Former indoor international Pien van Nes (32) made her debut as a fifteen-year-old for HDM’s flagship, of which she has now worn the shirt for eighteen seasons. On Sunday afternoon, the public saluted the waving club icon. That happened in her last home game, in which Ivar Knötsckhe’s team secured direct enforcement with a 2-1 win over Tilburg.
It is 1-0 for HDM on Sunday afternoon, the ball hits the foot of Tilburg defender Mikki Roberts and the home club decorates a penalty corner for the first time in the game. This is the moment everyone along the line is hoping for. Eyes automatically dart back and forth from behind the boarding, looking for HDM’s number eleven. Is she within the lines? Yes, she’s within the lines. This could be her moment for the all-time top scorer of the club from The Hague. This is perhaps the opportunity for Pien van Nes to demonstrate her penalty corner one more time in her last home game and to drag her team, which has been in relegation trouble, into a safe haven for weeks.
But something strange happens. When HDM has made the decision in the circle how they are going to fire on Maddie Hinch’s goal, Van Nes takes a few steps back. She positions herself one meter behind the 23-meter line. Not she, but her teammates Ashley Hoffmann and Belén van den Broek report at the head of the circle. Pushing, which has always been her specialty, she leaves to others in the tail end of her career.
It must be frustrating for the 32-year-old club icon that the years have started to count for her. She ended the indoor season last winter with a nasty injury to her hamstring. Then she got pain in her calf. For weeks, Van Nes was injured in the second half of the competition. It became a race against time to ensure that her career did not fizzle out. She got fit in the nick of time for the last four games of the season. But the lack of playing and training minutes in the legs, ensured that the rhythm in her corner has completely disappeared.
It’s been nice. It’s time for something different Pien van Nes
“Physically I’ve had it harder and harder this season. My body is gone. I suffered too much from pain’, says the player whose penalty corner in the 2017/2018 season was so good that she became the top scorer of the Dutch big league with sixteen goals. She shared that title with Amsterdam striker Charlotte Vega and SCHC player Caia van Maasakker.
In recent weeks, Van Nes resumed her drag training. She hoped that she might still be allowed to take a corner, if the score of the match against Tilburg allowed it. That was agreed with the team. But that one corner was ultimately not awarded to her. ‘It’s been nice. After eighteen years, to be honest, I’ve ended up in a bit of a rut. I enjoyed every season. Also from this season, in which we have had a hard time. Now it’s time for something different. No more the obligations of all those training sessions and video analyses. That’s what I look forward to the most.’
Two minutes before the end, Van Nes gets the chance to write her own fairytale farewell
Pien van Nes never played for the Dutch national team. With her long body and her atypical style, she is also not the most graceful hockey player. But she has always been invaluable for a club like HDM, fluctuating between fourth and ninth place. The fact that she regularly finished in the top of the top scorers’ ranking as a player of a club that gets fewer corners than, for example, Den Bosch or Amsterdam, says something about how well Van Nes can drag. She also earned her spurs in the hall. As an indoor international, she won the world title with the Dutch national team.
All this ensures an emotional farewell to the home crowd this Sunday afternoon. Actually, the game against Tilburg should be all about the chance to secure direct enforcement. But the meter-high poster hung on the fence on the side of the clubhouse proves what the public really came for today. ‘Pien, thanks for 18 top years in HDM D1’, it says. The grandstand is full of Minis, carrying three banners. All a tribute to the club icon. Also on the other side of the field hang two banners on the long side. There are so many letters on it that it’s hard to see which sentence exactly has been chalked up, but the dark blue capitals speak for themselves: ‘PIEN’.
With two minutes on the clock, the moment everyone hopes for still seems to have come, with a narrow lead of 2-1. Tessa Beetsma solos across the field. Noor Bruinsma puts the ball back on Van Nes at the far post, for an almost certain goal from the waving star. This is the scenario that everyone has been waiting for for almost sixty minutes. People along the line stand on their toes so as not to miss it. The number eleven controls the ball, and shoots towards the corner. Is this the moment she scores her 132nd goal for HDM? But no. Not every story is a fairytale. On the line, Maddie Hinch taps the ball out of the corner.
I thought it was a pity that we still had to maintain ourselves today. Otherwise we would have given her an audience change . Ivar Knötsckhe, coach of HDM
Ivar Knötschke, the HDM coach, is only slightly older than Pien van Nes. He has also been around the club for most of his life. He saw with his own eyes how Van Nes grew into the figurehead of HDM. He considered giving the club icon a crowd change in her last home game. “I thought it was a pity that we had to maintain our position today. Otherwise, we would have given her an audience swap. Now that didn’t work. The interests were still too great for that. Just the fact that we did consider it shows how important Pien is to HDM. She is a club icon. I’ve been shouting all season that she deserves a statue here.’
Knötschke is satisfied that she was able to say goodbye to the public despite her physical problems. “Physically, it was running out for her. But mentally she still gave her all. That was so frustrating for her too. We worked hard to get her fit in time for the end of the competition. Especially by herself. I’m glad she succeeded. She deserved to say goodbye on the field.’
I couldn’t have wished for a better last home game. It was a great farewell. Peen van Nes
The horn sounds. HDM won 2-1 and can no longer be overtaken by relegation competitor Bloemendaal. Pien van Nes has played her last home match. She stands on the shoulders of her teammates Stephanie Kershaw and Jip Dicke. Next week she will play the away game against Hurley. Then it’s really over after eighteen seasons.
Van Nes: ‘The audience, my teammates, the children, the banners. I couldn’t have wished for a better last home game. It was a great farewell. I still have to get used to the idea that this was the last time. This year has been a difficult year for all of us. Nevertheless, the fun splashed from everyone. Also today again. This victory proves that as number nine we are too low in the rankings. Next season these girls will really show what they can do again. I’m convinced of that. But without me.’