FOR the first time in five years, the women’s Premier League Hockey grand final will not feature Bathurst City and the reason behind it is Libby Smith.
The CYMS talent saw City exit the title race when she scored a 74th minute golden goal in extra-time in the minor semi-final at Bob Roach Field. That made it 4-3.
After City goalkeeper Maddy Tattersall had made a brilliant diving stick save to deny one of her team-mates, Smith followed up and belted the loose ball into the back of the net.
“I pretty much just had Pete’s [coach Pete Shea] voice in the back of my head saying ‘Hit the thing’. That’s all it’s been at training, hit the ball, hit the ball,” Smith said.
“It was so good when it went in, it was the best feeling ever.
“We came back into the comp and our goal was to make the finals. Now to be here and win this, it’s awesome.
“It’s always a tough game with them, they always put up a real good fight.”
And a real good fight it certainly was, with both teams showing the value of earning penalty corners.
City scored the opener after just three minutes when a Lisa Quinn deflection from a penalty corner found the mark.
On 14 minutes when CYMS had its first chance from the set play it too led to a goal, Kayla Russell belting in the equaliser.
Seven minutes later CYMS had the lead and once again it came thanks to a penalty corner play – this time Meredith Bone coming up with the telling touch.
Holding a 2-1 lead CYMS continued to pressure and the Orange outfit very nearly went two goals up when once more putting its penalty corner battery into action.
After the initial shot was blocked CYMS followed up and sent in another attempt and though it got past Tattersall, City’s Kelly Baker swooped in behind her to clear the ball to safety.
Six minutes out from the break City was back on level terms as yet another goal came from a penalty corner, Quinn getting the deflection on Baker’s strike from the top of the circle to make it 2-all.
That set up a tense second half which saw the pressure build on both teams.
Four times CYMS turned away City from penalty corner plays, but when Kelsey Willott got in behind the defence and fired off a cross which Shona Jarvis slotted in, it looked as if the hosts would advance.
Jarvis’ goal came with a tick over 16 minutes left on the clock, but with its season on the line, CYMS rallied.
It was Smith who put CYMS back on level terms with 10 minutes remaining and 3-all was how it stood as the siren sounded.
That saw the need for extra-time – two periods of 7½ minutes each with the first team to score declared the victor.
It was Smith who scored that telling strike.
While City exited the title chase in the first week of finals for just the second time in its 11-year history, coach Jill Long was still proud of her players.
“It was a fantastic game, both teams never gave up. A lot of my experienced players said they have not played a game of that pace since the grand final last year,” Long said.
“It was anybody’s game, we both had chances. Their plenty corner was certainly brutal, which was great for them, but our penalty corners worked for us the same.
“Our young ones and old ones gave their heart and soul in that game, so I’m very proud of them.”
Long said City, who were hit hard by injuries at the back end of the season, should be proud to have reached the finals once more.
“Bathurst City has had 11 years and in that time we have made the semi-finals 11 times. Only twice have we gone out in the first week of semis and seven of those years we were grand finalists – we couldn’t ask for anything more,” she said.
“We had a lot of our older players retire after the grand final last year, so to come back into the semis again was great. It was also a good effort with the amount of injuries we had too – I think we had seven injured at one stage in the last five weeks. We were leading the comp until we got massive injuries.
“I’m not disappointed, we had a good year and we had a lot more young ones playing for us this year.
“I was really proud of our girls and I thought CYMS stamped their authority and everyone who plays them should watch them.”