GB Under-18 Women showed plenty of character to finish third in their group in the preliminary round at the 2018 IHF/EHF Trophy in Tuzla, Bosnia Herzegovina.
With 10 players making their GB debut in the squad coached by Bill Baillie and Gary McCafferty, this trip was about building for the future. GB were drawn in group B alongside Luxembourg, Azerbaijan and hosts Bosnia Herzegovina.
GB started well in their opening match vs Luxembourg, keeping their opponents in their sights, but as technical mistakes crept in late in the first half, Luxembourg took the initiative going into the break 13-7 up. GB came out strong in the second half and closed the gap before again going through a poor spell as Luxembourg won 28-20. Shropshire’s Taisha Dawson top scored with seven goals.
On day 2 GB played Bosnia Herzegovina in what was always going to be their toughest test. In the early stages GB kept pace with the hosts, but again a poor spell late in the first half allowed Bosnia Herzegovina to go 19-9 up at the break. A battling performance in the second half saw GB take the game to the Bosnians, but the experience of the hosts told and they went on to win 34-20, but there were positive signs already from the young GB squad. Stroud’s Ellie Thompson top-scored for GB with six goals, while goalkeepers Danielle Till and Gabrielle Leese, who plays her club handball in Bosnia Herzegovina, also put in strong performances.
In their final group game GB struggled to get into their stride against Azerbaijan and went into the half-time break 10-15 down. For much of the second half GB chased, but could not close the gap on their opponents, however a late rally saw GB get back to within two goals with two minutes remaining. In the tense closing stages GB held their nerve, pressuring Azerbaijan into a series of errors and scoring three goals, including a buzzer-beating winner, to record an epic 29-28 win. Captain Storm Judge led the way for GB with 11 goals, while Ellie Thompson added another eight.
GB finished the group stages in third place with two points, one behind Luxembourg, with Bosnia Herzegovina unbeaten at the top of group B.
GB will next play Cyprus at 1.30pm (UK time) on Saturday in their play-off match for places 5-8. If they win this match, they would play for the 5th place on Sunday against the winner of Moldova-Azerbaijan.