It had been 18 years since Team Canada had defeated USA in Women’s field Hockey. Last week in Chula Vista, California, Canada put that statistic away by winning two games and bringing home a 2-1-1 series win against the world number 7.
Only two weeks after returning from their Chilean training tour and test series, the Women’s National Team was back on a plane bound for California. On the agenda: another training camp followed by four test matches against the US national team. The team boasted a winning record in Chile and continued the momentum into their series against the US.
After a week of training, the games began. Canada won the first two games of the series, including a brilliant come-from-behind win in game two. They dropped the third game 2-1 and drew the final games 3-3. Canadian forward Steph Norlander — Canada’s leading goal scorer during the USA tour— said the team’s new strategy under coach Giles Bonnet is much more aggressive. She attributes the team’s upped production in 2018 to this attacking mindset.
“In the past few years, we may have made the safe choice, we may have played the ball back,” she said. “This year, everything is forward, everything is direct. It leads to more chances in the circle, which has led to more goals.”
Norlander, who is currently playing abroad in Belgium for KHC Leuven, said the team has a noticeable increase in confidence, which is showing on the field.
“The way we’ve been training and competing breeds a lot of confidence,” Norlander said. “As a result, when we played against the United States, it just felt like a different game all together. We weren’t scared, we weren’t thinking about the rankings.”
Bonnet, Head Coach of the Women’s National Team, said he’s been impressed with the team’s determination and commitment to the adapting to new styles and structures. He said that the team has grown since the Chile tour and will continue to grow between now and Commonwealth Games.
“The team has a fantastic work ethic,” Bonnet said. “They are open to chance, they are embracing the new methodology and approach. They are extremely professional on and off the field.”
With the two winter training tours complete, the team will now turn its sights to the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games scheduled for April 4-15, 2018. Initial team selections will be made next week and then the final roster is scheduled to be announced on the 16th of March. The coaching staff has been assessing a large group in order to make the most informed decisions.
“We have a large squad and over the Chile and USA stages, we have been able to assess and give training and match opportunities to all the Women’s National Team players.”
Selection time is always a tough time for players and coaching staff but it’s a reality of national team sports. Norlander said that heading into the selection period, the team has a balanced outlook.
“We know what’s at stake and we know it will be tough when the team is selected,” Norlander said. “But we’ve been competing and pushing each other and we are also really supportive of each other. We know, ultimately that everyone is playing a role no matter who gets selected.”
Last spring, at World League Round 2, the team failed to qualify for the next stage and therefore essentially forewent their chance to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Norlander talks about that being a low point in the team’s recent history that none of the athletes want to experience again.
“The feeling last year of missing the world cup, it was devastating. I never want to feel that again. None of us do. But we’ve grown from that adversity and we’re better for it.”
The team currently holds a 4-1-4 record on the year heading into the Commonwealth Games. They will face Australia, Scotland, New Zealand and Ghana in the tournament’s preliminary stages. Watch for roster announcements and Commonwealth Games previews in the coming month.