Abigail Raye, Danielle Hennig and Natalie Sourisseau hope the best field hockey of their lives will be played over the next week in New Delhi, India.
The three Kelowna products are members of Canada’s national women’s team which will battle five other countries in an Olympic qualifier for one last berth into the 2012 games in London.
Canada will open play on Saturday against Italy.
“There’s definitely some tough competition, some very good teams, but we’re going there wanting to win it,” said Abi Raye, who has 68 caps with the national team.
“We’ve put a lot of hard work into it, so hopefully we’ll get to see the results of that in this tournament.”
The Canadians enter the tourney ranked fourth among the six teams, and are considered a long shot to pry the Olympic qualifying berth away from top contending countries such as India and South Africa.
Still, with the vast improvement Canada’s program has shown over the last 12 months or so, Dani Hennig believes anything is possible.
“Our team has really become cohesive as a unit and we have a lot of confidence in each other,” said Hennig, who has 32 caps over two seasons with Canada. “We’ve improved so much, 100 per cent over the last year. All the teams will be a challenge. But if we play our best, then we think we have a good chance.”
Natalie Sourisseau agrees with the assessment that the Canadian team continues to improve with every match.
The disappointment of a fourth-place showing at the Pan American Games late last year in Mexico simply serves as motivation for Sourisseau and her teammates.
“Every competition is a learning experience and even though that one didn’t go our way, I think we’re a better team because of it,” said Sourisseau, a veteran of 19 caps. “It helped us figure some things out, to see what we need to do better. I think we’ll be ready to play.”
After Saturday’s opener against Italy, the Canadians will play India on Tuesday, Ukraine next Thursday, Poland on Feb. 22 and South Africa on Feb. 24.
The top two teams from the round robin will meet in the final, with the winner earning a trip to 2012 Olympic Games in London.
For more information on the Canadian women’s field hockey team and the Olympic qualifier, visit fieldhockey.ca.