(Written by Daniel Pratt. Edited by Ella Paul and Katie Beadle.)

The Scotland National team recently competed in the ‘IKF European Korfball Championship Round 1 East’ tournament with the main objective of qualifying for the 2018 European Championships.

After training camps in Holland, London and extensive training in Edinburgh, the squad were preparing well. A serious injury to Scotland star Morven van Sliedregt was a setback but there was confidence within the squad that they would compete well.

Squad players who have been involved in the national team previously were please with the feeling of positivity in the current set-up. Emma Stanley commented: “The current squad is the most determined and motivated so far. The team spirit in general was on another level.” This view was shared by Natasha Lynch who was particularly impressed with the team-ethic “We are all working to reach a goal. It’s not about individuals, but about all of us and what we can achieve together”.

This would be head coach Johan Oosterling’s first major tournament with Scotland. Adding Bas Harland to the coaching set-up brought a vast amount of additional experience, both as a player and as a coach.

Head Coach, Johan Oosterling, gets his game face on

Head Coach, Johan Oosterling, gets his game face on

The confirmation of Mary Cooper as team manager also gave the squad a huge boost. In the build up she provided instant support and the contribution she made during the tournament would prove invaluable.

Alongside the coaching set-up, Scotland were glad to welcome back Remco Hendriks as head physiotherapist along with his colleague Yorick Rebel who would be responsible for the players’ wellbeing during the tournament.

The squad arrived in Slovakia early in order to prepare as well as possible. As well as training time there were opportunities for team bonding, Football Tennis being a particular highlight for many of the players and staff. The hotel’s own bowling alleys provided some extra light relief further in the week.

The tournament began with the official opening ceremony where the teams were paraded in front of the local crowd who had turned out to cheer on their home team Slovakia. Brief match reports follow; those who wish to watch the matches back can find full recordings of all matches at www.worldkorfball.org.

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The Scotland Squad

Matchday 1

SCO – SER    14-12 (HT 9-7)

Goals: Dan Pratt (4), Angus Davidson (3), Jamie Smith (2), Kyle Crombie (2), Zoe Bennett (2), Ella Paul (1)

The first game of the tournament was against Serbia and, given the strength of the German side, it looked likely that the winner of this match would guarantee a top 4 finish along with qualification to Euro 2018.

Scotland started fastest, gaining an early 4-1 lead. The game looked comfortable throughout the first half but Serbia kept themselves in it. A goal at the half time buzzer to make it 9-7 flattered the Serbian team in a first half dominated by Scotland.

The second half started in the same fashion. Scotland kept in front of Serbia without looking troubled. At 11-8 injuries to both Ella Paul and Angus Davidson swung momentum drastically in Serbia’s favour, the scores were levelled up at 11-11 and things began to look shaky. A missed penalty for Scotland, their fourth of the game, could have had an impact but Zoe Bennett scored two in as many minutes to ease the pressure. Scotland closed the game out well with the full time whistle confirming their qualification to the 2018 European Championships.

SCO – GER   4-21 (HT 2-11)

Goals: Alex Forrest (1), Jamie Smith (1), Emma Stanley (1), David Wiseman (1)

The Germany game was always going to be the toughest test of the tournament and so it proved to be. Despite Emma Stanley scoring the opening goal of the game, Scotland found it difficult to make opportunities for themselves. Defensively there were positives to be taken as twice the team forced turnovers with the shot clock running out for Germany, but without the versatility of Angus Davidson the attack struggled and at half time the score was 2-11.

David Wiseman was brought off the bench shortly after the break for his debut and was tasked with getting on the scoresheet. It didn’t take long; his first effort was a fantastic fade-away jump shot to give Scotland their 3rd of the game. Germany, however, continued their consistent scoring and, despite a late consolation from Alex Forrest, ran out comfortable winners.

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Germany would go on to win the EKC Round 1 East in a thrilling play-off against Poland

Matchday 2

SCO – POL   7-11 (HT 4-3)

Dan Pratt (2), Kyle Crombie (2), Ella Paul (1), Zoe Bennett (1), Jamie Smith (1)

After finishing second in Pool B, Scotland played Poland the winners of Pool A. A slow first half started with Poland taking a 3-1 lead before Scotland scored 3 without reply to lead at half time 4-3.

The second half began a lot quicker with both teams trading goals, Poland would miss 2 penalties and at 6-6 it looked like the game would go down to the wire. Unfortunately for Scotland, it was all one way from there; Poland scored the next 5 to run away with the game. A late consolation left the final score at 7-11 but overall it was a disappointing result given how close the game had been with 10 minutes to go.

No rest for the wicked; shooting drills help pass the time between games

No rest for the wicked; shooting drills help pass the time between games.

Matchday 3

SCO – SVK   12-18 (HT 6-6)

Kyle Crombie (7), Jamie Smith (2), Calum Lindsay (2), David Wiseman (1)

The final game of the tournament was the 3rd/4th playoff against Slovakia. Both teams had already qualified but this game had ranking points and a bronze medal at stake.

The match began in the same way as the Poland game had; with goals being traded back and forth it was a tense atmosphere. The half finished with 3 goals in the last minute to leave it all tied at 6 going into the break.

Unfortunately for Scotland, the team suffered another second half loss of form. Slovakia pulled away quickly and at 9-15 the game was effectively finished as a contest. Scotland managed to find their rhythm again with the fantastically consistent Captain Kyle Crombie scoring Scotland’s final 4 goals to finish with 7 for the match, but it was too little too late as Slovakia finished 12-18 winners.

 

Post Tournament

The squad reached their goal of qualifying for the 2018 European Championships. The team had almost claimed the bonus of reaching the additional 2016 edition but the heart breaking loss to Poland ended that hope.

Kyle summed up the feeling within the squad “Naturally it was a shame to not qualify for the Europeans in 2016 but our overall goal was for 2018, so the whole squad are over the moon to have qualified. We can take a lot of positives: we’ve gained very important tournament experience, new players have earned their first cap for Scotland, and most importantly we were able to challenge teams who in the past we have struggled.”

An excellent performance from the whole team means Scotland qualify for 2018

An excellent performance from the whole team means Scotland qualify for 2018

Jen Merritt, who was representing Scotland for the first time said “It was great to experience my first international tournament and I was extremely proud and honoured to line up alongside the whole squad. There is so much more to learn and I’m looking forward to developing as part of this fantastic team.”

The squad will now turn their focus to the European Championships in 2018, where the goal is to finish high enough to earn qualification to the World Cup the following year. There will be no let up for the full squad, with training set to resume in September.