Today, we continue our review of 2016 with a look back at the year for Canada’s senior women’s field hockey team. The year was chock-full of competition against top teams, making it an important development one for Canada’s Women’s National Team.
Later this week, stay tuned for Part 2 of the Women’s National Team review, in which four members of the team talk about the best parts of the year. Also this week, we count down the Top Canadian field hockey moments of 2016.
In 2016, Canada’s Women’s National Team began its quest towards the 2020 Olympic Games. With an increased World Ranking after the 2015 season, during which the team picked up a medal (bronze) at the Pan American Games for the first time in 16 years, the Canadian women saw their competition schedule filled with top-tiered nations, headed to the Olympic Games.
After kicking things off with a four-game series against their rivals to the south, the United States, in February, the women focused their attention to the invite-only Hawke’s Bay Cup in New Zealand.
This tournament was chock-full of teams headed to the 2016 Olympic Games and that Canada was included is a testament to the reputation Coach Ian Rutledge and his players have built internationally over the last several years, and the team’s increasing ability on the field.
The highlight of the tournament – and maybe the year – was undoubtedly Canada’s upset over Korea, who at the time was ranked 9th in the world and was also headed to the Olympic Games.
After falling behind 1-0 in the first half of the first game of the tournament, a strong second half during which Canada scored both its goals led the Canadians to a 2-1 victory over the Olympic-bound Koreans.
It was a proud accomplishment for the Canadian women, and a validation of the direction of the program, which despite missing out on the 2016 Games, is trending in positively in many metrics associated with successful international hockey teams.
For the rest of the Hawke’s Bay Cup, Canada played solid hockey and narrowly missed out on the semifinal after a 1-0 loss to China, a team also headed to Rio. In its final game, the team dropped another 1-0 decision to Olympic-bound India.
Overall, the Hawke’s Bay Cup was a competition during which the Canadian women showed the world that they fit right in amongst the top hockey teams in the world.
After the Hawke’s Bay Cup, Canada took part in two pre-Olympic tournaments, one in in Japan against a Japanese team that finished 10th at the Olympics, and another in the United States which ended up finishing 5th at the Rio Olympics.
In Japan in June, the Women’s National Team played two games Osaka, and two games in Gifu against the Japanese, who were in their final stages of Olympic preparation.
In the United States in July, Canada played three games: the first two against India and the final game against the United States. For both opponents, it was a final opportunity to be game tested before the Olympics in Rio, and for Canada, it was yet another chance to close the gap with the top-tier.
The summer consisted of a short break for the Canadian women. They reconvened in their training home of Vancouver in September to begin a long stretch of training to close out the year. The 14 straight weeks of training included some team bonding exercises such as a trip to Whistler, but was mainly focused on developing skills and improving as a team.
Having played in a large number of games across the world over the last two years, the training block afforded the squad – which will be back to a busy and pressure packed schedule in 2017 – some time to once again make leaps in their individual and team abilities.
The women ended 2016 ranked 18th in the world and with a renewed sense of purpose towards the 2018 World Cup and 2020 Olympics as they continue to rise in experience, ability, and reputation.
Next year, the Canadian women will host World League Round 2, part of the 2018 Women’s World Cup qualification, in West Vancouver from April 1-9 2017.