When the Dean Close U18s boys travelled to the National Hockey Stadium for the semi final of the National Knockout competition, they knew they were only the second side in the history of the School to reach this stage. It had been a remarkable achievement, particularly since every previous round had been drawn away from home. They started their campaign with a win away at Prior Park 2-1, then beat Canford away 3-2, then went on to Oxford to play Magdalen College who they beat 2-1. They were then drawn in the quarter final against Kingston Grammar School away and won 3-2; quite a journey!
The semi final at Lee valley was against Oakham School. The match started at a very high pace with chances at both ends and with both goalkeepers making good saves. After a period of attacking from Oakham, Dean Close broke away with Oli Evans, Elliot Bancroft and Matt Court combining to force a penalty stroke. Matt scored the penalty and Dean Close went 1-0 up. Oakham responded strongly and from a penalty corner scored a superb reverse stick and then after several attacks went 2-1 up. Dean Close responded with captain, Will Hewer, and Sam Norwood driving the team forward. The team equalised from Matt Court after a good move involving Oli Evans and Noah Hagen. As the first half was about to end, Oakham scored after several defensive errors to go into half time 3-2 ahead. Dean Close dominated the second half with Oakham hardly getting a shot on goal. Chance after chance fell to Dean Close with Sam Norwood and Oli Evans trying to force an equaliser. Dean Close’s short corner routine let them down badly and they were unable to score so finally lost 3-2.
It was an extremely disappointing result for the players but still an amazing achievement. Will Hewer, the captain, led by example and with Matt Court and Oli Evans’ goals during the campaign, the side become close knit and hard to beat. A special mention goes to goalkeeper, Rory Kavanagh, who had an outstanding season and kept us in so many matches throughout the season.