Gantoise start second half in confident mood

Gantoise’s women got their second half of the Ion Hockey League season up and running in confident mood with a 5-0 win over Daring.

Ambre Ballenghien scored twice, adding to an early Lara Oviedo goal and further strikes from Noa Schreurs and Berta Bonastre to build a win that keeps them top of the table on goal difference.

The reigning, back-to-back Belgian champions have a settled side as they look to go one or more better than their EHL debut last year when they finished in fourth place.

The squad has been pretty much together for the past three season with Stephanie vanden Borre the sole departure last summer while Spanish international Berta Bonastre is back in Belgium.

Otherwise, it is a side filled with notable players. Alix Gerniers is the team captain – and Belgian Red Panthers’ co-captain – and is in her 14th season with the club. The 2015 and 2018 Belgian player of the year missed out on the EHL last year through injury.

Barbara Nelen is a product of the youth section and Gerniers’ co-captain at international level. She made her first team debut at the age of 14 and was the best Belgian player in 2011 and 2013.

Ballenghien is slightly newer to the scene but is already a global star, scoring the 2021 FIH Goal of the Year; she scored on international debut at the age of 16 in 2017 against Germany.

They are among a set of five Red Panthers who won Euro bronze in 2021 along with Hélène Brasseur and Pauline de Ryck. French international Delfina Gaspari and Italian – by way of Argentina – Oviedo bring experience while Schreurs and Ann-Sophie Vanden Borre are Under-21 internationals.

Ann-Sophie has replaced her older sister Stephanie in centre-back since the latter’s departure. 

It is a youthful setup with an average age of 23,1 while they feature the two youngest players in the Belgian League: Fee Van Den Abeele and Alexi Van Remortel. Both girls only turned 15 in August 2022. 

At the far end of the spectrum, Emilie Sinia turns 38 in May and has over 20 years of know-how in the division, still tearing things up down the right channel.

They have had eight European outdoor campaigns since 2005, brilliantly winning the EuroHockey Club Trophy in 2021 in Lille, boosting Belgium’s quotient to qualify for the EHL last Easter where they defeated Surbiton. That came amid a remarkable run between 29th April 2019 and 16th October 2022 when they went 93 consecutive games without defeat.

They will meet Club de Campo in the ABN AMRO EHL FINAL8.