All the news for Thursday 10 December 2015
Mouth-watering matches await at the Argentina Hockey World League quarter-final stage
The line-up for the quarter-finals at the Argentina Hockey World League Final have been decided after the final two Pool A matches were played.
The Netherlands strolled to a 5-2 victory against Korea, while New Zealand made the better use of their chances in an even match against Germany, which the Black Sticks won 3-1.
The results mean that Netherlands will play Argentina in a mouth-watering encounter between the world number one and the world number three sides. While the Netherlands have made serene progress through the pool stages, Argentina have been playing hockey that ranges from magical and mesmerising to torturous and unconvincing.
The 3-1 result against Germany means that New Zealand finished second in Pool A and have a tough encounter against Great Britain to look forward to. Both sides know each other well and, with two canny coaches in Mark Hager and Danny Kerry, this could be a cagey fixture that goes to the wire.
New Zealand captain Anita Punt said, "We have been trying some different things, so we'll see. It is time we had a medal round our necks, rather than always finishing fourth."
The first match on quarter-final day will be an all-Asian encounter. While Korea were the first team to qualify for the Olympics, at the expense of China, it is the Chinese team who has looked the sharper at this event. Both teams play similar styles of hockey: a solid defence and a quick counter-attack.
Germany will face Australia in the other quarter-final. While the Hockeyroos finished top of their group, they did suffer a loss at the hands of Great Britain. Germany, by contrast, have yet to win a game at this competition, but conversely, according to Janne Muller-Weiland, they are getting more confident with each game.
"We started very badly," said the German defender. "But each performance has got better. Today (against New Zealand) we just didn't put our chances away. And, we are German. We like quarter-finals."
In today's matches, Netherlands opened the scoring through Lidewij Welten. Korea fought back immediately as Cheon Eun Bi scored possibly the cheekiest goal of the tournament when she turned in front of Netherlands 'keeper Joyce Sombroek and slipped the ball backwards through her legs into the empty Netherlands goal.
The Netherlands reclaimed their lead in the 16th minute when Caia van Maasakker converted a penalty stroke and Ellen Hoog extended the lead a few minutes later. Park Seung kept her team in the game when she deflected a penalty corner strike.
Kelly Jonker scored just after half-time, making her leading goalscorer at this stage of the competition, and the final Dutch goal came from Marloes Keetels.
Speaking after the game, Han Hye Lyoung, who won her 150th cap for Korea, said: "We had a good first half, but as soon as the Netherlands scored their second, the players let their heads go down. We must learn how to cope with disappointment."
The second match was a hard-fought encounter between two physical sides. Neither New Zealand or Germany give an inch when they play and in the heat of the Rosario sun, this was a tough and competitive game.
While New Zealand emerged as 3-1 winners, Germany will feel they could have taken the match as they created several chances themselves.
A rare goalkeeping error from Kristina Reynolds accounted for one of the New Zealand goals – Liz Thompson's penalty corner shot somehow slipped under Reynolds body; while Charlotte Harrison's speed and Pippa Haywards accuracy provided the other two goals.
In response, Germany scored through Franzisca Hauke, but Julia Muller and Pia-Sophie Oldhafer were both unlucky to see their shots fly wide of Sally Rutherford's goal.
The times and line-up for the quarter-finals are as follows:
All times are local times.
Quarter-final 1 - 13:30: China v Korea
Quarter-final 2 - 16:00: New Zealand v Great Britain
Quarter-final 3 - 18:30: Australia v Germany
Quarter-final 4 - 21:00: Netherlands v Argentina
Black Sticks power to big win over Germany
Photo: Planet Hockey
The Black Sticks Women have defeated Germany 3-1 in their final pool game at the FIH World League Final in Argentina.
After yesterday’s scheduled fixture was postponed due to thunderstorms, the Kiwis came out firing in Sam Charlton’s 150th international appearance.
Two goals in the third quarter propelled the Black Sticks to their first victory over Germany since 2011, and just the second win in the last 11 years.
The result sees New Zealand finish second in Pool A, setting up a sudden death quarter final against Great Britain at 8:00am tomorrow (NZ time), with LIVE coverage on SKY Sport.
