PHOTO: Canada’s Karli Johansen goes stride for stride with a Chinese player at the 2015 Hockey World League Semifinal (Courtesy of FIH)
The 19th ranked Canadian women’s field hockey team taking on 5th ranked China in the Hawke’s Bay Cup quarterfinal Thursday (5:15pm PT/8:15pm ET; hockeynz.co.nz/video) might – in some circles – be touted a David versus Goliath match-up.
But don’t tell Canada’s women that. They won’t believe you.
The Canadian women are coming off one of their biggest wins in recent history: a 2-1 come-from-behind triumph over Korea, the world’s eighth ranked team.
It’s just the latest endorsement for a team that has had increasing belief in itself for some time now.
“The way that we’ve been playing and improving – even over the past year – we’ve felt really confident in how we’re doing,” says veteran defender Danielle Hennig from New Zealand. “We know that we’re just on the brink of a lot more successes.”
The hope is that comes in a big way on Thursday in New Zealand in the form of an upset victory over China.
It’s a tall order, but the Canadians are familiar with the Chinese and brimming with confidence.
“We played them at World League in Valencia,” adds Hennig. “We actually had a pretty good game against them.”
The Chinese ended up winning the game 3-0, but Hennig and the Women’s National Team are not concerned with the result. It’s matches like that one and recent tests against top teams that have them playing the best hockey they have as a group.
The women were in San Diego earlier this year for a test series against the seventh ranked United States, a team that is headed to the 2016 Olympic Games.
They then faced the fourth ranked New Zealand Blacksticks – who are also headed to the Rio Games – in two test matches prior to the Hawke’s Bay Cup, where they have played Korea, Japan, and Australia: all Olympic teams.
“Leading up to this it was like we’re almost there and we never really had the outright success on the scoreboard even though everything else, like the processes and our other measures of success, were showing we’re improving and we’re doing well,” Hennig says of the long-term lead up to the Hawke’s Bay Cup. “It’s kind of nice to have that validation on the scoreboard as well.”
That validation – the win against Korea – is something that has been a long time coming. But it’s already in the past and the women are looking ahead the their next chance – the quarterfinal against China – at proving that more of the same is on the way.
“They’re a fairly quick counterattacking team but we’re fairly aware of their style of play now, so we feel pretty confident going into our quarterfinal.”