Having faced their first challenge of what head coach Phil Collier had dubbed the ‘Carolina Challenge’ in a 48-hour delay at London Heathrow, the England team were excited to get their visit off to a winning start against NCAA Division I side Davdison College.
England knew to expect an athletic and well-drilled collegiate team in Davidson, and were expecting a competitive game. They started strongly, with smart attacking play drawing 3 free position shots in the first 5 minutes, all of which were converted by Laura Merrifield. England maintained this strong start; limiting Davidson’s attacking opportunities through staunch one on one defence from the likes of Annie Hillier and Emma Oakley, and excellent goalkeeping from Sally Keogh. The resulting turnovers were quickly capitalised on, and England managed to put 5 goals past Davidson before the opposition had the opportunity to reply. England responded through Liv Wimpenny, but getting on the scoreboard gave Davidson greater confidence to challenge the England defence further. Despite playing a strong man-down defence, which kept the collegiate side out for 2 minutes, England then conceded a few swift goals which resulted from strong individual drives from Davidson. However, Jenny Simpson put away two goals at the end of the first half to give England a comfortable 9-3 lead going into the break.
England knew that they had to maintain a high standard to put the game to bed in the second half, and came out with 3 unanswered goals after the break. Camilla Hayes silenced the partisan crowd and cheered the England sideline with an epic ground ball overhead flick for the goal of the game. Davidson played with high intensity right to the final whistle; with a minute left to go in the game and with nothing to lose, the opposition side scored after a strong drive through the England defence. However, not to be outdone England won the ball off the draw, and Laura Merrifield weaved through Davidson’s defence to score the last goal of the game, with the final score reading 13-6 to England.
Scorers: Anderson 1G, 1A, Brett 1G 1A, Faram 1G, Hayes 1G, Merrifield 5G, Lafferty 1G, Simpson 2G, Wimpenny 1G
The following day England faced Limestone College. England were expecting a different style of play from a team coached by Canada’s Scott Tucker, and in particular were focused on adapting attacking moves to match differing forms of high-pressure zone defence. England had a good start, and moved the ball well in attack, measured by a high number of assisted goals led by Torz Anderson with 4 assists. Although the England defence started somewhat slowly and felt there was room for improvement with a halftime score of 9-6, they came into their own in the second half and managed to prevent Limestone scoring after the interval. Kirsten Lafferty had a strong impact on the game, coming out with some important ground balls and a total of 6 draw controls to swing the momentum in England’s favour. This proved key in the final scoreline of 17-6 to England, with England executing their game plan effectively in attack, evidenced by multiple scorers. England face current NCAA National Champions, the University of North Carolina on Saturday.
Scorers: Anderson 4A, Brett 4G 2A, Lafferty 2G 1A, Morrill 2G 1A, Simpson 2G, R Smith 1G, Wimpenny 4G, Hayes 1G, Lytollis 1G.