Havant’s under-14s have set their sights firmly on taking top honours in tomorrow’s England Hockey National Finals.
The juniors are one of eight teams through to the prestigious event, which are being held at the Olympic Park for the first time.
They know this is the big prize. This is the one we’ve been building up toCraig Stevens
Havant are in a pool with Surbiton, Beeston and Phoenix Blue Hornets and must finish in the top two if they are to have any chance of being crowned champions.
The side, coached by Craig Stevens and Derek Cunliffe, were in the Hampshire Cup final last weekend but know that the National Finals will be a significant step up.
The Barncroft Way side were beaten by fellow national finalists Bournemouth in the county finale and are now spurred on to go one step further in the capital.
Stevens said: ‘We were disappointed with the Hampshire Cup final result but we’ve taken the positives from it.
‘We know it was close.
‘We’re as good as the other teams in the competition.
‘We actually played Guildford in a friendly so we’ve already played two of the teams who are through to the National Finals.
‘The boys are all really fired up.
‘For most of these boys, the Hampshire Cup final was the first big game they’ve played in.
‘They are all buzzing.
‘They know this is the big prize. This is the one we’ve been building up to. If we play as well as we can, we’ve got a good chance.
‘We’ve got enough skill in the team to win the competition.
‘It’s just whether the occasion gets to them.’
The National Finals come at the end of a gruelling season for the boys, who have played 35 games across three different competitions.
They had to go through a county round of matches for the national competition, followed by a regional round-robin format.
Now they have to overcome the final hurdle.
The boys begin the competition by playing Surbiton (10.50am).
They will then play Beeston (12.55pm) and Phoenix Blue Hornets (2.35pm) – and if they finish in the top two in their group, they will play either the first or second-placed teams from the other pool.
The other pool consists of Bowdon, Litchfield, Guildford and Bournemouth.
A good start is key, according to Stevens.
‘We’ve got to come out all guns blazing in our first game,’ he said.
‘The matches are only 15 minutes each way so we’ve got to start well.
‘If we win the first game, we’re in with a great chance of winning overall.
‘But if we lose, it adds further pressure.’
The youngsters have come a long way in a short space of time and have done incredibly well to reach such a high level.
‘The boys have come on massively,’ added Stevens.
‘Two years ago most of them either weren’t playing hockey at all or they weren’t playing competitively because we had such a big squad.’
Havant: Tristram Randall, Jack Freemantle, Louis Elston,
Joe Chadwick, Rhydian Walsh, Ossian Tate, Matt Cottrell, Louis Wrenn, Finn Carvalho, Finn Eastwood, Nick Walters, Matt Cooper, Ollie Reed, Tom Stevens, George Whelan, Sam Horsman, Callum King