This season was like a fairy tale for PhD candidate Tilburg

No one in coach Ageeth Boomgaardt’s team had expected that Tilburg would be certain of direct enforcement one match before the end of the competition. The PhD student is in seventh place after 21 league games, with 24 points. Way above the relegation zone.

It’s nice to see the eye of the master at work. Assistant coach Maartje Paumen (235 international matches, 195 goals) grabs her phone on the Tilburg bench on Sunday afternoon. It is 0-0 in the game against HDM. The two-time Olympic champion and former drag queen studies the video images of the three penalty corners that Tilburg defender Mikki Roberts fired at HDM’s goal, but which were always prey for goalkeeper Julia Remmerswaal. She calls sub Daphne Nikkels to her, who is about to fill in. She whispers something in her ear. Unfortunately, it is impossible to understand what she is saying from behind the boarding. Is it a master plan? Has Paumen found a minuscule hole in HDM’s corner defense with her eagle eyes?

The answer will follow soon. Tilburg gets a penalty corner after thirty minutes of hockey. Reporter Julieta Jankunas plays the ball to Roberts, who missed the World Cup 21 last year due to a torn cruciate ligament, sustained in a silly skiing accident . Roberts pushed the previous balls half high. Now she drags the ball on the ground, on the glove side of Remmerswaal. The eye of the master has seen it well. Roberts scores.

“We always look back at our penalty corners. Paumen said fire it straight from the second couple. It’s open there,’ says the talent from Tilburg, who made her comeback last March after a year of rehabilitation. It was her second league goal of the season.

Maartje Paumen gives Maddie Hinch a hug. Photo: Frank van der Leer

An incredible achievement for a PhD student

The women of Tilburg were promoted to the big league last season after a thriller with Orange-Red . And this season, as a PhD student, they are actually achieving the impossible. Last week the teams were even sixth. The fact that Roberts’ goal does not help her team to the eighth victory of the season [HDM wins 2-1] should not spoil the fun. The sun breaks through on all faces after the sound of the horn. Direct enforcement is celebrated. Players fall into each other’s arms.

Tilburg has delivered an incredible achievement as a PhD student, and Roberts is the first to admit that they are very proud of that at Tilburg. “This has been a season of ups and downs. We started great, but then had to deal with a lot of injuries. A lot has been asked of our adaptability. You want to build as a team, but because of all those injuries that was not possible. Luckily we survived. Individually we may not have the best players, but as a team we have proven strong. That’s also the reason why we got so many points. We had confidence in ourselves.’

Donja Zwinkels from Tilburg and Pien van Nes from HDM embrace each other after both teams have played themselves safe. Photo: Frank van der Leer

There were nine teams upfront who wanted to make the playoffs, I think. We assumed that we had to fight against relegation Ageeth Boomgaardt, coach of Tilburg

It must be crazy for the players to be happy, but still lose. It goes wrong after rest. It is 1-1 on Sunday afternoon when Roberts receives the ball in the back on the 23-meter line, but is mistaken. Pien van Nes, the HDM club icon who is retiring after eighteen seasons , puts pressure on her and wins the ball. Jip Dicke enters into a sprint duel with Roberts, who commits a foul. HDM gets a penalty corner and Dicke hits the 2-1 against the ropes from the rebound.

It is a moment that coach Ageeth Boomgaardt says after the game that she is fed up with. Tilburg has set up a defensive organization in this successful year, led by former international Ireen van den Assem and British keeper Maddie Hinch. That is also where their strength lies. Tilburg has conceded considerably fewer goals (36) than Bloemendaal (44), Rotterdam (53), Kampong (61) and Little Switzerland (63).

“Our defensive organization was our main key,” says Boomgaardt. “There were nine teams that wanted to make the playoffs, I think. We assumed that we had to fight against relegation. As a PhD student, that is an appropriate goal. I didn’t expect to be safe one match before the end. We did an excellent job.’

Despite the loss, happy faces at Tilburg. Photo: Frank van der Leer

Next season without Van den Assem, Hinch and Zwinkels

Boomgaardt especially wants to enjoy direct enforcement on this Sunday afternoon, which feels like winning a prize. The 195-time international of the Dutch national team does not want to answer questions about next season’s group of players. She says that’s for later concern. A day after the match, the club announces that in addition to goalkeeper Maddie Hinch and striker Donja Zwinkels, former international Ireen van den Assem has also decided to put an end to her career. Child of the club Jeske van Bavel also hangs her stick on the willows. It is still unclear where the future of Argentines Vicky Sauze and Julieta Jankunas lies. It will therefore be a hell of a job for Tilburg next season to match this year’s performance.


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