Kelowna flavour on national team
Chances are good Kelowna's field hockey community will be well represented when Canada competes at the 2011 Pan American Games in Mexico.
If all goes according to plan, three former members of the Kelowna Owls program will be wearing the maple leaf when the Canadian women's national field hockey team takes to the pitch this October in Guadalajara.
Thanks to her three years of experience with the senior program, Abigail Raye is basically a shoo-in to make the Canada's roster.
Dani Hennig and Natalie Sourisseau are also hoping to make the grade when Canada announces its final Pan Am team at the end of August.
At just 20, Raye is a starter and the seasoned veteran among the Kelowna threesome. She became the youngest player in national team history to surpass 50 caps when she started for the Canadian team this spring at a tournament in Vienna. Raye now has 62 caps.
Hennig, in her second season, has 27 caps and has been playing regularly for the national squad this summer.
Hennig, who graduated from KSS in 2008 and attends the University of Victoria, played in every game during the 4 Nations Classic last month at UBC, then three more games against Japan in a test series in late July.
"I'm definitely adjusting, getting used to the tactics and the speed of the game," said Hennig, 20, who has been playing various positions on the field. "I've definitely gained some experience in the last year, so I'm hoping it's enough to make the team and go to the Pan Am Games."
Sourisseau, 18, a teammate of Raye's at UBC and a 2010 grad from KSS, is in her first full season with the national team. She is steadily piling up international experience and has 13 caps to her credit since joining the program in January.
"It started out a little rough for me I was a little nervous, playing forward was a new position for me," said Sourisseau, the 2010 CIS rookie of the year. "But at the 4 Nations I played more midfield, which I'm used to. I feel like I did pretty well and I'm getting a little more comfortable each time I play. I'm enjoying it."
With the addition of Sourisseau this year, it's the first time three Kelowna products have ever been on the national team at the same time. Raye, Hennig and Sourisseau also played together with the Owls in 2008.
Hennig said it's a source of pride for the Kelowna girls and, at the same time, a bit of a mystery for the national team's coaching staff
"It's pretty cool to have three of us on the roster," said Hennig. "The coach is a little baffled by it because the Interior hasn't always been that well known for field hockey players. We've had players in the past play for the national team, but never this many. We all hang out together and have a lot of fun with it. It's nice to represent our hometown."
If all three girls do play at the Pan Am Games, their collective goal will be clear—to help the No. 20 world-ranked Canadians win a medal. A gold medal carries with it an automatic berth in the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
The silver and bronze winners at the Pan Am Games will be given a chance to qualify for the 2012 Games through a qualification process early next year.