Courtesy of Take That Photo
Dean Close School U16 boys are the National Schools Hockey Champions 2012, a first for the U16 team although the U18s won in 2009. They entered the Finals competition having taken the South West Regional Championship title earlier in the season.
In the first game of the group stage they faced Ipswich School, East Regional Champions. Amid driving rain, Dean Close narrowly won 1-0 through strong defending, with a notable performance from Ben West. The second game was a tight one against Trinity School who were runners up in the Southern Regional competition, where they lost by just one goal at 1-2, but this put an inordinate amount of pressure on the boys to score point-winning goals in the third game of the group stage taking place the following day.
The atmosphere at dinner that night was subdued, breakfast quiet the following day and the journey to the stadium positively silent, a rarity for the team, such was the pressure they were facing. However, against Ermysted Grammar School (North Regional Champions), Dean Close were 3-0 up by half time and the noise and excitement levels were starting to build. A group of leaping parents then defined the moment when it became clear Dean Close had progressed to the final, even before the end of their match. The parents were watching the other qualifying game on an adjacent pitch which finished a few minutes earlier, and the scoreline was enough for Dean Close to reach the final. The two Dean Close centre forwards enjoyed a congratulatory hug before going on to win their game 7-1 with hat-tricks from Jan-Philipp Biedermann and Lloyd Evans.
A tactical change in the final against Simon Langton Grammar School, from a defensive to an attacking game, ensured a nail-biting match with the bus load of Dean Close spectators creating an incredible atmosphere of support. It paid off. An all-round team performance, with the three forwards all scoring, Dean Close took a convincing 4-0 win and the Championship title.
Director of Sport, Rhys Gwilliam, said: “The number of goals scored under such pressure shows the strength and depth of this U16 team. 15 out of 16 players in this squad have progressed through from Dean Close Preparatory School and were runners up in the U14 National Championship in 2010, being narrowly defeated on penalty flicks. Their development is testament to the standard and quality of coaching throughout Dean Close. In addition, the support amongst fellow pupils, staff and parents has been exemplary throughout the competition. We are extremely grateful to everyone involved and are proud to have yet another national title to add to the growing list of sporting accolades.”