The Orange under 13s indoor hockey side were always going to break new ground at the NSW State Championships played in Tamworth last weekend.
Incredibly, eight of the nine players who made the trip had never before played a competitive game of indoor hockey.
There is no indoor competition in Orange.
So the team’s success at the three-day carnival was an unexpected and delightful surprise.
The girls finished runners-up in the division three competition, winning five of their seven games in the process.
Given this inexperience, coach Paul Anslow was absolutely wrapped with the performance.
“The girls played very well,” Anslow said.
“Their teamwork and development was just terrific. Our opponents generally had plenty of experience at the game, so to finish second was a great effort.”
The campaign started on Friday, with first-up wins over Bathurst (3-1) and Sydney 3 (7-3) before a tight 3-2 loss to Manning Valley.
But another win on Saturday, this time 3-1 against Coffs Coast, left the girls tied on top of their pool with Bathurst and Manning Valley with one round-robin game remaining.
A comprehensive 8-nil drubbing of New England saw the Orange side progress to Sunday’s semi-finals as their pool’s top seed.
A tight tussle with Tamworth 2 ended 1-nil in Orange’s favour and set up a grand final clash with a strong Goulburn outfit.
That his side went down 6-nil in the decider did not take any gloss of the weekend for Anslow.
“Goulburn were a very strong side and just too good for us,” he said.
“We left Tamworth still very proud of all of the girls.”
While reluctant to single out any of his players for individual praise, Anslow noted that Grace Evans was decorated as the development player of the tournament.
The award, for which Evans received a hockey stick, was chosen by tournament organisers as recognition for the youngsters skills and potential.
Three of the girls will be eligible to return to the under 13s competition next year, while the remainder will try out for positions in the under 15 team.