IT took a diving Amy Glenn in extra-time to do it, but St Pat’s has earned a place in the women’s Premier League Hockey grand final for the first time in five years.
After a tick over 79 minutes Glen scored the extra-time golden goal her side needed to beat a gallant Orange CYMS 3-2 in the preliminary final at Bob Roach Field.
CYMS had twice come from behind to level – Madie Smith bagging both – the second of which came with two seconds of regulation time remaining.
That forced the game into extra-time. CYMS, who had downed Bathurst City in golden goal seven days earlier, looked as if they’d do it again with two penalty corners in the first period.
But Pat’s held them out and soon after swapping ends, a weaving Kristy Ekert run and Glenn’s dive saw the minor premiers join Lithgow Panthers in the decider.
It was a very relieved coach Jaden Ekert who embraced his players after the final whistle.
“We lost our way a little bit in the second half there in terms of just holding the ball and playing with structure, we just drifted a little bit,” Ekert said.
“When you play scoreboard hockey – they [CYMS] just applied so much pressure. We kept turning the ball over, little things.”
As CYMS fought back from a 1-0 deficit at half-time to force the additional period, Ekert cast a tense figure in the dug out. He was worried his side would fall just short of the grand final once more.
“The corner they scored off just before full-time – I couldn’t watch. We played so well for 60 minutes and to have that happen, it’s gut wrenching. But we still had to go out there and refocus, it was ridiculous,” he said.
“I said to Jim [Muldoon], my assistant coach, that if Kristy gets the ball in the next 30 seconds, something is going to happen. And it did. The rest is history I guess.
“When full-time sounded I looked to Jim and said ‘Not again’. It just reeked of not last year, but the year before when it was down to one goal.
“But heartbreak for those CYMS girls, they played really well. They played a different structure, they fell away in the second half and it worked for them.”
After a nervous start the week before in their major semi-final loss to Lithgow Panthers, this time the Saints were switched on from the opening whistle.
They drew six penalty corners in a dominant first half – Kristy Ekert scoring off the second of those.
CYMS were lucky not to be further behind, but they scrambled well inside the circle. Kayla Russell came up with a particularly impressive block to turn away a Mish Somers bullet.
Down the other end, Pat’s goalkeeper Lilli-Rai Campbell didn’t even touch the ball.
But the second half was a different story as CYMS showed fight. It put the pressure back on the Saints and passes that found the stick in the first stanza started going astray.
In the 46th minute Smith scored off a penalty corner, pouncing on the rebound after Russell’s initial strike was blocked.
Sarah Watterson put Pat’s back in the lead with a brilliant solo effort with 19 to go and was unlucky not to have another inside the final six minutes when hitting the post.
But CYMS kept coming and Smith’s late effort forced extra-time.
The green and golds certainly looked the more dangerous in the opening period, but the Saints held on. It took Glenn to finally kill off their challenge.
Though CYMS exited the title chase, to have come so close to a grand final in its first standalone season in Premier League since 2007, was an impressive effort.
READ MORE: Souths holds out Pat’s to advance
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“It was a matter of inches,” coach Pete Shea said.
“We played really well in the second half to control the game, I thought we did that. But unfortunately they scored a goal against the run of play – Sarah [Watterson] she’s a quality player.
“We gave ourselves plenty of opportunities to score, I guess our execution on short corners let us down a bit.
“We are playing against a St Pat’s team that has been together for many, many years. We’ve thrown people together to form a team and to see the progress this year, it’s just been amazing to see.
“To go down the death in the preliminary final – that’s an amazing achievement. That’s an extraordinary reflection of the players and the effort they have put in during the year.”