Striker Charlotte Harrison played a great game and sparked her side with a stunning opening goal.
“The girls prepared well for this after the game was postponed and we came out today ready to play,” Harrison said post-match.
“Our basics at times still let us down today so we need to fine tune those, stick to our structure and play as a team against Great Britain."
The Black Sticks looked strong from the opening whistle and opened the scoring in the 19th minute thanks to a brilliant solo effort from Harrison, who ran the ball up the field and smashed home from the top of the circle.
Leading by one goal at halftime, New Zealand turned up the heat in the third quarter and extended the lead two minutes after the break when Pippa Hayward found herself open for a strong shot past the goalkeeper.
Liz Thompson gave the Kiwis a three goal buffer 10 minutes later with a penalty corner flick which snuck through the keeper’s feet.
Germany got onto the scoreboard just out from three quarter time with a goal to captain Franzisca Hauke from a penalty corner.
The Black Sticks held strong under pressure in defence throughout the fourth quarter while still managing to create chances in the attacking circle.
BLACK STICKS 3: (Charlotte Harrison, Pippa Hayward, Liz Thompson)
GERMANY 1: (Franzisca Hauke)
Halftime: New Zealand 1-0
Hockey New Zealand Media release
Black Sticks women beat Germany 3-1 at Hockey World League Final in Argentina
Charlotte Harrison scored an early goal for the Black Stick's women's team as they beat Germany in their final pool match at the World League Final in Argentina. GETTY IMAGES
The Black Sticks women's hockey team have beaten Germany 3-1 in their final pool match at the Hockey World League Final in Argentina.
The result left New Zealand as runners-up in Pool A behind the Netherlands. Germany finished bottom of the pool on the same points as Korea but with an inferior goal difference.
New Zealand will play Great Britain in their sudden-death quarterfinal on Friday (8am NZ time).
In a tight opening stanza, Charlotte Harrison broke the deadlock in the 19th minute with a stunning solo effort.
Harrison picked up the ball after a mistake on the German 23 line. She sped towards the circle and her shot seemed to catch German goalkeeper Kristina Reynolds unawares as it flew into the back of the goal.
New Zealand led 1-0 at halftime.
Pippa Hayward extended New Zealand's lead after 32 minutes. She got on to a rebound after Harrison's initial shot was saved.
A Liz Thompson penalty corner completed New Zealand's scoring.
Germany came back into the game with a nicely worked penalty corner from Franzisca Hauke but New Zealand defended strongly to see out the game.
"The girls prepared well for this after the game was postponed and we came out today ready to play," Harrison said
"Our basics at times still let us down today so we need to fine-tune those, stick to our structure and play as a team against Great Britain."
Hockeyroos v Germany
Quarter final clash live on Fox Sports, Friday morning
The world number two Hockeyroos will face world number nine Germany in the quarter-final of the Argentina World League Final in on Friday morning (08:30am AEDT).
The match is live on Fox Sports 4, channel 505.
Eyes are on securing a top-four place ahead of the semi-finals and medal matches on the weekend. The losing side will playoff for fifth to eight place classification.
Australia’s last competitive meeting against Germany was at the 2014 Champions Trophy in Mendoza, which Australia won 3-1.
At the 2013 World League Final, the two sides came face-to-face in the quarter-final which ended in a 1-1 draw on the final siren. Australia then went on to win 4-2 on a sudden death shoot-out.
Following the conclusion of the pool A phase earlier this morning, which had to be rescheduled due to bad weather, Germany finished at the bottom of the standings in Pool A, after losing to the Netherlands (5-1) and New Zealand (1-3), and a draw with Korea (1-1).
Australia’s women finished top in Pool B on six points courtesy of wins over China (1-0) and Argentina (2-1), and a loss to Great Britain (1-0).
The other quarter-finals see 2013 defending champions the Netherlands take on hosts Argentina, Great Britain to play the New Zealand Black Sticks, and China to face Korea.
