Following back-to-back promotions over the last two seasons, the Cougars have been working hard through their preseason training and warm-up period to be ready for their first Premier­ship match this Saturday.

Travelling to Exeter University last Satur­day, KS took part in the second year of a great preseason tournament organised by the Devon Hockey Umpires Association.

Clubs attend from all over the county to play through a series of pool matches and play-off finals. This year an added highlight was a national league match between Isca and Swansea being played over the lunch break, which the majority of teams took the opportunity to watch.

Devon Hockey umpires were on hand all day to provide coaching on decisions and feedback throughout the day as all teams are adjusting to a handful of new rules this season, giving the teams who attend a great insight into the coming changes.

KS started with a slightly wobbly 2-0 win over Newton Abbot as the match started only 10 minutes after the team arrived on the Uni campus, leaving little time to warm up. Goals from Fern Tucker and Helen Symons kept the Cougars on top as the squad started to wake up in the closing minutes.

After a short rest between games, the Cou­gars lined up against Exe and despite being a well contested game from both teams, KS were still looking a little off the pace, slipping to 3-0 down early in the second half.

Working hard to establish their rhythm, the short-handed Cou­gars squad fought back into the game through solid midfield work from Lou Read, Sarah Budgen and Nat Elliott and some stout defending from Rachel Roberts.

Building pressure through the insides, KS pinned Exe in their own 25 for the final eight minutes and two great finishes from Mel Showler brought the final score back to 3-2.

In the last pool game after lunch KS took on local team Dart with a much better performance as their layering up in the tackle and passing connections started to click, with Emily Read leading the way from centre-half.

Laura Kerly opened the scoring early on with a great solo effort before adding another on the reverse after a great slipped pass from Symons.

Kerly turned provider for the final goal, firing in a cross from wide right to Fern Tucker at the back post.

Controlling well and rolling away from the ‘keeper, Tucker slipped to KS junior Charlotte Budgen, who slotted home her first-ever goal just before half-time for the Cougars to seal a solid 3-0 win and see them finish the pool stage tied at the top with Exe.

The more sedate second half meant that KS went through to the third/fourth place play off.

Tied with Exe on points, goal difference, games won and goals scored, frustratingly one (or more!) additional goals would have seen the Cougars straight through to the finals, however the loss to Exe earlier in the day was the deciding factor.

The Cougars played old rivals Okehampton for third place in a match which saw tired KS legs overcome by the Cougars’ fighting spirit.

Fern Tucker opened the scoring with a great deflected finish from a Symons shot. Captain Chloe Harvey finished off a fine passing move by playing Kerly through on goal to slot home for the second.

Symons completed the next slick passing move to slip Kerly into space before she fired a rocket into the far corner.

Completing her hat-trick, Kerly went solo to blast past the ‘keeper and close out a re­sounding 4-0 win which saw ‘keeper Claire Jones keep her third clean sheet of the tournament.

Time was well spent between games as the Cougars plugged in their hockey brains to review each performance and work on areas to look at for the coming season.

With four first-team players unavailable, KS worked hard at their hockey to come back from a sub-par start to the day and run out with a deserved third place; a full squad would certainly have seen KS in very strong contention for first place.

A two-hour training session followed last Saturday as the Cougars worked hard in the glorious sunshine to perfect their drills for this weekend’s Premiership debut against Newquay, to be played at KCC with pushback at 11am.

Following the game sponsor Dan Curtis from DWC Services and Kingsbridge mayor Wayne Grills will be drawing the winning tickets for this year’s pre-season raffle.

As always, all support will be most welcome as the Cougars look to the new season and if you haven’t got your raffle ticket yet they will be on sale during the game!