The Oak Bay High senior girls AAA field hockey team won the provincial championship, capping an undefeated season. After last season was suspended due to COVID-19, it was a slow and steady climb to the ultimate championship, said Kira Starr, a co-coach alongside Milena Gaiga.
A team made up of athletes in grades 9 through 12, much of the team has been together since the players were in Grade 9, Starr said.
“We’ve had great teams (in the past) but this year they just came together,” Starr said.
The team topped the podium at Islands, and headed into provincials Nov. 10 to 12 ranked second behind Handsworth secondary.
“Going into provincials our mindset was one game at a time,” Starr said. All involved were aware it wouldn’t be normal. No one knew what other teams really looked like, they usually face each other each fall in the Bridgeman Cup – last hosted in 2019 when Oak Bay also defeated Handsworth in a shootout. It was a title the North Vancouver team held for the three years previous.
The repeat performance two years later at provincials wasn’t an easy feat. The team is used to scoring and scoring early, so had to overcome that in the game against Sir Winston Churchill, where they didn’t score until the second half, Starr said. Then they faced Kelowna – a team known for a physical, aggressive game – and it came down to the final quarter.
Then came the final showdown against Handsworth, played on what Starr considers a home field with their rival, and host, Cowichan team cheering on their fellow Islanders.
“We told them to have fun. We said ‘enjoy it’ because they had worked so damn hard,” Starr said.
It took three shooters for Oak Bay to win the best-of-five shootout.
Team co-captain Julia Berk, Lily Amberger and Maddie Hunter notched the goals, while Anais Chace earned a shutout between the pipes.
Winning provincials was a final hurrah for many of the players as well as the coaches. High-performance athletes themselves, Gaiga – a former national team player and UVic Vike – and Starr – also a Vike alum – planned this as their final year.
“We love coaching this team. It’s an honour to coach them and it was a poetic way to end the season,” Starr said.
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