A couple of weeks ago, I spoke about the importance of completing Phase 1; qualifying for playoffs.
This past weekend, like most in the hockey community, I have watched Wimbledon take that next step on the ladder of where we want to be.
Their performances over the KO16 and KO8 rounds of the European Hockey League has shown what is possible for English clubs and that, despite the gaps in domestic performances in recent years, we’re not far away.
We know that if we get ourselves to that stage we have every chance of succeeding and Wimbledon have shown that by earning their place in Europe’s Final 4.
First things first however, we have to qualify.
Both Men and Women for Holcombe find themselves in the same boat. By qualifying for the Playoffs in second position, we potentially only have to win one game to qualify for Europe, yet, as with all teams, 2 wins this weekend wins you a championship.
Preparations have been good so far. After taking a week off from hockey at the end of the regular season, we were back at it with preparing for our respective semi-finals. Again, both of us are in the same position with our opponents.
Our women split their league games with East Grinstead; losing at home before beating them away. For us, winning at home before losing away also leaves the contest delicately poised before Saturday.
The Women played a double-header against Canterbury as they themselves prepared for a European venture of their own. Two games in two days were looking to replicate the potential double header for this weekend and wins home and away showed the girls are in a good place with their preparations.
We went out to Belgium last week to play Racing and Royal Leopold; both EHL teams of recent years and perennial challengers in the Belgian league. Back-to-back games on the Wednesday and Thursday night produced two big wins for us as we got back into the rhythm of things and played some good hockey under the circumstances.
In truth, with the game being split into quarters, it almost always comes down to the fourth. If both sides play to how we’re capable, it will come down to 15 minutes of intense hockey; making the right decisions and executing the right plays to be successful – whether that be on the offensive end to chase a game or on the defensive end to close out.
This week will see the final preparations for both sides. There’ll most probably be some re-visiting of penalties and some fine-tuning of penalty corners and tactics, as with all sides that have qualified.
The weekend promises to be a fantastic stage on which Holcombe has the potential to flourish and it’s up to us as player to ensure it does.
Pictures supplied by www.groutphotography.co.uk