When Canada’s women’s field hockey team takes to the field against India Friday in Lancaster, Pennsylvania it will face a team headed to the 2016 Olympic Games and ranked 13th in the world.
The four game series during which Canada will also face the 5th ranked United States is yet another example of how Canada is making the most of the 2016 Olympic year, despite having missed out on qualification.
After the series in Lancaster is complete, the Canadian Women’s National Team will have played twenty official international matches in 2016 and all of them will have come against teams ranked higher and are headed to the Olympics in August.
“They’re all so good and we have a lot to learn from them,” says veteran defender Karli Johansen. “So when we do film review, we’re not just looking at ourselves we can take things from them to learn and get better.”
“We feel like we compete with these teams, and we do compete with them, but there are little things that make big differences.”
It’s little consolation but highly beneficial for a Canadian team that is on the rise.
And those intricacies are what the Canadian women have been working on implementing ahead of a busy and impactful year to come.
In 2017, Canada will host Women’s World League Round 2 in the Great Vancouver area. The tournament is the first stage of 2018 World Cup qualification for Canada’s women and is why the current year of competition against Olympic teams is important.
“It’s a great time to be building and playing the best teams when they’re leading up to the Olympics and when they’re in their prime,” says forward Nikki Woodcroft, who is in her first full year with the Senior National Team. “It’s great competition for us and it’s exciting to jump right into that and see what the highest level is.”
But the Canadian women are not just along for the ride.
They proved that with a historic result at the 2015 Pan American Games, earning a medal (bronze) for the first time in 16 years.
That was followed up by an upset of higher ranked Korea at the Hawke’s Bay Cup in New Zealand earlier this year, and a strong showing in Japan in a four-game series with the Olympic bound Japanese.
With the 2018 World Cup and 2020 Olympics on the horizon, Canada’s women believe that is only the beginning of what is to come.
“Four years out from Tokyo (2020 Olympics) we are competing with these teams,” Johansen adds. “So it gives me a lot of hope that next year and the year after we’ll keep getting exponentially better – that’s the goal and I really believe we can do it.”