Argentina World League Final quarter-finals
Friday 11 December 2015
03:00am AEDT – QF1 – China v Korea (live on Fox Sports 4, Ch 505)
06:00am AEDT – QF2 – New Zealand v Great Britain (live on Fox Sports 4. Ch 505)
08:30am AEDT – QF3 – Australia v Germany (live on Fox Sports4, Ch 505)
11:00am AEDT – QF4 – Netherlands v Argentina (live on Fox Sports 4, Ch 505)
Hockey Australia media release
Buoyant Telkom Orange primed for Africa title defence
By BRIAN YONGA
From left: Telkom Orange players Ruth Njoki, Flavian Mutiva and Lilian Aura leave the pitch after their national women's league match against Kenyatta University on May 23, 2015. PHOTO | MARTIN MUKANGU | NATION MEDIA GROUP
Champions Telkom Orange are confident of defending their African Club Championship Hockey title when the competition gets underway on Saturday in Lusaka, Zambia.
Orange, who have won the continental event a record seven times, will be Kenya’s sole representatives this year after three other local clubs pulled out of the annual event.
Strathmore University’s Scorpions and Kenya Police have cited financial constraints as their reason for opting out of the championship while men’s domestic league winners Butali Sugar Warriors cited the unavailability of key players due to work and school commitments as their reason for pulling out.
Orange thrashed Zimbabwe’s Bulawayo Athletic Club (BAC) 7-0 in last year’s final played in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe and will be favourites to win an eighth title.
The club, which was due to depart for Zambia last evening, received a Sh6 million sponsorship boost from their sponsors Telkom Kenya Wednesday.
The 17-time Kenya Hockey Union women’s national league champions are unbeaten on the local front this season and have a seven-point lead over second placed Sliders.
They have already lifted the Vaisakhi International Tournament and Heroes Day Cup but the club championship is the biggest prize according to midfielder Carolyn Guchu.
“It is a big competition and we are eager to win it again. As a player, you can never get tired of winning and that is why we are motivated to go out and lift the title once again,” Guchu told Daily Nation Sport.
The Kenyan midfielder further believes winning the continental event will help erase the painful memories of missing out on an Olympic spot. Kenya finished third at last month’s Africa Cup of Nations cum 2016 Olympic qualifiers held in South Africa.
“We want to end the year on a high and what better way than winning the club championship? We do not underestimate the other teams but we believe in ourselves,” she added. Midfielders Maureen Okumu and Georgina Lumumba are the only new players in the Jos Openda-coached side.
Former Orange and Kenya first choice keeper Josephine Ataro is set make a return after she was included among the two goalkeepers. Ataro, who retired from action last year, will battle for the number one spot with Ruth Njoki.
Njoki has been Orange’s only keeper since first choice keeper for both club and country Cynthia Anyango went on maternity leave two months ago. She was in goal for Kenya during last month’s Cup of Nations.
Other women’s clubs set for the week-long event include last year's runner's Ghana Revenue Authority (Ghana), neighbors Weatherhead (Uganda), hosts Lusaka Sharks and DE Stars (Zambia), Yobe Queens (Nigeria) and Sharkia (Egypt).
Ruth Njoki, Josephine Ataro, Terry Juma, Lucy Wangeci, Flavian Mutiva, Betsy Ommala, Glennis Namasake, Caroline Guchu, Audrey Omaido, Lilian Aura, Jacqueline Jow, Barbara Simiyu, Maureen Okumu, Tracy Karanja, Georgina Lumumba, Ann Juma, Jane Ofula, Hellen Chemtai
Technical Bench: Judy Apiyo, Rose Mbulo, Jackline Atieno, Jane Nyamogo and Jos Openda
Lesson for Fiji Warriors
THE New Zealand President hockey team showed the young Fiji Warriors what it takes to compete at the very top level as the two teams met in the Fiji Invitational Series at the National Hockey Centre.
The Kiwis were up three goals within the first five minutes, dominated possession and controlled all facets of the game.
In contrast, the inexperience of the under-21 players, some of them still in school, showed but what they lacked there, they made up for it in enthusiasm.
Fiji hockey head coach Hector Smith said it was what the young players needed.
"For the Warriors, it is not all about winning but getting to know what is expected of them to ensure that Fiji progresses to the next level," he said.
"The New Zealanders are players who are knocking on the Black Sticks door for selection, and that should say a lot about the standard of game they bring to us.
