NTU’s Women’s First Team captain, Molly Matthews, believes last year’s play-off disappointment will give them the motivation they need after finishing top of the league.
The Pink and Blues finished top of the league with a game to go but will only ply their trade in the league above next year if they navigate through a tricky play-off system.
Last season saw the 1s secure top-spot before Christmas but they were beaten by Edinburgh in the one-off play-off game to be promoted to the Women’s Premier North division.
NTU wrapped up the title with a game to go this time around, beating title rivals Birmingham University in the penultimate match of the season to crown themselves champions.
Speaking about finishing top of the Women’s Midlands Tier 1, the 20-year-old captain said: “From my perspective it has been a hard league this year which has been good for us [as it gives us] more competition.
“I think the win made it more special because it had been a lot harder compared to last season. We put in a good graft for the game and it was great to get the result.
“We wanted to get over the first ambition of getting promoted but the girls have done excellent this year.
“We’re playing in a tough competition and winning against our rivals on their home pitch with everyone supporting us was just great.
“Last year’s heartache spurred us on to win the league again but we’ve had the mentality that we want to win the play-offs. We’re on the same page to try and get that.”
The Pink and Blues sealed promotion with a game to go and head coach Daniel Corlett said he was pleased with his side’s performances throughout the year in a difficult league campaign.
He said: “It wasn’t quite as easy this year. It’s been a tougher league this year with Birmingham and Nottingham, certainly from a coaching side of things.
“Last year we won the league before Christmas whereas this year there has been a lot more competition within the league so to go and do it against one of our league rivals – a team who had come down from the league above – was really emphatic way for us to seal it.”
Having missed out on promotion by such a fine margin last season, Corlett said finishing top of the league and achieving in the play-offs was always going to be the ambition for this season.
He said: “[Of course it was] having won the league the year before. We knew it was going to be a tougher league with Birmingham being in it as well.
“Last year we only really had one rival, Nottingham, and they are in the league with us this year
“So, having three of the biggest universities sporting wise in the Midlands in the same league made us know it was going to be a tough league.
“We had very clear targets at the start of the season in retaining the league title.
“The first stage is not to retain it but go up through the play-offs to be in the league above.
“With all the best will in the world that is the level we really want to be at. We don’t want to have to retain the title, we want to go and win something else.”
NTU will face either Leeds Beckett, who finished bottom of the Women’s Premier North, the winner of the Women’s Northern Tier or the winner of the Women’s Scottish Tier in a play-off semi-final.
The draw for the play-offs will be announced after NTU’s Varsity fixture with the University of Nottingham.
By Matthew Lee
Photo credit: Matthew Lee