Surbiton have promotion within their reach

The Surbiton Ladies 1’s meteoric rise through hockey’s lower leagues comes to a head this weekend with the chance to break into the nation’s top division.

With victory or a second place finish in the Investec Promotion Tournament, which pushes back this Saturday at noon, the Surbiton Ladies will find themselves members of the Women’s Hockey League Premier Division, achieving their fifth promotion in the past eight years.

Captain Vicky Heptonstall believes her team is up to the challenge of taking on the Premier Division, and thinks Surbiton’s experience in tough matches gives them a key advantage over their competition.

“As long as we deliver on the day and have the belief we can go on and be successful,” said Heptonstall. 

“The team is in high spirits after our semi-final cup win against Clifton, as it gave the girls a taste of what a premiership team is like.” 

Surbiton’s rocket trajectory to the Premier Division began in 2004-2005 when a championship in the Surrey Ladies League Premier Division earned them a promotion to the South Club Women’s Hockey Club 3B. Winning that league the following year, Surbiton then spent three seasons in Division Two before a victory there bumped them into Division One.

Finishing at top of the league in Division One in 2009-2010, Surbiton has spent the last two seasons in Conference East of the Investec Women’s Hockey League, where they were runner-up last year.

Led to the Conference East title this season by a league-best defence—allowing only eight goals in league play on the season—the Ladies earned a shot at their first promotion playoff berth.

“It is what we have been aiming for this season and this is where we want to be, so are pleased we have a chance,” said Heptonstall. 

“I expect some of the team will feel more nerves but these are good nerves and hopefully they will have a positive effect on the pitch.”

Surbiton will look to shut down an equally strong defence in Conference West champion Buckingham this Saturday at Bisham Abbey.

Conceding only 13 goals themselves this season, Buckingham has been on a run of success similar to Surbiton in the last decade, winning either promotion or a league title eight of the last ten seasons. The team is set on redemption after failing to earn promotion last season, going undefeated in league play this year.

Normally held over the May bank holiday, the promotion tournament was pushed up a month this year to adjust for the Olympic Test Event set for that weekend. 

Though this has given Surbiton significantly less time to prepare for the tournament than is usual—receiving confirmation of their opponent only last weekend—Heptonstall believes they are determined and ready to face their competition.

“We are preparing no different to any other match. We have played a number of friendlies against Buckingham this season so it won’t be a complete surprise.

“But it is a one off game so who knows! ” 

Surbiton have faced off against Buckingham twice already this season, drawing 1-1 in a friendly at Surbiton in early September and defeating the squad 2-0 in a mid-season friendly at Buckingham in late January.

The January victory was only the second time Buckingham was shutout in a match all season and Surbiton’s first ever victory on Buckingham’s home pitch.

Following a break for the Easter holiday, Surbiton will continue the round robin tournament in Reading with an April 14 match against the Premier Division’s ninth place team, Slough, who faces relegation into one of the three Conference divisions with a poor performance in the tournament.

The next day Surbiton will face Conference North champion Beeston, scorers of a league-best 89 goals on season—almost double Surbiton’s total.

The top two sides in the tournament will earn a place in the Investec Premier Division for the 2012/13 season, becoming two of the nation’s top ten squads.

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