THE 2018 St Mary’s Investec Hockey Festival - South Africa’s premier girls’ school hockey event — reached a pulsating climax before a passionate crowd of supporters at St Mary’s School in Waverley, Johannesburg on Sunday, April 8. The innovative tournament is known for its unique, fast-paced format, with matches lasting only 25 minutes, and played one-way-only. Matches take place on Astro Turf fields at various girls’ high schools over four days, culminating in the finale at St Mary’s on Sunday evening.This was the 19th edition of the festival, which this year attracted teams from across South Africa, as well as Namibia and the United Kingdom. The 2018 semi-finals saw defending champions C & N Sekondêre Meisieskool Oranje from Bloemfontein lose narrowly 1 - 0 to Port Elizabeth’s Collegiate Girls’ High School and St Mary’s DSG, Kloof (KZN) downing Herschel Girls High School (Cape Town) after a penalty shoot-out.The 9th and 10th-place play-off between hosts St Mary’s Waverley and St Anne’s (KZN) ended in a 1 - all draw, with the atmosphere at fever-pitch as the home school’s cheerleaders rallied supporters with song, dance and battle chants. “It was again an absolute pleasure to welcome our hockey friends from around South Africa and other countries to the St Mary’s Investec Hockey Festival,” said St Mary’s Head Deanne King. “There was a great atmosphere of excitement at our annual celebration of women’s sport.” The final between Collegiate and St Mary’s DSG, Kloof was an incredibly tight affair, with no goals scored during regular time or during the five minutes of extra time. St Mary’s Kloof goalkeeper, Nicola Havenga, proved the difference between the teams in the penalty shoot-out, when she saved all three attempts, helping her team to a thrilling 3 - 0 shoot-out victory. This is the first win for St Mary’s Kloof since 2007. Danni Dixon, Group Head for Marketing Investec, said events like the 2018 St Mary’s Investec Hockey Festival were inspirational, and a unique opportunity to elevate women sports development in South Africa.“We are honoured to be involved in a festival like this where we help to grow the love for the game and identify promising talent,” said Dixon. “We have been able to achieve both of these goals at this year’s festival.” Dixon said that the hockey festival also encouraged performances that were out of the ordinary. “Whether it’s on the hockey field, in the classroom or in the boardroom, out of the ordinary performances help us push boundaries and to achieve more,” said Dixon.The most promising player of this year’s festival was Kayla de Waal from Herschel Girls School, who won the Out of the Ordinary Player Award and a bursary to attend the Investec Hockey Academy, where she will receive expert training from world-class hockey coaches.The event also raised funds for rhino conservation in South Africa through the Investec Rhino Lifeline and Goals for Rhino initiative, whereby every goal scored during the festival raised R200 for rhino conservation at the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre. A total of 287 goals were scored, and along with other fund-raising initiatives, over R170 000 was raised to help the country’s endangered rhino population. — Supplied.