- Leeds Korfball club qualify for first-tier of the nationals for the first time ever in the club’s history
- Each of the team’s ten players made the score sheet on the day
- The team storm to a scintillating victory over tournament hosts Sheffield
AFTER finishing fourth at the Yorkshire preliminaries and only just qualifying for regionals, the Leeds University korfball first team played out of their skins to book a shock place at first team nationals next month. Leeds were looking to improve on last year’s performance having missed out on first tier nationals but knew it was going to be an extremely difficult day having been pooled with historically successful teams from Sheffield University and Nottingham.
Leeds’s first match of the day, however, was up against Birmingham’s second team. The Gryphons asserted their dominance on the match early on and stormed to a 4-1 lead with Jacob Cooke, Rachel Muir and Luke Hawthorne all finding the net. A hint of complacency slipped into Leeds’s game which allowed Birmingham to capitalise and close the gap to 5-3 at the half-time whistle. After composing themselves during the break, Leeds maintained a tight lead throughout the whole second half and finally ran out 8-6 winners to get their qualifying quest off to the perfect start.
With eight teams all vying for the top four spots to qualify, the day was always going to be non-stop and action packed with matches. This meant Leeds were straight back in the thick of it in a massive match against Sheffield Uni. With the final group match against a very strong Nottingham side, Leeds knew this would be their best chance at collecting the second win they needed to finish in the top two. Nonetheless, it would take a special performance as Sheffield, who play in a league above, had won the Yorkshire preliminaries, beating Leeds in the process. The Gryphons started the match on the front foot with a slick attacking move won them a penalty which was comfortably put away by Hawthorne. Despite being early in the match, the intense start from Leeds sent a clear message to the Sheffield team and their home fans that they were not going to roll over easily. In what was turning out to be an extremely hard fought and patient game, the scores were locked at 1-1 close to half time before a quick Cooke double put Leeds in to the ascendency. The goals started to flow more readily in the second half but a magnificent Leeds defence ensured there was already no way back for Sheffield. Leeds pushed 6-3 ahead before the move of the day saw Matt Norman and Hawthorne combine again to settle the match.
The brilliant win ensured Leeds’s qualification to first tier nationals next month and knocked Sheffield out, failing to qualify for the first time in BSKA Nationals history. The final league match saw a tiring Leeds lose out to eventually winners Nottingham 9-1 to finish second in the group. A resilient performance against Birmingham 1s in the semi-final then proved to be insufficient as Leeds lost out 11-6 after Birmingham snuffled a late Leeds comeback at 8-6. Unfortunately for Leeds, the day didn’t end on a high as they lost to Sheffield Hallam to finish fourth on the day, but had already achieved what they set out to do.
Leeds will need to perform to a similar standard if they want to achieve their goal of finishing in the top eight at first tier nationals, a feat never achieved in the history of Leeds’ relatively newly-formed korfball club. Their admirable display, showing perseverance and strength, will override any sentiments of late disappointment and the team can be proud of all of its 10 players, each of whom scored on the day, rose magnificently to the challenge.
Featured image: Matt Norman