"The Fiji Presidents team, which is the senior team had a good game with the New Zealanders and we can say that we held them 5-5.
"In the next game we are hoping for a win and with the way the team is playing I am looking at a win."
In the two early games played yesterday, the Australian Country women defeated the Fiji Warriors women's team 8-0 while the New Zealand Presidents men's team defeated the Fiji Warriors 13-0.
The games continue today from 1.30pm.
The Fiji Times
Shaw Names Squad For Spanish Series
Graham Shaw has today announced a squad of 26 for warm weather training and a match series to take place in January. The Green Army will travel to Valencia for warm weather training before taking on Spain, world ranked 14th; in an intense 5 match series over 5 days. Shaw has selected an extended panel that includes no fewer than 4 players currently plying their trade in America, 3 of whom are uncapped at senior international level. The young squad, with an average age of 23, will be looking to continue their impressive run under Shaw which saw them cruise to victory in the Eurohockey Championships II in July and earn promotion back to the top division in European hockey.
Talking about the selection and upcoming series, Shaw said “We are very excited about bringing this squad to Valencia, Spain in January. We are a young experienced squad with all our best hockey ahead of us and believe this group of players can have a real impact on world hockey in the coming years.
We will have a few new faces with us for the first time and we are really looking forward to seeing how they go. This camp will be extremely testing with up to 3 sessions a day combined with 4/5 games vs Spain. Physically and mentally we will have a very good idea of where we are by the end of this camp”.
Ireland vs Spain at Estadio de Hockey de Valencia
January 15th Ireland vs Spain
January 16th Ireland vs Spain
January 17th Ireland vs Spain
January 18th Ireland vs Spain
January 19th Ireland vs Spain
1. Stella Davis – Pembroke
2. Yvonne O Byrne – Cork Harlequins
3. Kate Lloyd - UCD
4. Chloe Brown - Ards
5. Nicola Evans Hermes
6. Katie Mullan UCD
7. Shirley McCay Ulster Elks
8. Megan Frazer Ulster Elks
9. Elena Tice Loreto
10. Naomi Carroll Hermes
11. Emily Beatty UCD
12. Gillian Pinder UCD
13. Hayley Mulcahy Loreto
14. Hannah Matthews Loreto
15. Gemma Frazer Ulster Elks
16. Deirdre Duke UCD
17. Kerri McDonald Ards
18. Ali Meeke Loreto
19. Pamela Smithwick Old Alex
20. Anna OFlanagan Hermes
21. Chloe Watkins Hermes
22. Nicci Daly - Muckross
23. Zoe Wilson Randalstown/ Syracuse University
24. Emma Russell Old Alex/ Syracuse University
25. Roisin Upton Catholic Institute/ University of Connecticut
26. Ayeisha McFerran Pegasus/ University of Louisville
Irish Hockey Association media release
PR Sreejesh hopes to raise the bar for Rio
Indian goalkeeper, PR Sreejesh (TNN Photo)
KOCHI: One man who has held centre stage in Indian hockey team's achievements in the recent past is PR Sreejesh. Be it the 2011 Asian Men's Champions Trophy triumph in China, the 2014 Asian Games gold in Busan, Korea, or the bronze medal in the Hockey World League finals in Raipur last Sunday, the Indian goalkeeper has excelled under the bar.
One thing common in all these wins is that they came via penalty shootouts and it was Sreejesh's stunning saves that helped India corner glory.
So what makes Sreejesh click in shootouts? "(Laughs) I am lucky I guess and you need plenty of luck in shootouts. We practice for shootout situations during training. I see who is taking the penalty from the opposition. Then I mentally make a note of that particular player's strength and weakness which I would have analysed during regulation time.
Once he swings into action, I just watch the ball and concentrate on thwarting his attempt whichever way I can. Keeping the right balance and good footwork are the key. Experience comes in handy and it helped me against the Dutch on Sunday," the Indian vice-captain told TOI after arriving in Kochi.
Sreejesh admits that he wasn't at his best in the tournament but his performance is all the more remarkable considering the fact that he was nursing a bruised knee and a shoulder injury in the last two games India played in HWL finals.
