There were more than a handful of tears as Confederates bowed out of the women’s Premier League Hockey title race on Saturday, but coach Fiona Reith was still filled with pride.
She was happy to admit Bathurst St Pat’s deserved the 3-1 minor semi-final win at Cooke Hockey Complex, but couldn’t fault her players and said their 2017 campaign was one to be proud of.
In comparison to the last few years, you can see why.
This year was the first time Confederates had made the semi-finals since re-entering the competition in 2012, in fact it was the first time the side had finished higher than eighth.
It was also the first time Feds have won more than two games in the regular season, and it was also their most productive attacking season by some way too.
The Orange side won six games this year and found the back of the net 27 times, 28 if you include its one minor semi-final goal.
“We got hammered when we first came back,” Reith said.
“We had nothing to lose and everything to gain [on Saturday], the girls had done all the hard work.
“A few of them are disappointed, but a lot of them, they haven’t experienced the defeats of previous year but I think this will be a really good experience for the younger girls and they will learn from that.”
Reith is already looking forward, thinking of season 2018.
“We will keep [all but one player], the only one we will miss is Annabelle Tierney who has gone to America,” she said.
“Other than that we keep the nucleus of the side, so it’s happy days for us, we can work on that.
“We’ve got some good juniors coming through as well who we want to develop.”
After the Saints had scored two goals in quick succession early in the first half, Feds were able to settle and pull it back to 2-1 at the break.
Once play resumed the Orange outfit piled on the pressure, but was unable to find the equaliser it needed.
“We are disappointed but not disgraced. We had our chances and I think if we’d been able to capitalise on those then build the momentum again, we’d have been a chance,” Reith said.
“We lifted [after those two goals], I think that’s a credit to the maturity of some of the more experienced girls we’ve got in the side, they were able to hold the younger girls down.
“The Rach Divalls the Rach Pengillys, they were just fantastic, they helped keep the lid on the simmering emotions.
“But I’ve got to give it to Pat’s, they held us out. Their goalie [Tracey Gunning], I thought was phenomenal, she made some amazing saves.
“For them to be able to shut us out, we had 20 minutes there where we had them under pressure and were giving it to them, they held us, so full credit to them.
“We are disappointed, but I think the better side won [on Saturday]”
Another indication of just how far Feds has come since returning to the Premier League ranks can easily be seen in their performances against the Saints this season, in particular.
Prior to this year, Feds had not beaten Pat’s in 10 games and in five of those, had not found the back of the net.
This season Feds beat the Saints 2-1, lost the return match 2-0 and pushed the blue and whites all the way in Saturday’s semi-final.