A dramatic final day of action at Pinelands High School saw the PE Vipers surprise to take the first PSI Under-11 Girls title. The girls from the windy city had to do it the hard way with a semi-final win over the West Coast Barracudas that went down to showdowns, before going on to score a goal in each half of the final against the Boland Foxes. Vipers coach and teacher at Port Elizabeth school Collegiate Katie Derry got the team together just two weeks before the tournament, and despite losing their first two games they steadily grew stronger as the weekend progressed.
Having secured a comfortable 5-0 win over the Foxes on the Saturday, once the Vipers got through an intense showdown with the Barracudas after missing the first shot, they were very confident ahead of the final. Madison Meyer scored in the first half, with the Foxes unable to break down the stern Vipers defence, and the second goal came from a counter-attack in the second half with Bella Bisdee finishing it off to clinch victory. Derry said that it had been amazing to watch the girls grow as a team in such a short space of time. “There were no major expectations on them from the start because we didn’t have much time together, but they really gelled nicely in the end,” she said.
Whilst the Vipers’ showdown semi-final win over the Barracudas produced plenty of drama, the second semi-final was just as intense with the previously unbeaten Namibian Hawks going down to the Foxes. The Hawks had looked like the team to beat all weekend, having swept every opponent aside on their way to the semi-finals, but they would hit the post five times in a frustrating 2-1 defeat and had to be content with the bronze medal. Having travelled for over 24 hours by bus from Windhoek the Namibian side impressed with their fluid style of play which saw them move the ball around at speed. However, the post and Foxes goalkeeper of the tournament Amelie du Toit combined to extinguish their hopes of playing in the final, with a goal disallowed on top of everything else.
Coach Melissa Gillies said that despite the disappointment of being knocked out before the final she was proud of the hockey her side had played. “These girls played mature hockey beyond their age, it was a good passing game and I really thought that they were a gold medal side,” she said. Gillies paid tribute to the contribution of player of the tournament Danja Burger. “She was my impact player up front, she was like a bee around a honey pot and scored a lot of goals,” she said. The Hawks’ fellow Namibians the Eagles were the popular winners of the spirit award which sent them off on a high ahead of their long trip home.