Alanya awaits on Friday as eight women’s teams will vie for the two promotion spots up to the EuroHockey Club Trophy for 2024 on the southern Türkiye coast.
The city has been one of the most prolific hosts of European hockey in recent times and will welcome some new friends this time with Catholic Institute and Watsonians HC making their debuts in Pool A alongside more regular features AHTC Wien and SK Slavia Prague.
Pool B has Turkish side Gaziantep Polisgücü, Scotland’s Clydesdale Western, Italy’s HC Argentia and Lithuania’s Šiauliai Ginstrekte ŠSG.
All will be aiming to make it into the top two in their respective groups to qualify for one of Monday’s final where potential promotion will be on offer.
Read more about each of the clubs here:
Alanya (Women) – EuroHockey Club Challenge I
Catholic Institute (IRL) – pictured above
Limerick club Catholic Institute are looking forward to their first ever European club competition, qualifying in 2022 thanks to finishing as runners-up in the Irish EY Champions Trophy as well as winning the Irish Senior Cup.
This season, they reached the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy and the final of the cup, making it another strong season. Their star players are 2018 World Cup silver medalist Róisín Upton and Naomi Carroll – both Olympians – who give their side a strong spine.
Rebecca Barry – another with international experience – is the only player in the panel to have played in Europe before, lining out for Ulster Elks in 2016 at this level, scoring twice against Lithuania’s Ginstrekte.
The vast majority of the panel hail from the local area with American Lizza Ryan and goalkeeper Pamela Hearne coming from outside. On the coaching front, former coach Dave Passmore has taken up a role with the American national team with his replacement being Eimear Cregan, an Irish legend and national captain.
AHTC Wien (AUT)
The AHTC Vienna women’s team is coming to Alanya for the second time having finished fifth in the Challenge II a year ago. They are the Austrian champions for the past three years and are going well in the national championship once again in pursuit of another title.
The side is a mix of experienced players who have been with the club for a long time and many young talents who have been integrated into the team in recent years, giving them an average age of 20 years-old. Of those youngsters, Laura Kern and Johanna Czech are still only 20 but are well established senior internationals and shone in Austria’s Under-21 European indoor victory.
Miriam Gerö captains the side and has been an ever-present in their European competitions dating back to 2016 as are Ruth Konrat and Corinna Dvorak. Teenage goalkeeper Corina Stedronsky played in the Junior World Cup a year ago.
Edinburgh’s Watsonians are another side set for their very first European club competition following their breakthrough 2021/22 season. Since then, they have been breaking records and won all four of the trophies on offer for the 2022/23 season in Scotland: indoor and outdoor league titles, the Grand Final and the Scottish Cup, becoming the first team to do so.
Player-wise, they feature current senior Scottish internationals Sarah Jamieson, Emily Dark, Ellie Wilson (injured, travelling as manager) along with former internationals Mairi Drummond, Lucy Camlin and Susan Hamilton.
Jamieson is the top scorer in Scotland this season, scoring 36 goals in 21 games so far this season; Camlin played for Ireland in the 2010 Youth Olympics alongside group opponents Catholic Institute’s Róisín Upton and Rebecca Barry
Head Coach Keith Smith said of the challenge: “Having earned the club’s first ever European spot by winning the Scottish title last season, the team have backed up that achievement by completing the domestic clean sweep this season.
“It’s been hard-fought, especially in the last few weeks, but the girls have demonstrated real strength of character to prevail. Hopefully those experiences have set us up well for the new challenges we’ll face against our opponents out in Alanya.”
A number of the squad have played at this particular venue previously as part of the Under-21 Scotland team that won the EuroHockey Junior Championships II in 2019. Katie Stott, Katie MacCallum & Ellie Wilson played in that event, winning gold and earning promotion.
SK Slavia Prague (CZE)
Czechia’s SK Slavia Prague are back in Alanya for the second time in 15 months having played in the indoor club trophy in 2022 where they finished as runners-up against Gaziantep Polisgücü.
They followed that up with gold in EuroHockey Club Challenge I outdoors with gold in Rakovnik and they will be hoping to emulate that success.
For this competition, all three group opponents will be new ones for them but they have loads of know-how from previous tournaments with long-term internationals like Adéla Lehovcová, Jindřiška Neusser, Veronika Nováková, Natálie Hájková, Nikol Babická.