"I got a couple of knocks on my knee as we were warming up for the game against Belgium. I was under pain. Roelant (Oltmans) came up to me and asked whether I can take the field and I told him I will play. Once you enter the field, you forget about your pain. Having said that, I feel a goalkeeper at my level shouldn't have conceded that goal against Belgium (Cedric Charlier scored between his legs in the semifinal). But there is no point in worrying once you have committed an error. So I was keen to do well in the play-off and I am happy that I could play a part in India getting a bronze medal," added the Kochi lad.
India showed signs of resilience in the tournament as they beat Great Britain in the quarterfinals after finishing last in their group. Then in the quarterfinals, they trailed 0-2 against the Netherlands before launching a stunning comeback to take a 5-3 lead in the game before their opponents slammed two goals in the dying moments of regulation time to take the game into a shootout.
Sreejesh attributes it to a 'hunger for win' from the team. "Gone are the days when teams used to take us lightly. We have beaten almost all top teams in the world recently and our rivals now consider as a fearless lot. There are a lot of young players in the squad and they are hungry to win at any cost."
The 27-year old admits that the frequent change of coaches has not helped Indian hockey but feels the players have got used to it. "Unfortunately for one reason or the other our coaches have not stayed with us for long. I think Roelant will be the guy guiding us in Rio (Olympics). He has asked us to employ a European style of defence and play an (Indian) attacking game with a lot of flair up front. It is yielding results and results are what that counts," added Sreejesh.
Sreejesh feels the India's win over Netherlands and England have come at the right time but feels that there is still scope for improvement. "There are areas where we can improve. Our endeavor will be to work on our shortcomings in the coming months. We have a tendency to concede early on and it is time that we address that. I will also be looking to improve my goalkeeping," he said.
However, he knows that all the improvement he is talking about in Indian hockey would come to nothing if they don't come up with a creditable show in Rio next year. "An Olympic medal is our target. We are good enough to finish top-six now. Our endeavor is to be consistent. If we raise our bar in Rio, a medal is not beyond us," signs off Sreejesh.
The Times of India
Dhanraj feels India are on the right track
Asked about India's notoriety for conceding goals at the death, Pillay rose to their defence. (BCCL)
MUMBAI: Former India captain Dhanraj Pillay responded to critical views that have popped up in the aftermath of India's bronze medal success at the Hockey World League Final saying credit needs to be given where it is due.
With the eight competing nations aware they were through to the quarterfinals even before the tournament began, some, like former World Cup winning captain Ajit Pal Singh, felt India did well to capitalise on the unusual format. Pillay, however, had a different take. "Overall, if you see, it was a good performance in the Hockey World League," Pillay, said on Wednesday shortly after his Air India side had thumped CAG 5-1 in their opening match of the Dabang Mumbai - 50th All India Bombay Gold Cup, at the MHAL-Mahindra Stadium.
"We are preparing for the 2016 Olympics. The coach too said we would realize where we stand for Rio. And bronze is not bad at all. After a long time, we've won against Holland. Even when I was playing, we drew or we lost. In 10 years, I can't remember the last time we won. We were winning at 5-3, but unfortunately we couldn't hold on in the last four minutes. But a win in a penalty shootout as such is as good as winning the match," Pillay added.
Asked about India's notoriety for conceding goals at the death, a reputation they didn't exactly distance themselves from against the Dutch, Pillay again rose to the defence of Roelant Oltmans' side. "Everyone talks of the same old habits, but anyone in a desperate situation would stop at nothing. In the final minutes, they knew they were losing by two goals, so they all went up. If their full team is in our half and 'D', the opponent is definitely going to feel the pressure," said the 47-year-old.
The Times of India
Hockey coach Oltmans on historic medal, transition from Van Ass and whether India's HWL win was 'lucky'
by Pulasta Dhar
File picture of Roelant Oltmans (left). Getty Images
Delhi: Pathetic, erratic and lucky — those are the words World Cup winning former captain Ajit Pal Singh used to describe India's performance in the league stage of the Hockey World League — a tournament in which they finished third to win their first world-level medal in 33 years.
