Wednesday, game day. The St Andrews Women’s Football Club rocked up to ready to battle Dundee for the league title. This game was a chance to showcase weeks of intense training, and for the first team, a chance for a promotion and an undefeated season.
The weather was miserable. Wind howled from every direction, the pitches were already swampy from yesterday’s rain, and hail intermittently stung our skin. But nothing could dampen our spirit, this game was too important for us as a team and as a club. The St Andrews Women’s Football Club has seen huge growth in the last four years. What started as a small group of dedicated girls has now grown into an unstoppable army of over forty young women who are passionate about playing football. We train several times per week and have strength and conditioning sessions to keep our bodies healthy and strong. These additions have brought big changes, as both the number of girls and the calibre of play have increased exponentially.
Dundee: The whistle blew and the battle began. Adrenaline pumping, the Saints started off the game with immediate intensity and aggression. Fighting against the wind, the first half was a struggle as both teams adapted to the unfavourable conditions. Sammi McKee and Marie Morrison held down the middle of the pitch, connecting the defence and the offensive midfield players. Meg Simchuck, Rachel Hassall, Celine Pichette, Heather McCauley and Rachel Ansley protected the goal, and our outstanding goalie, Ellie Welton, stopping any attempt from Dundee to score. The first half finished 0-0, and despite being unable to score, the girls never lost focus or patience.
After a quick half time due to the weather, the second half began with the same intensity. We took complete advantage of having the wind at our backs. Sarah Clark and Taylor Gillespie made numerous runs as wide midfield players, receiving passes slotted through from centre midfield and from Jacque Hulburd, Eliza Enriquez Hesles and Kelly McCoy who played up front. The first goal came from Kelly McCoy and three more soon followed from Sammi McKee, Taylor Gillespie and Jacque Hulburd with help from Hannah Morley who made numerous drives and crosses toward the goal.
Overall, the Saints dominated the second half of the game. Dundee matched our intensity, but failed to overcome and adapt quickly to the wind. This really affected their passes, long kicks, and punts from the goalie and helped give the Saints an opportunity to take control of the field.
Sopping wet and freezing cold, the final whistle blew and everyone respectfully shook hands with the Dundee ladies and the referee before celebrating our 4-0 victory. A few players had brought some cava and bottles were popped on the field to mark this special occasion. For the last three years the first team has taken second place, missing the chance for a promotion and the title. This year was different. We conceded no goals throughout the league games and remained undefeated.
The game against Dundee was an opportunity to prove how far we have come as a team and as a club. For the fourth year girls, it meant everything. It was the culmination of four years of hard work, some tough losses and well-earned triumphs. Despite horrific weather and pitch conditions, the Saints fought hard and came out with another glorious win.
The growth of the club, the vision of Stuart Milne and our dedicated coaches, and the commitment of the entire team to train hard is the reason behind our success. This positive change has spread throughout the entire club where the second team has seen numerous successes and has accomplished much this season. They also had a tough match on Wednesday where they tied 2-2 against the Edinburgh 2nds, another top team.
Despite our current success, we will have to continue working hard to be competitive in a tougher league. We will also have some big holes to fill, both on the pitch and in our hearts. Saying good-bye to the fourth years is always difficult, but this group is truly special. They have played together for four years and it shows in their game. They understand each other in a way that can only be formed through countless hours of working and playing together. While it is exciting to think about getting a new crew of freshers in next year, they’ve got big boots to fill. The rising third and fourth years will be heavily relied on and will need to step it up next season in order to make it as successful and memorable as this one. However, with the set up we have here at the women’s football club the foundations are very much in place for carrying on what has been a tremendously successful year.
Our growth very much mirrors the development of women’s football across the world. While our success in the league may not be as glitzy as the FA women’s championship or the World Cup, it is all part of the same massive growth the game is enjoying the world over.
A big thank you to Stuart Milne, Graeme Hart, the staff at the Sports Centre, Craig Doyle who takes beautiful pictures of our games, our sponsor, 1 Golf Place, and everyone else who helped get us to where we are today.