Craigholme School, with the impressive Justice sisters in the line-up, repeated their triumph of 2015 when they were crowned Scottish Indoor Champions at the Scottish Under-18 Girls’ Hockey finals at Bell’s Sports Centre in Perth.
Craigholme faced the regional winners from North, South, East and West, plus both the winners and runners-up from Midlands.
In the opening pool match of the day Craigholme took on the reigning champions, Strathallan School.
The match was tightly contested, with Stathallan taking the lead three times, only to be pegged back by Craigholme on each occasion.
The Craigholme scorers were captain Kayleigh Justice, Elle Bryce and Margery Justice.
Following the opening 3-3 draw, Craigholme played Robert Gordon’s College in their second pool match, needing a win to guarantee a place in a semi-final.
That was achieved courtesy of a hat-trick of goals by Kayleigh – one from open play, one from a penalty stoke and one from a corner.
In the semi-final, Craigholme’s opponents were last year’s runners-up, George Watson’s College.
At half-time, it was poised at 2-2, with Craigholme having twice taken the lead, both goals scored by Margery.
During a good opening spell in the second half, Craigholme opened up at two-goal lead, with Elle and Natasha Sockalingum both scoring.
George Watson’s pulled one back, before Natasha showed great skill and composure to dodge the Watson’s goalkeeper and score Craigholme’s fifth goal of the match.
During the closing minutes, Craigholme retained good possession to ensure them their 5-3 win.
With Strathallan defeating Kilgraston 4-0 in the other semi-final, the final was a re-match of the opening game of the day – Craigholme versus Strathallan.
Craigholme had learned from their opening match that Strathallan’s primary goal-scoring threats came from a forward getting in behind their defensive line and their drag-flick at a penalty corner.
So tactical measures were taken to drop the defensive zone deeper and send goal-keeper, Fiona Bell, aggressively “out to the ball” at defensive corners. These measures worked a treat, forcing Strathallan to look to other options to create scoring opportunities.
Craigholme, through Kayleigh, opened the scoring in the first minute, following a quick inter-passing move: Kayleigh to Natasha to Margery to Kayleigh.
Strathallan equalised following a quick take at a free hit award, which caught Craigholme cold.
Kayleigh then scored her sixth goal of the tournament, after converting her second penalty stroke of the day.
Margery scored from a straight strike at a penalty corner to give Craigholme a 3-1 lead, which they took right into the last minute of the match, when Strathallan won a penalty corner. The corner shot, goalbound, was saved by Margery on her foot and Strathallan scored from the resulting penalty stroke. With only 30 seconds remaining Craigholme held on to win 3-2.
So congratulations to a talented group of girls, who are coached by the Justice sisters’ Mum, Wendy. Two wins in three years is an excellent achievement for one of the smaller schools.