As India celebrated their incredible penalty shootout win over Netherlands to take first place, skeptics were already finding loopholes in the achievement. Some of the criticisms, like Ajit Pal Singh saying that consistency is still lacking from the side, ring true. So too does the fact that Australia and Netherlands brought their second-string teams to the tournament with the Olympics coming up, using the HWL as a platform to assess the rest of their roster.
However, India coach Roelant Oltmans will not let these facts take the sheen off what he called is a 'special' achievement.
"Every team makes their decision on who they bring but there are two sides to this. The other guys, they want to prove themselves because they want to take the chance to impress and make the Olympics. So they give it their all. There is quality missing, yes, but that quality will have the ball for only three minutes in a match. Also, we were not really with everyone as well. I understand sceptics and I accept it. But if Britain and Australia and Netherlands did bring their full team, there's no guarantee that they could have done better," Oltmans told Firstpost.
Australia won gold, Belgium silver and Netherlands vs India ended 5-5, before India took the bronze with a 3-2 penalty shootout win.
The Dutchman has won everything hockey has to offer — so this bronze doesn't make a huge difference to his CV. However, he admits that to win something with India is slightly more special than winning with other countries, simply because of the sheer history.
"When I left home I always said that one thing I want to bring back is glory to the country. Since it comes after such a long time, it's special. Winning a medal in whichever country is — but it's also about the situation and about the details. Especially here in India, where no one is looking at the process, only the outcome."
Oltmans has been involved with Indian hockey for three years and was high-performance director when former coach Paul Van Ass was sacked after a spat with Hockey India chief Narinder Batra — and the 61-year-old gave some insight into how he managed the transition.
"I remember I said, 'Listen guys, this should not influence your performance. We need to look from day one that this is what I need to do to play for my country.' And the boys responded well. 'I want you to continue this way,' I said."
Most importantly though, Oltmans didn't have to make any radical changes to the methods the side were following. Having been with country for so long, it would have been 'strange' to do so. He also asked the players to use what had been imparted to them with all the coaches that they had played under.
"I asked the players what they had learnt from Michael Nobbs, Terry Walso and Paul Van Ass and to use that knowledge. You have to admire what these coaches taught them and respect it in the future as well," Oltmans said.
What also worked in his favour was the fact that he was familiar with the players and vice-versa. He admits that there will always be disgruntled players when a new coach comes in, but they have to get used to it.
"For some players it is always like that — they will do better and learn faster under certain coaches. It's like that everywhere else in the world but you have to get used to the methods. There are players who will be picked by one coach, and not by another."
Oltmans leading the country to an important medal also took the glare away from the Van Ass saga, but he believes that his coaching stint should not be weighed on this achievement — but the Olympics.
"It's always difficult to say we are over that saga after just one trophy. We have been close in a few tournaments, but this was the first time we capitalised so it looks like we are in the right direction. But only after Rio we can be sure. You can get up quickly and even come down, but aim is to go upwards always."
What this medal does though, is overcome the mental block that the players had about winning — and the belief that they can achieve.
"If there is a block, it's the pressure of overcoming the threshold of failing again and again. This medal helps there. What's also important is players showed leadership. With us, on the pitch you cannot recognise leaders, but this game it was very recognisable and that's important," he said.
Emma Russell’s college hockey road trip with Syracuse University
Enniskerry native guided school to first United States National Championship
Emma Russell celebrates with her Syracuse University teammates.
It’s been a quirky sporting journey for Emma Russell. As a child growing up in Enniskerry, soccer was her unrivalled passion, playing on the local boys’ teams from under-eight up to 14 before joining the famed St Joseph’s in Sallynoggin and getting called up to the Ireland under-15 squad. If her sporting achievements were ever going to earn her a meeting with the President in his home, then it’d be a trip, surely, to Áras an Uachtaráin after a football triumph?
Not so. Russell is off to the White House after captaining Syracuse University’s hockey team to the United States National Championship for the first time in their history.
“The tradition is that every national championship team gets to go, it would be really cool but I don’t know when it will happen – with the election going on it might be a bit delayed, but hopefully it will happen in the next year.”
President Obama or President Trump?
“Ooooh, I think Obama.”
