Still yet to surpass their mid 20s, Abigail Raye, Danielle Hennig and Natalie Sourisseau are already considered seasoned veterans with the Canadian senior women’s field hockey program.
The three Kelowna products are also important components of a national team that continues to grow and gain momentum on the world stage.
Raye, Hennig and Sourisseau were all part of what was the biggest win for women’s field hockey in 16 years, as Canada captured the bronze medal at the Pan American Games last weekend in Toronto.
In front of a sold out pro-Canadian audience, the KSS grads and their Canadian teammates defeated Chile 1-0 in Friday’s bronze medal match, earning their country its first major international medal since 1999.
It wasn’t enough to qualify Canada for the 2016 Olympics in Rio, but it was another important step in the program’s evolution.
“This really meant a lot to us,” said Raye, 24, who has 139 international career caps.
“Four years ago, we lost to Chile in the bronze medal game (Pan Am), so it was nice get past that hurdle this time.
“We would have liked gold, of course, but this is something tangible we can take away from this, it shows how far we’ve come and that we’re continuing to progress as a program.”
For Hennig, now in her sixth season with the national team, the thrill of playing in her home country and winning a medal is an experience that is unmatched by anything in her career to date,
“It was unbelievable,” said Hennig, 24, who has 103 international caps. “The last time we played in Canada, it was nothing like this. Our last few games (in Toronto) were all sold out, the crowd was so supportive, with all the red and white, it really helped our team. Friends and family were there to share it, too, so that was really exciting.”
With an average age between 22 and 23, most observers agree the Canadian team’s very best years are still ahead of them. And Raye, Hennig and Sourisseau all plan to be around to see it through, with the ultimate goal of qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.
Sourisseau, the youngest of the Kelowna threesome, is excited about what lies ahead.
“It was tough for us not to get to Rio, but when we look at how much the program has grown over the years, it is exciting,” said Sourisseau, 22, a veteran of 82 matches. “We have a young team and a lot of good years ahead us, so it will be interesting to see where it goes.
“It’s a big commitment,” she added, “sometimes you have doubts, there are a lot of ups and downs, but there’s also a lot to be excited about. I’ll be around for a while yet.”
Other than the bronze medal win, what resonates most for Abigail Raye from the Pan American Games is the experience of representing her country and being part of a much bigger team.
“Being at a multi-sport games gives us the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than just our team, there was a great atmosphere around being a part of Team Canada as a whole,” Raye said. “Breaking a Team Canada medal record at a home games and knowing that our team contributed to that medal count is a pretty special feeling.”
This fall, Raye and Sourisseau will head to Belgium where they’ll spend the next several months playing field hockey at a semi-pro level.
Hennig will head to New Zealand in a few weeks time to compete in that country’s national tournament, then will return to Vancouver to continue her work as a personal trainer.