Kate and Maddie Axford have been prominent forces in Cambridge City’s encouraging start to the England Women’s Hockey League, Division One South season.
With lockdown bringing a halt to proceedings for now, City are in fourth place, one point off second and just five behind leaders Reading, with a game in hand.
Having started their playing days at Bedford Hockey Club, the Axford sisters have gone on to make Cambridge their home.
Kate is a defender who first picked up a stick aged seven, but found a love for the game five years later – inspired by both parents and an older brother playing the sport, so it was a natural progression.
Kate, 21, was part of the National Age Group Squads (NAGS), representing England at under-16, under-18 and under-21 levels, co-captaining the Saxon Tigers to victory in the Futures Cup and winning bronze medals with the under-18s and under-21s at the EuroHockey Championships.
Also a lacrosse international, she decided to step out of international hockey in her second year at Exeter University, where she played in the national league for Isca.
Maddie stars at the other end of the pitch, in the forward line, and is one of the top scorers in the division so far this season, with three goals.
The 17-year-old started playing aged four, and has played a year and a half with England under-16s, and has now been in the under-18s for two years. Maddie has also had a few training sessions with the Great Britain Elite Development Programme.
But what makes them tick to boost City? We find out whether sibling rivalry is a factor that drives them on, or whether being in perfect harmony has the bigger impact.
How competitive are you with each other?
Kate: I think the age gap between us (four years) means that we don’t really get too competitive with each other. Playing in different lines also helps, we will always encourage each other on the pitch – along with the rest of the team.
Maddie: I would say we are far from competitive with one another, we are both so supportive of each other and rarely compare ourselves when it comes to hockey.
Who is the more competitive?
Kate: I would say I’m quietly more competitive than Maddie, although I would imagine she will say differently.
Maddie: I would say I am more competitive than Kate as I was always interested in sports from a young age whereas Kate enjoyed other hobbies like drama and music before she really got into sport/hockey.
What are the major differences between you as players?
Kate: The major difference between us on the pitch is definitely our ability in front of goal. Maddie can pretty much score from anywhere, I tend to panic when I get into the D.
Maddie: I would say Kate is much more of a defensive player, whereas I enjoy always being in the attacking D of the team I am playing for, I feel uncomfortable in the defending D however Kate is right at home there. I think she would say the same!
What are the major differences between you in characteristics?
Kate: We are absolutely both extroverts, however if you met us both you would certainly think I was the quieter sibling! (I imagine the rest of our team would agree here.) I’d also say I’m more level headed but that probably comes with age.
How would you describe each other’s games?
Kate: Maddie is a very powerful, dynamic player. She likes to take defenders on and if you give her even an inch of space, the ball is likely to end up in the back of the net.
Maddie: Kate is a speedy player, she is excellent at running the ball out of defence and I would be confident she could make it past anyone with her pace on the ball, she is ruthless in defence and always puts herself on the line.
Which part of each other’s game would you add to your own, if you could?
Kate: If it wasn’t already obvious, I could really benefit from her shooting skills.
Maddie: I would add Kate’s incredible fitness, she can run forever and barely ever looks tired!
Do you keep an eye on each other’s scoring record?
Kate: Normally I would say Maddie shouldn’t worry about me scoring, but somehow I’ve managed to get a few goals so maybe she should be keeping an eye on it!
Maddie: We only keep an eye as a joke, we are not too fussed about who is higher than another because I tend to set up some of Kate’s goals and vice versa.
What are the key areas of support that you provide each other?
Kate: I think we provide the support that any sisters would. We are very close and it sounds a bit cringy but I definitely am her biggest fan!
Maddie: We are both very supportive of each other on and off the pitch, if one of us thinks we have played badly the other will support and pick up the spirits. Having Kate back from uni now means that we can spend tons more time together which is also really nice.
Kate and Maddie have both played in all five of City’s matches so far this season, and you imagine that they will be integral for the rest of the campaign, whenever that restarts. City have had four matches postponed by the current lockdown, and also saw their clash with Isca delayed in October.