The Limestone Coast hockey community is still reveling in the success of the Lower South East representatives side, which defied all odds to become state champions in Adelaide last month.
The LSEHA was forced to scramble a team together for the 2021 State Country Championships and despite unavailability causing issues, the team managed to snatch the gold medal in thrilling fashion.
Two days of nonstop action culminated in an enthralling gold medal match against Barossa which went down to a one-on-one shootout after the sides could not be split in regulation time.
Thanks to the trusty services of goalkeeper Kate Fabian, the Lower South East took the title 2-0 to spark happy and relieved scenes.
Despite facing favourite Barossa in the decider, Lower South East coach Darren Turner said he had a good feeling his team could deliver if it went down to the wire.
“It was a huge achievement and I am very proud with the way every player stood up in the finals,” he said.
“All the associations were about on par apart from Barossa, which was a strong team.
“At the final I was watching Barossa warm up and they had a huge team of 15 with three coaches, while we only just had 11 players.
“But I noticed their goalie was not too big, so I thought if we could get into one-on-one’s we would have a good chance because Kate has been a state representative for many years.” Fortunately, Turner’s hunch materialised after the rivals were locked at 1-1 at the final whistle.
Mercedes Theobald put the Limestone Coast side on the board first, a quarter of an hour into proceedings before Barossa answered back 10 minutes later.
Although both sides had no trouble finding the goals early, neither could find the decisive breakthrough as the pressure amped up.
With the gold medal on the line in the one-on-one penalties, Zara Blackwell and Dana Jones stepped up and were able to score.
Meanwhile, Fabian had nerves of steel, keeping each desperate shot from Barossa to seal the Lower South East’s win.
It was an exhausting route to the trophy with the first game starting at 7am on Saturday morning and the final match of the day ending at 9pm, then back to start proceedings at 8.30am Sunday through to the final at 4pm.
But Lower South East was awake early with a Melanie Smalling strike proving decisive.
The first contest with Barossa ended in a 1-0 defeat, but the team bounced back brilliantly with a 4-0 win over Riverland headlined by Laura Edmonds’ two goals.
A 3-1 loss to the York Peninsula was the only hiccup before the final with 2-1 triumphs over Port Lincoln and Whyalla confidence boosters.
The Lower South East squad was pushed to the ragged edge with three important contributors Jenna Burston, Laura and Claudia Edmonds assisting on Saturday, but were unable to participate on Sunday due to university commitments, while Emma Ryan was unfortunately sidelined through injury during the gold medal match.
The fitness of Stephanie Wighton was an inspiration as she returned to the pitch on the same day she ran a half marathon.