Stars of the Olympics on the move

Investec branded hockey goal with goalkeeper

The Investec Women’s Hockey League gets underway this weekend after a stunning summer of Olympic hockey which resulted in a bronze medal for GB women’s team that brings renewed focus on the silverware at stake in the league. And with a £10,000 prize fund also at stake, the stars of the Investec Women’s Hockey League will be sure to have their eyes on the prize.

Following the Olympic Games, Great Britain’s hockey heroines will be strutting their stuff in this season’s Investec Women’s Hockey League with a number of them representing new teams.

Investec Women’s Hockey Championship Finals get new format
A new streamlined format sees the Championship playoffs condensed into an exciting showpiece weekend of hockey. Over 20-21 April 2013, the best teams in the Investec Women’s Hockey League will go for gold with top prizes once again at stake.

Saturday 20 April 2013
1st in Investec Premier Division v 4th in Investec Premier Division
2nd in Investec Premier Division v 3rd in Investec Premier Division

Sunday 21 April
Third/Fourth playoff: Loser of Match 1 (1v4) v Loser of Match 2 (2v3)
Grand Final: Winner of Match 1 (1v4) v Winner of Match 2 (2v3)

In addition to these matches the weekends will also feature two extra matches from the Promotion Tournaments, where the three Conference winners and the ninth placed team in the Premier Division battle it out for two top flight places in the following season.

Georgie Twigg

Investec Women’s Premier Division
Saturday 15 September
Bowdon Hightown v Canterbury  11:45
Olton & West Warwicks v Leicester  12:00
Slough v Clifton  12:00
Surbiton v Reading  14:00
University of Birmingham v Sutton Coldfield  12:30

Last season’s champions Leicester welcome Team GB medallist Nicola White from Slough to join her international teammates including Chloe Rogers, Anne Panter, Hannah Macleod and Crista Cullen in the East Midlands as they seek to retain their title this season. Emma Clarke rejoins Leicester after a season at St. Albans for another year under the tutelage of Chris Mayer whilst England Under 21 international Jo Hunter joins from Beeston. Leicester travel to Olton & West Warwicks on the first day of the season with their Midlands rivals having added a number of young players from the Conference Divisions.

Steve Bayer takes over the primary coaching duties at last season’s runners-up Reading, where he was a coach last season, and he will be joined in leading the Blues by GB captain Kate Walsh, who will work alongside Bayer as well as playing for the club once again.  Walsh’s GB International teammate Susie Gilbert joins Reading’s ranks from University of Birmingham. For Reading, retaining their internationals has been as important a move as additions to their squad as they seek to replicate last season’s strong performance. Reading travel to newly promoted Surbiton on Saturday for the London-based side’s inaugural Premier Division fixture. Surbiton strengthened their squad over the summer with the addition of Team GB bronze medallist Georgie Twigg (above) from Clifton as well as Hannah Coulson from Slough and two England U21 internationals; Sarah Page and Sarah Haycroft both join from University of Birmingham, the latter returning to the club.

Canterbury’s Nick Clark has coaxed German Lisa Hapke back to Kent for a second spell with the club with the aim of improving on their finish last season when they finished just below Leicester and Reading; their campaign begins with their longest away trip to Bowdon Hightown.  Claire Lowry has ended her stint at ARA La Gantoise, who finished 6th in the EuroHockey Club Champions Trophy last season, in order to rejoin Bowdon Hightown. Lowry is joined by other new faces in the shape of England international Abi Harper from Reading and Lucy McNaught who rejoins the club after two seasons with Team Bath Buccaneers.

Emily Atkinson in action for University of Birmingham in the Investec Women's Hockey LeagueEmily Atkinson (from University of Birmingham, pictured right) and a host of players from the Conference Divisions joined Clifton over the summer for a youthful looking 2012-13 squad that travels to Slough on the first day. Slough has lost several players from last season’s squad that avoided relegation at the Promotion Tournament, but have added the experienced former international John Shaw as their coach and a number of young players to those existing members. The final fixture in the Investec Women’s Premier Division pits West Midlands rivals University of Birmingham and Sutton Coldfield against each other. Both sides have enjoyed a relatively quiet summer of player movements and having finished two points apart last season, promise a close matchup as the season begins.

Investec Women’s Conference East
Saturday 15 September

Bromley and Beckenham v Sevenoaks  14:45
Horsham v Ipswich  13:30
Oxford Hawks v Harleston Magpies  12:00
St. Albans v Chelmsford  14:15
Wimbledon v Old Loughtonians  15:00

Sevenoaks will hope to step up in Investec Conference East having seen Surbiton earn promotion from the same division last season. Sevenoaks missed out on the Promotion Tournament by just four points and have added Susanna Finlayson from Brooklands Poynton in their bid for the title. The Kent side make the short trip north to face Bromley & Beckenham, newly promoted into the league and coached by Ben Allberry. Wimbledon, the Conference’s other new girls, host an Old Loughtonians side that avoided relegation last season by a single point.
 
Investec Women’s Conference North
Saturday 15 September

Beeston v Wakefield Bradford 12:00
Brooklands Poynton v Loughborough Students 12:00
Doncaster v Liverpool Sefton  12:00
University of Durham v Ben Rhydding  12:00
Whitley Bay & Tynemouth v Cannock  12:30

In Investec Conference North Emma Onien returns for her second spell at Durham University having last played for the side in 2010. Onien moves from Spanish side Club de Campo Villa de Madrid. Durham also welcomes back Gabrielle Foster from neighbouring North East club Whitley Bay & Tynemouth. The team that finished second in the Conference last season hosts Ben Rhydding, promoted back into the national league for the first time since relegation in 2008-09. Last season’s Champions Beeston face Wakefield Bradford at home on the opening day having retained the majority of their first placed squad with the exception of Hunter. They have also added Jess Webb from Team Bath Buccaneers to a squad transformed by Matt Taylor last season.

Investec Women’s Conference West
Saturday 15 September

Bristol Firebrands v Buckingham  11:30
Isca University v Trojans  12:00
Staines v Gloucester City  13:30
Stourport v Barnes HE 12:00
Taunton Vale v Swansea City  13:30

Buckingham have won the Conference title in the win in each of the last two seasons but on both occasions have failed to make it to the Investec Women’s Premier Division through the playoffs. This weekend, the Investec Conference West Champions travel to Bristol Firebrands for their first fixture of the 2012-13 season. Zak Jones has added former GB international Jo Ellis to a squad that missed out on the Premier Division by finishing third in the Promotion Tournament. Buckingham also welcome the return of Zoe Shipperley from Team Bath Buccaneers as well as Abby Webb from University of Birmingham. Taunton Vale last competed in the league in 2007-08 and host Swansea City on Saturday. Taunton Vale are joined by Stourport as newly promoted sides and the West Midlands side hosts Barnes HE on their first day at this level.

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