play from Lottie Payne won a set piece from which Pembroke slashed a shot just wide. Smith then scored her second for a dominant UEA.

It was from a solo run that one of Warwick’s forwards halted the UEA onslaught, smashing an effort in off the pipe. However, UEA’s good defensive presence prevented any more goals in the first quarter as Warwick came into the game more, with goalkeeper Sutton also making a useful catch.

The Eagles’ backline looked solid throughout despite the absences of regulars Jemima Rohde and Ellie Lynch. Kiki Abay and Alex Sturdy led the backline which included Bee Belkacem pushed back from her usual midfield role and late call-up Fiona McMartin who was excellent as she gains confidence and experience in the firsts.

In the second period, Hartz netted her second as UEA re-asserted their dominance to lead 5-1. More organised UEA defence restricted Warwick to a shot that hit the post in a sustained spell of pressure, before they did find a way through to pull another back. However, UEA were soon dominating again. Warwick’s keeper needed to make a fine save before Smith found the net to secure a first-half hat-trick and give UEA more breathing space at 6-2 by the half-time break.

A clinical third quarter saw UEA really start to enjoy their Lacrosse and pull away to create an unassailable lead.

Hartz has made a habit of not wasting time from the whistle and grabbed UEA’s seventh soon after the restart. Creative midfielder Milà-de-Puri can always be relied upon for a goal and was next on the scoresheet, picking the ball up from the draw and running through the Warwick defence. She was blocked but broke through from the resulting set-piece.

Soon Hartz, who drew superbly all afternoon to start attacks for her teammates, had her own hat-trick. UEA were a team brimming with confidence by this point, with everything going their way. The experienced Winter was responsible for two superb catches in the Warwick half in transition, also bringing in freshers Payne, Stock and Carol Li.

Li is a real prospect for UEA, an effortlessly confident cradler of the ball who is not afraid to attempt a cut or go for goal when a chance presents itself.

However, it was one of the team’s elder stateswomen, Pembroke, who took UEA into double figures. Not to be outdone, Smith made a great run and also nearly got a fourth with a lovely shot.

Next it was fresher forward Ford’s turn. Intelligent movement paid off as she got herself in the perfect position in front of goal to receive the ball in space and excellently slot a shot past the Warwick keeper with pinpoint accuracy for 11-3.

Pembroke forced a save from the Warwick stopper in search of her hat-trick and a near-perfect quarter was capped with midfield lynchpin Winter grabbing another to complete a well-deserved brace and leave UEA 12-3 up.

No sooner had Sutton come outfield than she had scored for UEA after a great run and crease roll. Li’s search to get in on the act saw her force a smart save. Warwick then pulled one back, but by then the visitors were playing only for pride with the score at 13-4.

Pembroke finally got her hat-trick, with relieved celebrations to match, completing a successful goalscoring afternoon for the Eagles. Warwick scored another consolation on the break while both Pembroke and Stock went close in the closing stages.

A Warwick player accidentally fell and hit her head after UEA’s defence stood their ground, and sat out the final minutes, watching her side put a shot wide and test Winter with a shot which she comfortably saved before the final whistle blew at 14-5 to UEA, the outcome having effectively been sewn up since the third quarter.

For the first time in the league this season, UEA’s exciting squad of technically gifted freshers, experienced returning players and strong old girls really gelled and played to their full potential. That the fourteen goals were spread around the attack is testament to the teamwork and understanding developed by Sutton’s side.

The timely victory marked the first of five season-defining fixtures for the team. They play bottom-placed Derby home and away in a pair of matches crucial to the final BUCS standings, a team with an inferior goal difference and now points total.

Captain Sutton said securing the first win was ‘a relief’.

She continued: ‘We’re not bottom of the league material. Getting that win was very nice. It felt deserved, our cup games so far have been relatively easy, so it was nice to win a game where we were evenly matched. They gave us a run for our money.

‘The plan was for me to stay in goal, but as we pulled away I decided to come out. I was running along the pitch and the sun was going down, I was going to slow it down and pass it around but then I remembered Fiona Smith at half-time noticed they were not marking the crease rolls, she’d scored one earlier. It worked, and it was very satisfying!’

Sutton praised the fans who turned out to provide their support: ‘It’s a lot of fun, I was very keen on getting a big crowd. If we had a big crowd behind us, I knew that would spur us on and given us that extra boost to make the difference. It definitely helped.’

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Tony Allen

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May 2022
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