Thomas starts Isca off with opening-day win
West National Conference
ISCA University scoring sensation Claire Thomas has started the new Investec Women's Hockey League season from where she left off.
The 21-year-old University of Exeter student – who hails from Devon – scored a 41st-minute goal in the 2-0 opening league win over Southampton's Trojans after being teed up by Julia Blackstock.
Thomas – who now skippers the side – topped the Women's Conference West goal charts last term with 18 goals.
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Katie Taverner had already opened the scoring on the stroke of half-time for University-of-Exeter-based Isca following good work from Thomas and summer signing Carla Dunnett, whose initial shot came back off the post.
"After last season's frustrating opening-day goalless draw with Trojans, we were determined to open this season's account with a win," explained Thomas.
"Carla came close to adding a third goal, although our keeper Polly Salter was forced to make a couple of smart saves near the end to ensure a clean sheet, in another otherwise solid defensive display.
"It was a great team performance with the promise of plenty more to come."
Isca make the trip to perennial promotion favourites Buckingham next Saturday, who opened their title defence with an emphatic 6-3 win at Bristol Firebrands.
Exe Hockey Club begin their bid to return to the national league on Saturday when the 2012/13 West Clubs Women's Hockey League Premier Division starts.
Exe host Cheltenham at St Peter's School, Exeter (12.30pm), having already warmed up for it by winning the Olive Drake Memorial Trophy at the annual Exeter Tournament.
Exe Whites beat Isca Hockey 3-0 in the final of the tournament thanks to goals from Megan Pearson, Becky Fagg and Bridie Marlow.
Jenny Mitchell from Exe Hockey Club said: "This is a fantastic achievement for the club.
"This is a highly-regarded tournament that has been held for over 35 years and offers clubs from across the South West a chance to have a great day of hockey before the competitive season starts this September."
Exe Whites made it to the final after they finished top of their group consisting of Plymouth Marjon, Teign and Bude, before beating Taunton in the semis.
The tournament has been held for over 35 years and was originally run by Exeter Ladies HC prior to their merger with Exmouth to form Exe Hockey Club.
Isca dominated this game, scoring all five goals in the first half off the platform of a solid defence and midfield.
Isca's forwards also worked hard and looked extremely sharp in front of goal.
Nicky Hutchings bossed the midfield while Ruth Tresidder, Charlie Bowman, Tilly Snow and Katie Caspar also excelled.
Isca's new signing Hester Massop got on the scoresheet in a convincing win.
Despite dominating the first half, Isca only led through a solitary Rosalie Birch strike.
But in the second half they pulled away from the opposition with goals from Lucy Parsons, Georgina Taylor and Dutch ace Massop.
The team played some good passing hockey and showed some early season promise ahead of the league season, which starts in a fortnight.
A mixture of returning experienced players and a host of new faces impressed against a strong Taunton side.
Lucy Jordan – who is new to goalkeeping – made some great saves to keep the scoreline down.
Youngsters Jess Ramsey, Sophie Bailey and Millie E J did not look out of place in senior hockey with some great interceptions and early passing.
Given that Taunton are ranked higher than the teams Isca will face in the league this season, there were plenty of positives to take from the performance.
New-look University of Exeter were undone 3-1 by University of Birmingham.
Exeter were trailing 2-0 after goals from Will Selfe in the 11th minute and Will Byas 10 minutes later.
Andrew Ross halved the deficit in the 50th minute to give them some glimmer of hope, but just three minutes later they conceded a crucial third goal from Scott Evans to put it beyond reach.
University of Exeter's next league match is on Sunday away to the newly-promoted Firebrands, who were beaten 4-2 at Cardiff & UWIC on their return to the National League stage.
East Devon were beaten by a Duchy side who were on top from the opening whistle.
Duchy pushed EDHC back and only some last ditch tackling kept it level.
Just as EDHC started to get into the game they were hit on the break, but Ty France turned at the top of the D and rifled home for 1-1.
Duchy notched a second on the stroke of half time, before adding a third shortly after the break.
EDHC kept calm and worked hard, pulling on back with 10 minutes to go, but it was too little too late.