Junior women hockey players ready to rise to the challenge -
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Junior women hockey players ready to rise to the challenge

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Khel Today Bureau

Lausanne, Switzerland: As we build up towards the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup, which springs into action on 1 April in Potchefstroom, South Africa, here is a preview of the teams that comprise Pool A.

Pool A: Canada, Netherlands, United States and Zimbabwe

As runners-up at the Junior EuroHockey Championships (beaten by Spain on shoot-out), and the team with the highest number of wins at this tournament (3), Netherlands will be the team to beat in this pool. Head Coach Dave Smolenaars will have a host of players at his disposal who have been part of a national structure that produces wave after wave of quality hockey players. The Netherlands open their account with a match against USA on the first day of competition.

The most intriguing meet-up in this pool will be the Pan Am clash between USA and Canada. The Canadians will be full of confidence after they won the Junior Pan Am Championship for the first time in their history. USA have been very much in a rebuilding stage so it will be interesting to see how the players respond to this challenge. USA Head Coach Tracey Paul will be looking for the experience of players such as Hope Rose and Charlotte de Vries to lead her team through to the knock-out stages. USA’s highest ever finish in their eight previous appearances was seventh in 2013. Canada’s last appearance was in 2013, when they finished 14th. Like USA, the Canadian team’s previous best was a seventh place in 1989.

For Canada, nine of the team that won the Junior Pan Am Cup will be making the trip to South Africa. Head Coach Jenn Beagan is delighted at the prospect of both the junior and senior Canada teams competing in World Cups this year, saying: ‘This is an exciting time and I have no doubt the athletes will rise to the occasion.’

Zimbabwe are a country that has been really focused on developing their national teams in the past few years, and they could spring a surprise on their more experienced opponents. Their previous three appearances have seen the African team finish in last place, but, with the event taking place on African soil for the first time, they will be aiming much higher this time around.

Mutsa Bera, the Zimbabwe captain said: ‘We are going to learn a lot from playing at such a big event. It is about taking up the challenge, just going in there and putting up a fight.

‘It is such a big thing to be able to go out there and make a mark for Zimbabwe hockey and show how ready we are to do this.’

Zimbabwe face Canada in their opening Pool A match on 1 April.

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