Blue Lake Sports Park witnessed a fantastic start to the 2021 Lower South East Hockey Association finals series with three days of action last weekend.
There were numerous entertaining encounters, but nothing compared to the closing stages of the Division 1 men’s qualifying final between Strikers and Tigers.
Reigning premier Tigers carried confidence into the contest after an undefeated campaign, but it was Strikers celebrating after the final whistle this time.
The battle between experienced Tigers Aaron Menglar and Luke Hunter against Strikers’ pair Connor and Jordan Millhouse delivered as nothing split the sides throughout the four quarters.
At the end of the tense Saturday afternoon battle, the scoreboard was locked one-all and the ticket to the decider went down to the heart-stopping one-on-ones.
Both sides rose to the occasion and seized on each chance to build the pressure on the goalkeepers.
Just when it seemed the attackers would never miss, Strikers goalkeeper David Coombe stood firm and denied Tigers from scoring a fifth penalty.
The save sent Strikers into the big dance as the Tigers players were left to ponder what could have been.
The minor premier must now pick itself up from its first loss of the season and get prepared to face West in Saturday afternoon’s preliminary final.
West warmed up with a convincing 6-0 victory over Redbacks which went as expected.
With the likes of David Vine, Brayden Burston, Connor Clark and Gavin Robertson welcomed back into the team, West was untouchable.
These big names will be hungry for revenge when they meet Tigers this weekend after being pipped at the post in last year’s decider.
Another big upset occurred in the Division 1 women’s qualifier where the top seed fell to the underdog.
With only one and two defeats respectively, West and Redbacks are the clear premiership favourites.
The midfield battle between Redbacks’ Steph Wrightson and Jemma Heraper and West’s Sarah Munch and Mercedes Theobald turned into an arm wrestle and neither would let go.
However, the unfancied Redbacks managed to find a route past West’s strong defensive line including 2020 league best and fairest Dana Jones and Heraper nailed the strike to hit the lead before half time.
The red, white and blue found a way to protect its valuable lead from the flag favourite until the final whistle which confirmed an unexpected grand final berth.
West must now navigate past Tigers in the preliminary final on Saturday evening to keep its premiership defence alive.
Olivia Turner and Billie Jones showed off their play-making skills to guide Tigers to a hard fought 1-0 win and keep Strikers win-less in 2021.
With Tigers Black and Yellow finishing first and second on the ladder respectively, the club was guaranteed to be represented in the Division 2 men’s grand final.
But the question was which colour and the black side showed its stripes to secure a 3-1 victory.
The Tigers of the yellow variety must overcome a confident Cavaliers side this Saturday afternoon to book a rematch with its sister side.
Cavaliers delivered in a tricky elimination final match up against West winning 5-1.
The first Division 2 women’s grand finalist is Tigers after it lived up to the favourite’s tag.
The side overcame West by two goals, while Naracoorte ended Redbacks season with a 5-0 drubbing.
Tigers locked in another grand final appearance after a 3-0 swipe of Redbacks in Division 3 men’s qualifying final, while West had a tougher time edging out Cavaliers.
The Division 3 women’s pecking order was turned upside down when minor-premier Tigers got thumped 4-0 by Cavaliers.
Strikers’ Under 15’s outfit was one of the first to book a grand final ticket by overcoming Redbacks 3-0, while Tigers stayed in the hunt.
The Under 15 boys eliminator stole the show under the Friday night lights as Tigers and Strikers scrapped tooth and nail to stay alive.
After a thrilling high-scoring game, Tigers won by just one goal, while Redbacks showed its bite in the qualifier.
Another one-goal nail-biter occurred in the Under 12’s boys qualifying final and Tigers edged out Strikers.
Strikers showed its Under 12 girls premiership credentials by keeping a clean sheet against West.
The eliminator was a much tighter affair and Tigers and Redbacks could not be separated after four terms.
With the scoreboard locked at 1-1, Redbacks went through to the preliminary final being the higher-placed team on the ladder.
The LSEHA junior presentations will kick off from 6.30pm tonight at Blue Lake Sports Park, while the seniors night of nights will follow from 7pm on Saturday.