PHOTO: Danille Hennig (left) and Sara McManus at Women’s National Team training on September 6, 2016
Canada’s women’s field hockey team kicked off a new quadrennial in mid-August with the beginning of one of its biggest training blocks in the past four years and likely for the next four years to come.
Focused on getting better at home
The 14-week training block with the team fully centralized at its home-base at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver comes after an intense period of competition in 2016, which saw the women play 20 matches all against higher ranked teams.
Despite not qualifying for the 2016 Olympic Games, the Canadian women made most of the Olympic year and are now firmly focused on the next cycle, which begins with attempting qualification for the 2018 World Cup and will be quickly followed by the road to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
“We’ve had a productive and busy 2016, so as we head into 2017 and World League 2, it’s just a really good chance to continue the momentum,” says Women’s National Team Director and Head Coach Ian Rutledge.
“With competition it’s usually stressful and it’s hard to make adjustments or changes when your vehicle is in motion,” he adds. “What this (training block) really does is it gives us the chance to garage the car and work away and it and continue to refine it and make sure we’re going to be road worthy come competition.”
Focusing on the 2018 World Cup
The next meaningful competition for the Canadian women will come in early 2017 as they begin qualification for the 2018 World Cup.
World League Round 2 consists of 24 teams competing in three parallel tournaments in three different cities, with Canada competing in the tournament to be held in Vancouver in March-April.
To qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Canada’s women must achieve top 10 finish at the end of the World League Round 3.
Another way to qualify is to winner the Pan American Cup, which will be played later in 2017.
“It’s a big one,” says veteran defender Sara McManus. “But I think it will just make us that much more motivated and it will make this next big block go by faster because we’re all really excited for it.”
Playing at home
For the first time in a long time, Canada’s women will be hosting a large international tournament at home in 2017.
When Canada hosts World League Round 2 early next year, there will be a lot on the line – with World Cup qualification heavily tied to the tournament’s results.
But the stakes and the time away from competition before then will only serve to motivate the team, according to one of its leaders.
“You’re always itching to play and especially when you have a longer period of down time,” says Kelowna’s Danielle Hennig. “It makes getting back all that more exciting. Getting back knowing that we’re going to be playing on home turf doubles that. And I think we’ll be in really good form.”