With three ex-Kelowna Owls in the lineup, the Canadian women’s field hockey squad is a victory away from a medal at the Pan American Games in Mexico.
Team Canada will take on the U.S. on Wednesday in semifinal action in Guadalajara, with the winner advancing to Friday’s gold medal game.
KSS products Abigail Raye, Dani Hennig and Natalie Sourisseau have started all three games for the Canadian side which qualified for the playoffs with a 2-1 record in group play.
“We’ve been working really hard the last couple of months and we seem to be peaking at the right time,” said Hennig, 20. “We feel like we’re a more dangerous team than we were just a few months ago.”
Canada defeated the Barbados 10-0 and Trinidad and Tobago 2-1 in pool play. Its only loss—and perhaps their most impressive performance to date—came against the powerful world champions and No. 1 ranked team from Argentina by a 7-3 score.
“The score was not entirely indicative of the play,” said Hennig. “We were only down by one at the half and they were definitely concerned about us, so that was pretty cool to be challenging the world champs like that. We shutdown their top players for a lot of the game. It was definitely great for our confidence.”
Argentina is a far more experienced side with an average of 125 international caps per player, compared to 66 for Canada. Argentina is also three years older on average, 27 to 24.
As for Wednesday’s opponents, Team Canada last saw the Americans in January on a tour to San Diego. The U.S. dominated in two games, while Canada was competitive in two others.
However, Hennig insists Canada’s game has come a long way since the beginning of the year.
“I don’t think we’re the same team we were then,” she said. “We’re pretty young so it’s taken some time to come together, but the girls have done a good job of that.
“We’ve watched some tape on (Americans) so we know what to expect. We know we’re right there with them.”
If Canada can beat the U.S., it would very likely set up a rematch with the Argentines on Friday in the gold medal match. If the Canadians lose, they would play for bronze on Friday.
On the subject of their first appearance at a Pan American Games, Hennig said all three Kelowna women are enjoying the experience.
“It’s been great so far,” Hennig added. “For Nat (Sourisseau) and I, it’s our first multi-sport games, so it’s new to us. Abi (Raye) was at the Commonwealth Games the previous year, so she’s been to this level before. I just think all of us, our whole team, is in a really good headspace right now.”
Heading into Wednesday’s semifinal, Raye has 66 caps with the senior women’s national team, Hennig has 30, and Sourrisseau, 17.