PHOTOS: Canada’s women celebrate a goal in a 3-1 victory over India, March 26, 2017 in West Vancouver, BC (By Blair Shier)
Canada’s women’s field hockey team is headed into next week’s Gryphon Hockey World League Round 2 on a high after winning its third of three pre-tournament matches 3-1 against India Sunday in West Vancouver.
The win over 12th ranked India – which will be the top ranked team at World League 2 next week – was Canada’s third in pre-competition play. Canada, which currently sits 19th in the World Rankings, took two games from Chile, 19th, earlier this week and ends the pre-World League series undefeated.
“Wins obviously give us confidence, but we know that at the end of the day we need to start fresh when we enter the tournament,” says Canadian goalkeeper Kaitlyn Williams, who picked up her second pre-tournament win on Sunday. “We start every game, every half, every quarter with the mentality that it’s 0-0. It definitely gives us confidence knowing that we can perform well in these games, but we’ll look to make improvements and keep it going for the tournament itself.”
On Sunday, after Canada came out of the gates firing on all cylinders and putting India on its heels, Nikki Woodcroft opened on the scoring on a deft redirected in the 8th minute.
That was followed up with a 19th minute backhand goal from Steph Norlander, who was sent on a partial break and scored her third of the series.
And after India got one in the second half and began to creep back into the game, Karli Johansen – who was celebrating her 25th birthday – put the game away with a drag flick goal in the 49th minute.
The win against India marks another accomplishment for Canada’s women, who have been steadily improving since coach Ian Rutledge took over four years ago.
First, it was a medal (bronze) at the 2015 Pan American Games, the first Canada’s women had earned at the Games since 1999.
Canada was able to crack the top twenty in the world rankings shortly after. And then, playing in a tournament with 7 Olympic-bound teams, Canada managed to upset top-10 side Korea at the 2016 Hawke’s Bay Cup.
Canada finished 2016 with two matches against India, who were headed to the Olympic Games. The Canadian women lost both those games, and having landed in World League Round 2 with India, knew that Sunday’s pre-tournament match would be a barometer of how far they’ve come in the last half year plus.
“We were really wanting to come out hard,” says Women’s National Team captain Kate Wright (Gillis). “We played India before the Olympics last year and we had some really tight games. So we really wanted to nail down the foundation that we’re building upon.
“We’ve done a lot of hard work over the fall and we wanted to really put that in play. And show them how much we’ve improved.”
It could be considered mission accomplished. But ask every one of Canada’s women and they will say this is just the beginning. The real prize is World Cup qualification, and to even have a chance at that, Canada will have to finish in the top two at Gryphon Hockey World League Round 2 in West Vancouver, which kicks off on April 1st.
And to do that, they will once again need to get by Chile (who they face in the second pool match) and India, who they could match-up against in a cross-over playoff game. And after this week’s prep series, there is no doubt the Canada would welcome the challenge.
Canada opens Gryphon Hockey World League Round 2 on Saturday April 1st against Mexico at 4:30pm PT/7:30pm ET.
Gryphon Hockey World League Round 2 in West Vancouver has been made possible in part by the Government of Canada. Additionally, we would like to thank the Province of British Columbia and viaSport for their generous support of this project.
The West Vancouver Field Hockey Club is also proud partner of this event.