The Canadian women’s field hockey team is in Vancouver preparing for its next tournament of the year in New Zealand, where they will face some of the world’s best teams.
This year’s Hawke’s Bay Cup (April 2nd-10th in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand) features six teams headed to the 2016 Olympic Games in Brazil this summer, and five teams in the top ten of the World Rankings.
“It will be a good benchmark for us to see where we are against some of the top teams who are at peak form right and see where we really need to make the gap smaller,” says forward Hannah Haughn, who – along with Women’s National Team teammate Danielle Hennig – will be returning to New Zealand for the first time since playing for Northland in the countr’s National League during Canada’s decentralized period late last year.
“We’re committed to performing at our best there and we really want to show the world that we’re up and coming.”
Haughn – who is coming off playing in her 100th international match for Canada, becoming the youngest Canadian woman on record to reach that milestone – and her teammates have made significant strides in the last two years.
After winning a bronze medal at the 2015 Pan American Games – the first time they took home hardware at the tournament since 1999 in Winnipeg – the Canadian women cracked the top twenty in the world rankings, all while still being one of the youngest teams on average at any international tournament.
Their invite and inclusion in the Hawke’s Bay tournament is international recognition of the progress that has been made.
“It’s definitely a confidence booster,” Haughn adds. “We’ve been working really hard and we’ve got a core group of girls sticking around and we’re all committed.”
One of the athletes who has joined that group of committed athletes is Vancouver’s Thora Rae.
The 16 year-old is part of a group of junior athletes that has been training with the senior women since the start of the year, and the Vancouver native has been named to the team set to compete at the Hawke’s Bay Cup.
“I’m so excited,” says Rae. “I’ve watched all these teams play on YouTube, on the FIH (International Hockey Federation) channel and I was watching them the other day and I thinking, ‘I can’t believe I’m going to play these top teams in the world.’”
It will be quite a way for Rae to play in her first senior international match for Canada, but she is confident the wisdom she has gained in the previous months training with the senior women has prepared her well.
“The team is so supportive,” she says. “It’s such a great time to be entering the team because all the girls have such great leadership.”
And at the tender age of 21, Haughn is one of those leaderships who has helped the Canadian women get to the position they are in – one where they now rub shoulders with the world’s elite.
“We’re all really excited to be here,” she says. “It’s definitely an inspiring environment right now. We’re all pushing really hard and we’re all excited for the next events.”
The Canadian women open the Hawke’s Bay Cup on April 2nd against Korea (World No.9) at 11:00am local time.
For Canada’s full tournament schedule, including results and game recaps, click here.