St Ivo Academy suffered an agonising defeat in the PlayStation Under 15 Schools’ Cup for Girls final today (Tuesday).
The local talents were pipped 6-5 by Surrey side Blenheim High School in an epic penalty shoot-out which followed a 2-2 deadlock at The Hawthorns - the home of Championship club West Brom.
St Ivo, who triumphed at national level in the Under 16 age group earlier this month, twice came from behind thanks to equalisers from the outstanding Lucy O'Brien who was then denied a last-gasp winner in stoppage time by the crossbar, but it was Blenheim who eventually prevailed on sudden death from the spot
"It was a high quality and hard-fought game featuring some fantastic football, but being beaten on penalties is a horrible way to lose a final," said St Ivo Academy coach Lisa Trigg.
"It's disappointing it didn't go our way in the end, but the girls will grow from this experience and come back stronger from it. They all gave absolutely everything and that's all we ever ask of them."
Blenheim, who triumphed at Under 14 level last season, hit the front from a ninth-minute corner.
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A fine save denied Angel Lyden a quick equaliser but St Ivo then had to rely on a terrific Ella Hampton stop to prevent their deficit from doubling. Captain Hampton did brilliantly to keep out a close-range follow-up after an initial effort hit the bar.
St Ivo did level when O'Brien unleashed an unstoppable drive from the edge of the box in the 27th minute, but they fell behind again on the stroke of half-time.
O'Brien, a player blessed with searing pace and an outrageous skill-set, replied again on the hour after robbing a defender before finishing superbly - and the same St Ivo player came close to a dramatic winner on three separate occasions in the dying moments.
O'Brien fired one opportunity just wide from a tight angle, slammed another shot against the bar after busting clear of several defenders and was then thwarted by a smart save.
But there was no fairytale finish from the spot despite two super Hampton saves. Tia Everdell and Macy Driver saw their penalties saved while Maya Edwards hit the bar and Jess Jarah fired wide as St Ivo missed out on adding to their collection of major honours.
St Ivo thank Manger Health, Ellis Winters, Move With Us, Buddyz and Mitsa for their sponsorship of clothing and equipment for their teams.
St Ivo Academy Under 15 squad: Sasha Brown, Megan Bullinaria, Lia Chambers, Ruby Day, Kellie-Marie Dixon, Macy Driver, Maya Edwards, Tia Everdell, Martha Hiscock, Melissa Lorman-Hall, Ella Hampton, Jess Jarah, Angel Lyden, Lucy O'Brien, Megan Scott, Lottie Wager.