Ards return home from Portugal today with some extra baggage having claimed the bronze medals at the European Indoor Challenge tournament in Lisbon yesterday.
Unfortunately it wasn’t enough to earn them promotion to the European trophy next season, the second tier of the competition.
But the Irish champions did themselves proud in this their first trip to the continent having won the national title two years in a row.
Their chances of securing promotion depended on winning both their matches yesterday but a 3-0 defeat by Belgian side White Star in their opening game ended their chances.
But they recovered superbly to beat host side Belenenses 5-3 to clinch third place which will leave them competing in the third division next season.
Ards took the lead in the third minute when Becky Weir’s shot was saved and Sara Alexander picked the ball up on the rebound close to the back line and cleverly forced it past the keeper.
The Ulster side continued to attack and they made it 2-0 after seven minutes when Janice Vaughan scored from a penalty corner deflection.
Immediately after the restart, Belenenses pulled one back and they almost equalised shortly afterwards but were denied by a great save from keeper Naomi McKnight.
Naomi Elliott then made it 3-1, coolly converting a penalty stroke amid massive jeering from the home crowd but, once again, Belenenses caught Ards on the hop scoring immediately from the restart.
With a couple of minutes left in the half, Elliott took a quick free just outside the circle before firing into Vaughan to deflect into the net for a 4-2 lead at half time.
In the 36th minute, Vaughan completed her hat-trick with a cool finish after a cross form Chloe Brown before the hosts pulled another goal back with seconds left.
On Saturday Ards beat Swedish side Partille 3-1 and then defeated Welsh champions Howardian 3-0.
Chloe Brown, Katy Bennett and Caroline Adams got the goals against the Welsh side after Elliott (2) and Weir had been on target against the Swedes.
At domestic level Ballymoney warmed up for Saturday’s crunch clash with Pegasus with a resounding 5-1 win over Armagh while on Friday night Randalstown beat Portadown 3-1.
In Senior One Harlequins dropped their first points of the campaign in drawing 1-1 with Ballymena throwing a lifeline to Lisnagarvey who beat North Down 4-1 to stay in the hunt for the one automatic promotion place.
Results: European Indoor Challenge: Friday: Agyse (Hungary) 0 Ards 5, Abant Izzet Universoty (Turkey) 6 Ards 0; Saturday: Ards 3 Partille (Sweden) 1, Ards 3 Howardians (Wales) 0; Yesterday: Ards 0 White Star (Belgium) 3, Belenenses (Portugal) 3 Ards 5.
Final placings: 1. Abant Izzet, 2. White Star, 3. Ards, 4. Partille, 5. Belenenses, 6. Howardian, 7. Agyse.
Premier League: Armagh 1 Ballymoney 5, Ulster Elks 4 Lurgan 2, Randalstown 3 Portadown 1; Senior One: Ballyclare 0 Larne 2, Ballymena 1 Harlequins 1, Cookstown 2 Omagh 2, Greenisland 0 Civil Service 1, Lisnagarvey 4 North Down 1.