Led by a remarkable performance from national goalkeeper Alysa Xavier, the Flora GCC under-21 ladies hockey team carted off their 4th trophy in as many years of the Magnolias Indoor Hockey Championship after surviving a penalty shootout against the hosts over the weekend.
Xavier’s heroics between the uprights were complimented by solid performances from several of her teammates including sister and Captain Gabriella Xavier who was the cornerstone of the team’s attack.
After a first game defeat by top-seeded Trinidadian side, Magnolias, 4-1, there seemed little hope for the Flora GCC girls to retain their crown in this year’s competition. The team had an unusual year without indoor competition as the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall remained unsuitable for hockey until its repairs a few weeks ago.
However, the following day saw gradual improvement as they completed their pool round with a draw and a loss to set up a rematch of their 2010 semi-final clash with Paragon.
In 2010, it had taken a penalty stroke competition at the end of full-time to break the deadlock between the two teams in GCC’s favour. This year, however, the Flora girls were in no sporting mood as Dacia Woodroffe received a pass in the circle from young Aliyah Gordon and slotted it home to put her side up by one goal just seven minutes into the match.
Despite having to defend several penalty corners, GCC extended their lead to 2-0 when overlapping left back Ashley DeGroot capitalised on a quick free hit to surprise the Paragon goalkeeper with her shot.
Paragon pressed to reduce their deficit, but fine defending and goalkeeping from the GCC girls managed to secure the 2-0 victory.
The final was a rematch of the tournament opener which left GCC on the losing end of a one-sided affair.
The team was now more familiar with the surface and along with a few minor tactical adjustments looked ready for what would be a memorable match.
Gabriella Xavier was the first on the score sheet once again after easily converting a penalty stroke midway in the first half, but Magnolias levelled the scores through a field goal just before the break.
Xavier struck again in the second half by dragging the ball around the advancing Magnolias penalty corner defence to send the net into a flurry with her powerful flick.
GCC held firm against the dangerous Magnolias as defender Dominique DeGroot produced two brilliant stick saves on the line.
Brittany Gouveia of the Magnolias, however, managed a superb equalizer four minutes before full time. She carved her way past the GCC defence on a breakaway run and watched her shot trickle into the GCC goal, having taken an edge off the outstretched glove of goalkeeper Alysa Xavier. With the match finishing at 2-2 the teams went into a penalty shootout to break the deadlock.
Gabriella Xavier and Ashley DeGroot both managed to convert their shots in the shootouts, while GCC’s goalkeeper Alysa Xavier denied all three of the Magnolias forwards to ensure the victory. The Woodbrook Youth Facility was in an uproar of support at the end of a well-contested final and a record 4th consecutive victory for GCC in the annual championships.
GCC’s Alysa Xavier and Dominique DeGroot carted off the awards for Most Valuable Goalkeeper and Best Defensive Save of the Tournament respectively, while Brittany Gouveia of the Magnolias received the trophy for most goals scored and the Most Valuable Player Award.
Photo on server Claude as: Flora: caption- Four-time champions of the Magnolias International Indoor Hockey Championship Flora GCC pose for a photo op with their prizes following the presentation ceremony over the weekend.
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