When the Women’s National Team reconvenes and begins training again in Vancouver in January, they will welcome some new – young – faces to the fold.
Seven athletes from the recently named 2016 Women’s National Team Junior Development Squad (JDS) have been chosen to centralize and train full-time with the senior athletes at the National Training Centre in Vancouver.
Alexis de Armond (Victoria, BC), Hannah Eborall (Beamsville, ON), Margaret Pham (Mississauga, ON), Nikki Woodcroft (Waterloo, ON), Rowan Harris (Ottawa, ON), Shannon Pereira (Toronto, ON) and Thora Rae (Vancouver, BC) have all accepted the selection opportunity to go full-time with the National Program.
“These young and aspiring players will enter a well established athlete-centered, performance-driven environment that will accelerate their growth.” says Women’s National Team Director and Head Coach Ian Rutledge. “They all have immense potential. Their selection will allow them to accelerate their development and provide the opportunity for each of them to turn this potential into a reality.”
“We currently have an exceptional core group of senior athletes; some not that much older than this group. With an eye towards the 2018 World Cup and the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, it is critical to our ongoing growth and success that we continually develop and maximize our time together in the fulltime daily training environment. The various athletes within 2016 Squad compliment each other very well. All of them are hungry for success and this will in turn maintain the high standards already set by the current group.”
The chance to train with the senior athletes and coaching staff on a day-to-day basis will definitely give the seven girls the best chance at realizing their potential.
It’s something that the young group is well aware of.
“Training every day in that environment will make us that much better,” says Nikki Woodcroft, who was a part of the JDS last year and has spent the past two seasons playing for the University of Toronto Varsity Blues (Canadian Interuniversity Sport). “Just being pushed by the older girls and seeing what it takes to be great athletes, I think that will really help our game.”
Quick development will be beneficial for the junior girls as Canada’s Junior Programs have a big year ahead with the 2016 Junior World Cup on the horizon at the end of 2016.
The Canadian junior women have yet to qualify, and with that in mind, the Junior Women’s National Team will be off to Chile early in the year for a test tournament, and then will attempt to qualify for the World Cup at the 2016 Junior Pan American Championships in Trinidad and Tobago in March.
And being in a full-time daily training environment with athletes who have competed at major competitions including the Commonwealth Games and Pan American Games, and have gone through the junior process themselves will provide value above and beyond to the on-field instruction.
“It’s so amazing. I still can’t believe it” says sixteen year-old Thora Rae. “Last year was my second U16 identification camp and (the senior girls) were coaching there and mentoring us. Now just one year later I’m getting the opportunity to play with them, which is amazing. I think I’ll be able to learn so much from them.”
With the senior team having recently cracked the top twenty in the world, winning a bronze at the 2015 Pan American Games, and retaining almost its entire 2015 senior National Team for 2016, the program is on steadily on the rise.
The Canadian women have eye on 2018 World Cup and 2020 Olympic qualification, and the junior girls who are centralizing have the opportunity to put their best foot forward as the journey to the Olympic continues.