Zerbo and SCHC’s honest approach has mindset right for EHL FINAL8

Ginella Zerbo says her SCHC team’s honest approach is pushing them to ever higher standards as they continue to make waves in the Dutch Hoofdklasse ahead of the ABN AMRO EHL FINAL8.

She was on the mark for the 10th time this season in Sunday’s 4-0 win over Rotterdam, a result which keeps them three points clear of second placed AH&BC Amsterdam. They also have a Gold Cup final to look forward to following a midweek win over hdm, continuing their upward curve in the last two seasons.

Speaking about what has clicked, Zerbo said it is a product of “hard conversations” outside the pitch which have helped things flourish “inside the field”.

“We worked really hard with each other inside and outside the field,” she told the EHL website. “It’s like a switch we turned on. We asked ourselves what we needed to change to start reaching the top. 

“We took the time to really talk, to understand and invest in each other. We were honest outside the field and, when you do that, you can be honest inside the field and make each other better. 

“You don’t always have to be best friends but you have to be honest with each other. It can be hard but it is good. [In that situation], everyone is working hard for each other every training, giving 100%.”

Zerbo is now in her ninth season with the Bilthoven club having joined from EHL hosts back in 2014. It was hard for her to leave the club whom gave her a first team debut at a young age and was her “home” for many of her youth days.

“I always support Pinoké as my second club!” she says of her time with the club but says an opportunity came which was one she knew she had to go for.

“Pinoké was toward the bottom of the competition, 11th or 10th, while SCHC was playing in the finals that year, a lot of international players and they were looking for a striker. 

“So I went for it; hopefully I was going to play if I worked hard enough. It worked out really well. Of course, it was sad to leave Pinoké because it was like my home, a family club which I always enjoyed playing at, being up there every Saturday and also on Sundays. It was a tough decision but better for my hockey career.”

Indeed, in 2015 when just 17, Zerbo was a European champion. In the semi-final against Rot-Weiss Köln, she scored a vital goal just a minute after coming off the bench in a 2-1 success; two days later, she was savouring a shoot-out victory over Den Bosch in the final.

Ginella Zerbo on the attack against AH&BC Amsterdam. Picture: Koen Suyk/World Sport Pics

“It was crazy because it was at Stichtse and there were a lot of people there. We were winning crazy shoot-outs and I played against club teams from Germany and England which was very different to the Dutch teams. The crowd was amazing, a lot of fun.

“The moment our goalie stopped that last ball, the run to her, screaming, crying, ‘oh my God, we did it against Den Bosch!’ That was really amazing – the cup lift of course; it is a really nice memory!”

A year later, it was almost a carbon-copy but, that time, Den Bosch prevailed in a final shoot-out, something which Zerbo says she “kind of blocked from memory”.

But the rivalry with Den Bosch remains fierce with the two clubs contesting the three-legged Dutch championships finals last season as well as the Gold Cup in addition to their regular Hoofdklasse fixtures.

As such, it was inevitable the two sides would cross paths at the EHL FINAL8; Zerbo is “sad” it has to be on the opening night of the competition with the draw pitting them together.

But to win any silverware, she knows they will have to beat Den Bosch along the way.

“It is always a hard game and hard to beat them. We have done it a few times in the last year but how many more times do we need to do it? If we want to win stuff, we have to at least a few times! It is tough but they are really fun games to play, the ones you play for..

“For us, we are in a happy place, ranked number one. Every week is our focus and we don’t look further away than that, going from Sunday to Sunday. We are really focused and that’s why we are so motivated. We want to get the best of us every game!”