St Hilda’s has reinforced its reputation as the best women’s hockey team among the University of Melbourne’s residential colleges after claiming back-to-back titles courtesy of a stunning and nail-biting grand final victory over Ormond College.
Up 1-0 at half time in the decider courtesy of a Lucy Burbury goal, Hilda’s then found themselves trailing 2-1 as Ormond surged back into the contest. But with time running down, Phoebe McIntosh finished off a well worked penalty corner to draw Hilda’s level and set up a thrilling finale. Neither side could find a winner before the full time whistle, leaving the match to be decided by a penalty shootout.
With the winning team determined by the best of five shots followed by sudden death if required, it was the young women from Hilda’s who managed to hold their nerve when it counted as they prevailed 3-2 on penalties, with goalkeeper Eve Gregor proving the hero.
Having never played hockey, let alone been a goalkeeper prior to coming to Hilda’s, Gregor managed to force an Ormond player to send her shot narrowly wide of the target in what would be the final action of an enthralling game to give Hilda’s the crown. This came just days after she had helped to send Hilda’s into the decider after standing firm in a semi final penalty shootout triumph against Trinity.
"I was so nervous, it was terrifying," Gregor said of the grand final shootout.
"The shootout in the grand final felt much harder (than the semi) because there were more people watching and more pressure because it was the grand final.
Gregor borrowed the gear of Hilda’s men’s goalkeeper Liam Lowe for each of the matches, but the first year Bachelor of Science student from Moama says it was Lowe’s insight and support throughout which proved to be even more invaluable.
"At full time in the semi final, Liam came over to me and took me through a quick crash course on how penalties work, and I guess I just winged it. I just had to try and do my best and thankfully it paid off," a modest Gregor said.
"I’ve got a lot to thank Liam for. He helped me warm up before each game, gave me tips on things I should know so he was awesome."
Making Gregor’s story even more amazing was the fact that she started out as the team’s backup goalkeeper.
"I was the backup goalkeeper but Claire Cook couldn’t make a few of the games so she asked me if I could be the goalie and I said ok," Gregor said.
Before she could add another word on why she put her name down to be in the team, McIntosh added jokingly, “There are only so many girls tall enough to wear Liam’s gear.”
As Gregor, McIntosh and Caitie Sampson reminisced on what the team had achieved, the elation and sense of pride was still evident.
"We were told last year that it was the first time Hilda’s had either been in or won a grand final in hockey so it was really exciting to go back-to-back," said Sampson, who along with McIntosh were two of four students who had also been part of Hilda’s title winning team last year.
A delighted Sampson and McIntosh, who both took penalties in the shootout and also play hockey for the University of Melbourne, believe the team’s success came down to the camaraderie and genuine team first attitude.
“A number of the girls had never played hockey before but after the first try outs when we saw how good some them had picked up the game, we were pretty confident that we could give the competition a good crack again this year," said Sampson.
"We knew it would be a pretty tight competition but at the end of the day I think what won it for us was that we played better as a team. Some of the teams we played against probably had better individual players but it was our strength as a unit that made the difference.
Sampson also says the tense, high pressure nature of their semi final win against Trinity held them in good stead to face Ormond.
"We knew it would be a tough game against Trinity but we knew the first two games would allow the girls to get to know each other and really get into it," said Sampson.
"The Trinity game set us up well for the grand final."
"There is always a great bunch of girls to get around here which just makes it really fun. It was great because those of us who had played before could trust and know that the other girls would be able to hold their own against people who have played before.
The players also reserved special praise for coaches Mia Shaddock and Keely Abbot, who were both part of St Hilda’s victorious team last year.
"They definitely got everyone in and around the team which was awesome," said Sampson on Shaddock and Abbot’s impact.
"They did a lot of encouraging from the sideline and because they were vocal, it made everyone else really get into it. They were great motivators."
It may be a bit early to start talking three-peats but if the nature this year’s achievements and Communitas of this team is anything to go by, who would dare rule it out.
St Hilda's College is a living community and residential college on campus at the University of Melbourne.
We acknowledge and pay respect to the Wurrundjeri people of the Kulin Nation, the Traditional Owners of the land upon which our college is situated. We pay our respect to all the Elders of Indigenous students who call St Hilda’s home. We also acknowledge all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander members of our community, the University of Melbourne, and the wider world.