L1 Host Buckingham On Saturday
By Colin Pike
A week after Great Britain women qualified for next year's Olympic Games in Tokyo after beating Chile 5-1 on aggregate, Surbiton Ladies resume their quest for a seventh successive IWHL title with a home game versus Buckingham (push back 12 noon).
Buckingham come to Sugden Road in third place in the IWHL Premier Division, ten points behind Surbiton who will be aiming to maintain their one hundred per cent record.
Surbiton's nearest rivals, Hampstead & Westminster, fell to five points behind the reigning champions after a dramatic 5-4 defeat at Clifton Robinsons a fortnight ago.
Buckingham began the season with a 4-2 home win over Clifton Robinsons before they were held to a 1-1 draw at Bowdon Hightown.
A 3-1 home win over the University of Birmingham was followed by a second 1-1 draw on the road, this time at East Grinstead.
Loughborough Students were beaten 3-1 at home before Buckingham suffered their first league defeat of the season 2-1 at Beeston. Holcombe gave Buckingham their second successive defeat with a 3-2 triumph at Stowe School, meaning Buckingham will be aiming to avoid a third successive defeat against Surbiton.
Kitty Higgins is Buckingham's top goalscorer with four goals, closely followed by Natasha James on three. Abbie Brant, Katrina Nicholson and Eloise Laity have each scored twice with Alexandra Naughalty and Lottie Porter finding the net once.
Over the last couple of seasons, Buckingham have had the best of the league encounters, doing the double in 2017-18 with a 2-1 win at Sugden Road and a 1-0 win at Stowe School, all three goals coming from penalty corners.
When it mattered and Surbiton had their internationals available, they won the semi-final 3-0 at Lee Valley before going on to beat Holcombe 3-1 to lift their fifth successive league title.
Last season, Buckingham again won at Stowe School, 2-1, James and Phoebe Richards (now at Clifton Robinsons) scoring after Jenna Woolven gave Surbiton the lead early in the second half.
However, Surbiton had won the first game by the same score at Sugden Road, Porter putting Buckingham ahead before Georgie Twigg and Alice Sharp rescued the situation.
Twiggy will celebrate having played over 100 national league games for Surbiton having joined the club from Clifton [Robinsons] after the 2012 Olympics. She made her debut at Olton & West Warwicks on 29 Sep 2012 in a 2-1 win. Her first goals came in the return match at Sugden Road where she scored twice in a 4-2 win.
Twiggy is Surbiton's joint top scorer with three goals alongside Erica Sanders and has now scored 26 goals for Surbiton in the regular season.
Elsewhere on Saturday, Hampstead host Bowdon; Clifton Robinsons travel to East Grinstead; Holcombe are at home to Beeston and there's a Midlands derby as Loughborough Students play the University of Birmingham.