Ards finish fifth in Europe with Amy Benson at the double
Ards defied the odds to exceed even their own expectations by securing a superb fifth place finish at the EuroHockey Indoor Club Trophy tournament in Lithuania.
The Irish champions' primary objective was to preserve their second-tier status but a draw and a win yesterday was enough for them to achieve a best-ever outcome in their fifth trip to Europe.
They started the day with a 2-2 draw against Lille (France) and that left them needing a similar result against Partille (Sweden) to stay up.
They trailed 1-0 at half-time but second half goals from Lucy McKee, Chloe Brown and two from Amy Benson secured them a 4-1 victory and fifth place.
Ards' achievement was made all the remarkable as they travelled with only 10 players instead of 12 and, unlike the others, they do not play in an extended indoor league over the winter.
"We are absolutely delighted at our achievement although the girls were running on empty in the last match after playing five games in three days," said Ards captain Caroline Adams.
"While we won the Partille game 4-1, it was far from easy until Amy scored twice late on."
Meanwhile, in the EY Irish Hockey League, Belfast Harlequins lost 3-1 to their Cork namesakes at Deramore yesterday afternoon.
More importantly, they started the weekend with a 2-1 win at relegation rivals Pembroke.
That leaves them six points off the bottom, so they may have done enough to stay up in their first season in the top flight.
The Munster side had a good weekend, having beaten Pegasus 2-1 on Saturday to leave them in danger of missing the play-offs.
Ulster Elks were crushed 8-1 by UCD and now look favourites for automatic relegation.
In the Ulster Premier League, Randastown have taken over at the top following a 5-0 win at Banbridge while champions Lurgan slipped to second after being held to a 2-2 draw by Queen's.
EuroHockey Indoor Club Trophy: Ards 1 (A Benson) East Grinstead 2; Ards 0 Dundee 1; Ards 2 A Benson, C Brown) Lille 2; Ards 4 (C Brown, L McKee, A Benson 2) Partille 1
IHL: Pembroke 1 (E Horan) Belfast H'quins 2 (L Johnston 2); Ulster Elks 1 (S McCay) UCD 8 (A Russell 2, E Russell 2, L Tice, M O'Donnell, D Duke, K Mullan); Pegasus 1 (M Harvey) Cork H'quins 2 (O Roycroft, K Bateman); Loreto 2 (H Matthews, A Meeke) Monkstown 4 (A O'Flanagan 2, E Curran, C Watkins); Belfast H'quins 1 (L Geddes) Cork H'quins 3 (K Bateman, N Carroll, O Roycroft)
Ulster Premier League: Banbridge 0 Randalstown 5 (E Getty 2, A Doherty, G-L Palmer, Z Wilson); Dungannon 0 Portadown 1 (K Pringle); North Down 0 Ballymoney 7 (N Parke 4, J Moore 2, R Minihan); Queen's 2 (C Whiteside, A Hutchinson) Lurgan 2 (L Wright, S McClure); Lisnagarvey 2 (L McCracken, K Walker) Raphoe 0
Senior One: Ballyclare 2 (C McCoubrey, S Dickey) Armagh 0; Ballymena 4 (K young 2, C McCracken, R Reynolds) CI Ladies 1 (S Houston); Larne 0 Knock 9 (J Doak 6, S-J Jamieson 3); Victorians 1 (J Orr) Rainey 1 (R Burns); Cookstown 1 (P Black) Mossley 7 (Z McIlwaine 2, R McConnell, S McDowell 2, L Creighton, N McMullan)