WESTERN made the perfect start to their Combined High Schools Girls State Hockey Championship at Bathurst's Cooke Hockey Complex on Tuesday, posting a 6-1 win over North Coast.
While 140 players have come from across the state to take part in the three-day event, four of those who wore Western colours yesterday were playing on their home turf which made the result even more welcomed.
Kelso High students Maddie Boyce, Kelly Baker and Sarah Watterson lined played for Western as did Oberon High student and Bathurst City Premier League Hockey talent Ivy Moore.
The Bathurst hosted titles will see 10 teams of 14 players compete in pool games ahead of the finals tomorrow with many of those involved set to take part in the Hockey NSW under 18s state championships over the weekend.
Western caught North Coast off their guard in the opening 20 minutes and with a 4-0 lead by half-time, they were well on their way to victory.
Western coach Hayley Lyons, herself a Bathurst product, was happy with the win.
However, she thought her team didn’t cope well with North Coast’s improved defensive effort in the second half.
“I think the girls played well in the first half and in the second half North Coast did improve and we didn’t adjust to that. I think we need to slow our play down so we can take control of the game rather than letting the other team get that little bit on top of us,” she said.
“For their first game we did really well with our passing. I can’t believe how fast those kids can run ... I don’t how they played at that pace for the entirety of the match.
“As always the first aim is to play well each game and make it to the semis. We’ve got to be top two in our pool. We’re definitely looking to the semis and hopefully a spot in the final.”
Baker was very active in the opening half and she helped set up Western’s first goal via a break down the right wing five minutes in.
Baker fed the ball into the circle and another pass saw the ball go to an unmarked Haley Butcherine on the left post, who opened Western’s account.
Four minutes later Chloe Barrett found space in the circle and her reverse stick effort couldn’t be stopped.
It took 12 minutes before North Coast got into the Western circle and earned a penalty corner, but just three minutes later they were watching another shot go in their goal.
Madie Smith bagged her first when she collected a loose ball at the top of the North Coast goal circle, wove past a defender and produced a calm finish around the goalkeeper.
Her second came from a penalty corner in the 20th minute, but after that North Coast started to enjoy some more possession and slowed the pace of the game.
Moore had a chance on the stroke of half-time on the left post, but couldn’t control the ball fast enough to get a shot.
When Barrett scored another goal six minutes into the second half, it looked like Western were headed for a big win.
North Coast tightened their defence though and Western made a string of turnovers as their fast play from the opening 30 minutes was being countered.
The hope for a clean sheet was dashed when Western were caught napping in defence with six minutes to go, leaving opposing striker Billie Venn King open on the right post.
Watterson got the margin back out to five with three minutes left on the clock.
The first match for Western on Wednesday will be against Sydney South West at 9am before their final pool match against Riverina at 11.20am.
WESTERN 6 (Madie Smith 2, Chloe Barrett 2, Haley Butcherine, Sarah Watterson) def NORTH COAST 1 (Billie Venn King)