For both the men’s and women’s senior national team programs, 2019 marks the beginning of the Olympic Games qualifying season. On the men’s side, they just finished a World Cup campaign and are getting back into the swing of things in the domestic training environment. On the women’s side, the national team athletes competed and trained in Belgium in the fall as a part of their preparation for Olympic qualifiers.
The Women’s National Program kicks off 2019 in Panzhihua, China with a three-week training tour featuring six capped test matches. Along with the senior national team, a roster of junior women will also be attending. They will train alongside the senior athletes and challenge the Chinese U23 national team to a set of test matches.
According to Kate Wright, captain of the Women’s National Team, bringing the junior athletes along will provide a high-level training experience that will help push them to the next level and prepare them for the jump to the senior level.
“The junior athletes will have the opportunity to learn from the senior team and will also be exposed to some of the specialist coaches we’ve been working with,” she said. “This experience will be amazing for their development.”
Last summer, the Women’s National Team won the Hockey Series Open in Mexico, which set them on the course towards their ultimate goal of Tokyo 2020 qualification. As we flip the calendar into 2019, so much is yet to be decided. In order to qualify for the Olympics, the team will have to place top two at the FIH Hockey Series Final, scheduled for June in Valencia, Spain. Then they will be assigned a two-game series against another country. The winner of the two-game series will qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games. They also have an opportunity to qualify if they win the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru in July.
It’s an uphill battle for the 21st ranked team in the country but the athletes and coaching staff have felt the program trending up in the last year. After a record-setting finish at the Commonwealth Games last year, the team has followed up with a tournament win at Hockey Series Open and a very successful summer series in Europe. Their most recent series win in Spain against the 7th ranked Spanish side proves that they are on the right trajectory.
The January tour to China provides a valuable training and competition environment for the national team as they prepare for the upcoming spring/summer of qualifying events.
Amanda Woodcroft, Canadian midfielder, said that the China tour is about putting all the skills from the fall together and testing them against an unfamiliar opponent.
“We will refine our structures and look to build connections all over the field,” she said. “China will provide our team with a unique challenge. They have a different style of play than us and it will push us to solve problems and be open to new structures.”
After the tour, the players will return to Belgium to compete and train with their clubs. They will continue to meet at Victory HC for national team training during each week as well. Woodcroft is in her second year in the Belgian Hockey League playing with HC Leuven and recommends the European hockey experience to any aspiring player.
“Playing over in Europe is an experience I would suggest all players in Canada should try,” she said. “We have all learned so much from the various trainers that has made us better individually and as a team.”
|PLAYER NAME||CURRENT CLUB||CAPS|
|Alexis De Armond||White Star||16|
|Rowan Harris||UBC HC||37|
A roster of junior development athletes is also making the trip to China for the training tour. In addition to getting valuable repetitions with the senior athletes and access to specialist trainers, they will also challenge a Chinese U23 national team in a series of matches. The final schedule of matches is still to be confirmed.
|Camilla MacGillivray||Anna Mollenhauer||Margaret Pham|
|Sara Goodman||Jordyn Faiczak||Samantha McCrory|
|Cassandra Mascarenhas||Grace Delmotte||Mia Zurkovic|
|Kathleen Lynes||Bronwyn Bird||Danielle Husar|
|Erin Dawson||Nora Goddard-Despot||Thora Rae|