Hájková is the leading scorer in the Czech league with 16 during the regular campaign where they won 10 out of 12 fixtures and they qualified for the national finals last weekend with victory over Rakovnik..
Gaziantep Polisgücü SK (TUR)
The current leaders of the Türkiye Super League, the side features a strong cohort of international players like strong defender Sinem Yalçın, indoor captain Perihan Çınar, Meryem Oymak and the strong running Fatma Songül Gültekin.
They combine with a number of Kazakhstani players like Guzal Bakhavaddın and the hugely experienced Natalya Sazantova.
Their season has begun in flying form with three wins from three, netting 19 goals in the process and their aim is to earn a best ever finish for a Turkish club in women’s outdoor club competition. They have good pedigree – indoors, they won the Trophy in 2022 while, outdoors, they also took the Challenge III title in 2021 in Zelina and were third in Challenge II in Alanya in 2022.
They are proud of what their club has achieved, saying “the majority of our players are children of low-income families and receive education thanks to hockey, and as a result they become physical education teachers. Our goal is to be the best we can be in Europe.”
Clydesdale Western (SCO)
Clydesdale Western are well-heeled at this level, playing in Challenge I in 2014, 2015, 2018 and 2019 while they were victorious in Alanya a year ago in Challenge II, finishing top alongside fellow Scots Edinburgh University.
Looking forward to the event, captain Frances Lonergan says: “The squad are fully aware of the long history that Clydesdale Western [formerly Glasgow Western] has competing in Europe and take pride in the small part that they can play in continuing that story.
“We also know that with the amazing talent coming through the club’s Player Pathway we have a responsibility to be role models for the future generations of Clydesdale & Clydesdale Western players.
“It is a great honour to be back this year representing both the Club and Scotland in the Challenge I event in Alanya, Turkiye.“
It is their second European trip in a couple of months, bringing home bronze from the Indoor Club Trophy in Cambrai in February. Since then, the finished fourth in the Scottish Premiership.
Three of the squad – Fran Lonergan, Millie Steiger and Bronwyn Shields – have been selected in the current Scotland National team while Anna Hoolaghan, Cara McAllister and Emma Murray representing Scotland at the age group level.
It has been a season of significant change with coach Derek Forsyth stepping down at the half-way point but long standing Clydesdale Western member Wendy Justice (100 GB Caps and bronze at Barcelona Olympics 1992) has risen to the challenge, ably assisted by husband/Team Manager Peter Justice.
HC Argentia (ITA)
Born in 2010, the club from Lombardy are now a competitive team composed of experienced players like Antonella Rosato and Alessia Bavaro but is also focusing on growing new talents like Lara Manzoni, Alessia Marri and Beatrice Guzzon.
The club is coached by Luca Fabrizio who has been “having fun” in the sport for the last 30 years. He counts on two important assistants: his wife Maria Serra and Mauro Manzoni. Together they create a strong leading team that has brought a lot of success to the club.
Indeed, in 2021, Argentia won the Italian major tournament and the Italian championship. In addition, the club hosted the EuroHockey Club Trophy Women in Cernusco which was a good opportunity to meet and play with hockey lovers from all over Europe.
This is their third European campaign, finishing winners in the Challenge I in 2021 and then fourth last year in Cernusco.
Since then, they have seen a turnover of players with Lucia Caruso moving to Sanse Complutense and playing in the EHL and just five players traverse the two seasons. They feature nine teenagers in their panel.
Šiauliai Ginstrekte ŠSG (LTU)
Šiauliai Ginstrekte ŠSG are looking forward to their third successive season in the Challenge I having finished fifth in Prague in 2021 and third in Rakovnik in 2022. While their panel features seven teeangers in their line-up, there is plenty of prior experience of European competition in the line-up with just three players set for their first campaign.
They feature international captain Dovile Kukliene while the likes of Dovile Juraite, Ugnè Aučynaitè, Viktorija Bogdanova and Rimantè Gudeliausktè playing in numerous of prior Euro campaigns.
They finished the first phase of the Lithuanian championship in first place with 16 points from seven games, finishing just ahead of Širvintais SC while they also won the Vilnius Cup in April.