BATHURST Souths gave themselves an ideal warm up to the women’s Premier League Hockey finals as they held out for a 5-4 win against an inspired Orange Ex-Services side at the Cooke Hockey Complex on Saturday.
A Jess Watterson hat-trick did the most of the damage for the home side in their final regular season fixture to give her side some chance of leaping into third place on the ladder.
While Parkes beat Dubbo Blue Jays 3-0 to ensure that did not happen, fourth place gives the two blues a home semi-final against Lithgow Zig Zag.
Meetings with Ex-Services have been tricky for Souths this season and as Saturday proved no different – the result still up in the air in the final minute – coach Damien Carter believes his players earned a shot of confidence.
“A team like ‘Servies, they’ve been our bogey side, but we’ve beaten them twice this year. That was a 5-4 and we had a 2-1 in Orange. That’s good to have that bogey game out of the way. To beat them twice in a year, we haven’t done that for a while and they’re the team who knocked us out of the semis last year,” he said.
“We’ve made the semis now, we’ve just got to win each week and make that effort for each other. Defensively we’ve got a bit to work on, but we were patching up players. Next weekend we have a full squad to pick from.”
"They had nothing to lose so they got out there and had a bit of fun. We had to stop putting pressure on ourselves and we did. The talk was a lot more positive. We asked ourselves ‘What for?’ at half-time. We’re here to play hockey and have fun"
After some early attacks from Ex-Services, it was Souths who got on the board first through Ali Stanford with seven minutes gone. A Watterson strike from a penalty corner deflected off Orange goalkeeper Erin Horan, but Stanford was on hand at the right post to help it home.
Watterson then scored her first goal via a powerful strike from the top of the circle with 15 minutes gone.
The visitors almost hit back when Larissa Atkinson found the back of the goal from a penalty corner play, but her shot was deemed too high.
However, Shian Duboc kept Ex-Services in the contest as she scored off a break down the left side a minute out from the break.
Ex-Services carried that momentum into the second half and Alison Baker got them level six minutes after the resumption.
While Jess Watterson found a goal against the run of play Duboc hit back quickly to make it 3-all.
Souths dug deep as they looked to carry momentum into the finals, Watterson bagging her third 10 minutes out from full-time before Tahlia Cranston made it 5-3.
A Kasey Byrne goal gave Ex-Services a sniff at snatching a draw, and it almost came as Souths had to survive a circle penetration in the final five seconds.
Ex-Services coach Mitch Kennewell said his side, who finished the season in seventh position, lifted for the back half of the match following a positive talk during the break.
“Goals have been hard to come by this season, so they would have been happy to net a few. I would’ve been happy for them to get a win because they’ve played well this year with no result,” he said.
“There was a bit of relaxation [after half-time]. They had nothing to lose so they got out there and had a bit of fun. We had to stop putting pressure on ourselves and we did. The talk was a lot more positive. We asked ourselves ‘What for?’ at half-time. We’re here to play hockey and have fun.”
BATHURST SOUTHS 5 (Jess Watterson 3, Ali Stanford, Tahlia Cranston) def ORANGE EX-SERVICES 4 (Shian Duboc 2, Alison Baker, Kasey Byrne)