L1 Beat Buckingham 3-0
By Colin Pike
Surbiton Ladies began the defence of the Women's Hockey League title with a 3-0 home win over Buckingham at Sugden Road on Saturday.
Surbiton gave debuts to former Holcombe trio, Emma Bandurak (Trunks), Steph Elliott and Alice Wills.
Former Surbiton player, Meg Dowthwaite, returned after first leaving the club in 2013 to join Wimbledon and spend four seasons at the University of Michigan.
But it was another returning player, Lottie Ross, who scored twice after half time to secure the win.
With the new league season beginning at a time of future uncertainty, both teams struggled to find their rhythm, largely cancelling each other out.
Surbiton captain, Sarah Evans marshalled an attack with petered out tamely with the ball crossing Buckingham's back-line after just twenty seconds but chances were rare.
Jo Hunter, returning to Buckingham and to Sugden Road at the same time was an attacking threat down both wings and battled with Elliott by the right touchline.
The first quarter was goalless but Buckingham had two chances to score in the second, Abbie Brant and Maddy Newlyn seeing their shots saved by Surbiton goalkeeper, Sabbie Heesh.
Emily Guckian also ran towards goal before forcing a save from Marks in the 30th minute as the game briefly came to life.
However it was Surbiton's penalty corner routine which broke the deadlock, although it was eventually at the third attempt. Following two re-awards, Eloise Stenner found the backboard in the 33rd minute to give Surbiton a 1-0 half time lead.
Buckingham didn't seem to be so competitive after half time as Surbiton stepped up a gear. Ross doubled Surbiton's lead in the 44th minute from open play and Stenner, having scored from a penalty corner had two chances to score her second goal of the game within seconds of each other.
Surbiton wrapped up the win in the 69th minute, Guckian crossing from the left for Ross to finish at the far post and give the defending champions a 3-0 win.
Buckingham will be disappointed with their performance as they will be aiming to finish higher than fourth as they build on their experience in the top flight.
Surbiton's players received their league winning medals and the championship after the game.
Wimbledon are the early leaders following their 4-0 home win over Swansea. Surbiton are second ahead of Hampstead & Westminster, 2-0 victors at Beeston.
East Grinstead have now gone 16 games unbeaten in the Premier Division following their 2-1 win at Clifton Robinsons and former Surbiton player Izzy Petter scored the only goal as Loughborough Students won 1-0 at Holcombe.
With an eleven team Premier Division this season, the University of Birmingham will have to wait until week 2 to start their campaign.