Preview: Who's shaping up well in the Investec Women's Hockey League?

Surbiton earn Investec Women's Hockey League title
The Investec Women's Hockey League Premier Division begins this coming weekend, with the nation's best ten female teams doing battle across the country.

Opening day fixtures
Sat 14 Sep:

Beeston v Hampstead & Westminster 4pm
Buckingham v Clifton Robinsons 12pm
Holcombe v East Grinstead 3:30pm
Loughborough Students v Surbiton 2pm
University of Birmingham v Bowdon 3:30pm

Having finished only a couple of wins outside the top four last season, Beeston will be aiming to go one better this time around. With the addition of international experience in Argentian Agustina Fernandez Merlo and American Jenny Rizzo, they will feel they have strengthened their squad and will look to start well in their first home vs newly-promoted Hampstead & Westminster.

Following last season's seventh-placed finish, Bowdon will be looking to build on a solid season last time out. Six points clear of the bottom two and nine behind the top four in 2018/19, they will be looking upwards with the likes of Sam Quek, Kirsty Mackay and returning Xenna Hughes among a group of key players.

Having powered into fourth last season, Buckingham will be looking to maintain the very high standards they set in 2018/19. With leaders like Zoe Shipperley, they performed very well to reach the end-of-season play-offs. In adding the likes of Lucy Wood to their squad they have the ability to once again make their mark at the top end of the table.

Clifton Robinsons
One or two more positive results would have seen Clifton move from fifth into the end-of-season league finals, and they will be aiming to perform well in 2019/20. An opening day game away to Buckingham will be a tough test but also a good marker for their progress over the summer. Phoebe Richards will come up against her former club in that game, while Carmen Ansley moves from Swansea.

East Grinstead
Having finished third last season and then losing in the semi-finals, it was another very solid season for EG. With the likes of Sophie Bray, Laura Unsworth and new signing Amy Costello and more on their books, they have experience throughout the side and will be going all out for success once more. With Tess Howard joining fellow young talent like Ellie Rayer, there are exciting times ahead.

Hampstead & Westminster
Performing brilliantly to earn promotion last season, Kate Richardson-Walsh's side are giving themselves every chance of success in the top flight with some excellent additions to the squad. Former FIH World Player of the Year Lily Owsley has joined their ranks, with fellow internationals Grace Balsdon, Holly Hunt and Joie Leigh also joining what looks to be an exciting project.

Finishing top of the table and then only losing 1-0 in the end of the season final, only the finest of margins prevented Holcombe from having a fantastic season in 2018/19. They have kept a settled squad for the new season, and an opening day match against East Grinstead is perhaps the most eye-catching game as the new season gets underway on Saturday.

Loughborough Students
Having been promoted last season, Loughborough will fancy their chances of another good season as they reach the top flight. Fresh from scoring her first international goals, Izzy Petter looks to be an exciting signing, with more international experience from Lizzie Neal and Miriam Pritchard. Lorna Mackenzie looks another key addition from Stourport. They will be pleased to start the season at home, but in Surbiton they have been handed a real test in their first match.

Reigning Champions from last season, Surbiton had finished second in the ten-team league before overcoming East Grinstead and then Holcombe in the end of season finals. They've added talented young players Eloise Stenner and Holly Munro, but Izzy Petter has moved to Loughborough so there will be a number of new faces as they look to once again make their mark on England's top league. The return of Beckie Middleton will also be a boost to the reigning title holders.

University of Birmingham
After last season's eighth-placed finish, the students will be looking for a slightly more comfortable season this time around. Having lost Lily Owsley, Amy Costello and Holly Hunt, the challenge is made slightly harder but there is plenty of quality in the squad, as shown by their home win over Surbiton back in March. Coca Hall, Lauren Hunt and Pip Lock will also boost their ranks this year.

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