The setting for Abigail Raye’s landmark game could have just as easily come straight out of a storybook.
When the 22-year-old from Kelowna takes to the pitch later this month at Bisham Abbey in her native England, the KSS grad will make national field hockey history.
On April 27, Raye will become the youngest Canadian player ever to reach 100 international senior caps, as Canada takes on the English in the first of four exhibition matches between the two nations.
“It’s really, really special, I couldn’t have planned it any better myself,” said Raye, who moved with her family to Kelowna from England in 2006. “Just coming back to where it all started, I never imagined it happening this way. Playing in England when I was young, I’ll actually be playing against some old friends, so that makes it pretty special, too.”
Raye will reach the 100 cap mark more than two years earlier than the next player on the list, Sue Tingley, who didn’t compile 100 matches with Canada until she was 25.
While still attending KSS at the age of 17, Raye played her first international game for Canada against Ireland in 2009, and has started every game since.
“More than anything, I just feel fortunate that I was given a chance at 17 by (former coach) Luis Mendonca,” said Raye, who is in her last year in the kinesiology program at UBC. “Starting so young and playing in every game since, it’s been more than I could have hoped for. To stay in the program for 100 caps is a great honour.”
Canadian women’s field hockey head coach Ian Rutledge said Raye’s accomplishment is a testament to both her abilities and her commitment to the sport.
“It’s an incredible achievement for any athlete, for a player to reach 100 caps before the age of 23 is beyond words,” said Rutledge, who took over the Canadian team last year. “She demonstrated great abilities even from a young age, she was identified early as a player with a lot of potential and has really followed through on that.
“What I’ve really been impressed with is her work ethic, her diligence and dedication to the game, on and off the field.”
Following the four matches this month against England, Canada will play three more games against Wales, all in preparation for this summer’s Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland.
Raye, who played at the last Commonwealth Games in India four years ago, likes Canada’s chances of a good showing in 2014.
“I think we’re in a really good place right now as a team,” she said. “We have a chance to see how we measure up against Australia, England, India and New Zealand. We would need an upset to get into the top four but I that’s definitely more than possible.”
Raye is one of three Kelowna products and KSS grads who are prospering with Canada’s national field hockey program. Dani Hennig has 63 caps to her credit, while Natalie Sourisseau sits at an even 50, after reaching that milestone last month in a match against the U.S.