Newcomers East Grinstead face champions Surbiton

East Grinstead Women celebrate 2014-15 promotion - 450

Newcomers to the Investec Women’s Hockey League Premier Division, East Grinstead face a baptism of fire with a trip to champions Surbiton on the opening day of the season on Saturday.

They were easily the winners of the Investec Conference East last season, losing just once in the league. But they face a tough challenge against a Surbiton outfit who beat Canterbury 2-1 back in April to successfully defend the Championship title.

“We’ve had a good summer and have picked up some good players,” said coach Mary Booth, whose side have brought in England ace Laura Unsworth from Holcombe, the Haines sisters Takara and Tacita and several others.

“Who knows what will happen against Surbiton? We don’t expect to win, so the pressure is off and if we get anything from the game it’s a bonus,” added Booth.

“The girls are ready to play and want to get their first game out of the way. We’re mindful that five years ago we were in the Sussex Premier Division, so we’re just happy to be where we are.

“Our aim this season is to stay in the Division, but in four weeks that may change!”

Last season’s runners-up Canterbury head to Kent rivals Holcombe on Saturday, with Czech youngster Anna Kolárová being their only major new signing, while Holcombe have a host of new faces including England Under-21 skipper Kim Leiper from Loughborough Students and Welsh internationals Sarah Jones and Leah Wilkinson from Reading.

Reading travel to Buckingham and will aim to continue their form despite several high-profile departures, and have bolstered their squad with Georgie Blackwood from Canterbury (New Zealand), Australian Rose Winter, both of whom have UK passports, and Kiwi Belinda Smith.

Clifton are hosting Bowdon Hightown who welcome back international Sally Walton from Wakefield and see Felicia Haehner join from Harvestuder, Germany. The University of Birmingham are at home against Leicester in the day’s other top flight match. The students’ newcomers include Erica Sanders and Flora Peel from Beeston, Holly Hunt from Bowdon Hightown and Alice Wills from Holcombe.

In the Investec Conference North, last season’s winners Wakefield start with a home match against the University of Durham, while Brooklands Poynton – who pushed Wakefield all the way last term – go to Whitley Bay and Tynemouth.

In the Investec Conference East Sevenoaks – who were runners-up last term - entertain Slough who won the Investec Conference West last term but have changed divisions in 2015-16.

Slough’s change of divisions means the Investec Conference West looks very open this season. Last season’s runners-up Swansea City head to Devon to play Isca, while Gloucester City are at home to newcomers the University of Bristol.

* The above photograph shows East Grinstead celebrating promotion to the Premier Division. Credit: Andy Smith.

Investec Women’s Hockey League (Saturday, September 12 2015)

Investec Premier Division
Clifton v Bowdon Hightown 13:00
Holcombe v Canterbury 16:00
Buckingham v Reading 12:00
Univ of Birmingham v Leicester 12:30
Surbiton v East Grinstead 14:00

Investec Conference East
Sevenoaks v Slough 12:00
St Albans v Chelmsford 12:00
Maidenhead v Hampstead and Westminster 13:30
Harleston Magpies v Wimbledon 14:00
Ipswich v Cambridge City 18:00

Investec Conference North
Belper v Loughborough Students 12:00
Whitley Bay and Tynemouth v Brooklands Poynton 12:30
Beeston v Ben Rhydding 12:00
Wakefield v Univ of Durham 13:30
Springfields v Liverpool Sefton 14:00

Investec Conference West
Bristol Firebrands v Stourport 11:30
Gloucester City v Univ of Bristol 12:00
Oxford Hawks v Trojans 12:00
Olton and West Warwicks v Sutton Coldfield 12:00
Isca v Swansea City 12:30