Before she went to Holy Child Killiney, the prospect of her ever being feted for her hockey seemed a touch unlikely – Russell hadn’t even played the sport until then. She took to it quickly, though, and soon enough found herself called up to Irish underage panels. “So by the time I was 16 I had to choose between the two of them. I still miss soccer, it was definitely my first love.”
She played her club hockey with Hermes and then Old Alexandra, and come the end of secondary school the big decision was whether to remain at home or head for America where she had been offered a scholarship at Syracuse to combine her hockey with studying economics. She had been born in California, where her father had worked, but had lived in Ireland since she was five, and wasn’t sure she could handle the homesickness.
“It was the first time I’d been away from home for a significant amount of time, so it was really difficult, but I just felt it was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down.
“Now I would say it was the best decision I’ve ever made, the best experience of my life, I would recommend it to anyone. The last four years have been unbelievable, I never thought I would love it this much.”
There was plenty to adjust to, not least the professionalism of Syracuse’s sporting set-up. “The facilities were a shock, I was just amazed by it – and I still am to this day. The money put in to college sport is absolutely insane, our coaches are full-time, that’s what they’re here to do. It feels like you’re a professional in terms of the support you have. You have a full-time physiotherapist, you have everything you could need, so many people working behind the scenes. We even flew to Michigan for the Final Four (the Championship play-offs) by chartered plane, they literally do everything to make our lives easier.”
And they got their rewards, Syracuse beating North Carolina 4-2 in the national final, Russell opening the scoring and Ulster’s Zoe Wilson getting their third. Come full-time, the players had become the first Syracuse women’s team to be crowned national champions in any sport.
“I just started bawling crying. Being together with the same people every day, all working towards the same thing, you become so close to them and the coaches as well, so there was a lot of emotion. And we’d worked towards this for four years, training four hours every day, so the team really became family.”
Russell’s contribution to the success? In the words of the college paper, the Daily Orange, she is “possibly the greatest field hockey player in Syracuse history”.
She is the university’s all-time leading goal-scorer and points winner (points are awarded for goals scored and assists made). She was named Syracuse ‘Athlete of the Year’ and was selected for the ‘All-America’ team of the year.
One of her goals was even featured on ESPN Sports Center’s ‘Top 10 Plays’, squeezed between moments of magic from basketball and American football mega stars. “I thought they were kidding when they told me, it was amazing, and so great for hockey to get some recognition.”
But now her time at Syracuse is almost up, just final exams at Christmas and in May before she decides on her next move.
“I was so focussed on winning I decided I wasn’t going to think about it at all until the season was over. I definitely want to keep playing hockey, so that’s a factor on whether I stay in the States or not.
“There are a few options, I kind of want to go and play in another country, but I don’t know, it’s a bit up in the air.
“For now I’m looking forward to getting home and playing with Alex (Old Alexandra) and my younger sister Abbie, which will be exciting.”
And in January, Russell should finally make her senior debut for Ireland when she travels with the squad to Valencia for a training camp and a five match series against Spain, her availability welcome news for coach Graham Shaw.
Beyond that, she’ll wait to see what opportunities arise, while keeping a day free for that visit to the White House.
The Irish Times
School talents on hockey centre stage today
The 2015/2016 T&T Hockey Board season will flick off this morning with the start of the Primary and Secondary Schools Indoor competition at the Woodbrook Youth Facility, Hamilton-Holder Street, Woodbrook.
Today’s programme, the Primary Schools will take centre stage from 8 am with the boys and girls competition.
In the boys Vos Governmentt, Tunapuna RC, Holy Rosary, D’Abadie Government will compete in Pool A while Group B comprises Diego Boys RC, Hokett Baptist, Maloney Government and Tunapuna Anglican at the end of which the top team in each pool will contest the final, while the second placed teams battle for third.
Among the girls, Maloney Govt, Hokett Baptist and Mucurapo Girls RC will contest a three-team round-robin series at the end of which the top two teams will play a final.
Also carded for today at the same venue is the North Zone Under-15 Championship, where Fatima College ‘A’, South East Port of Spain (SEPoS), St Mary’s College, Belmont Boys and Woodbrook Secondary will do battle in Pool A, and in Group B, Queen’s Royal College, Diego Martin Central, Belmont Secondary, St Anthony’s College and Fatima College ‘B’ will tangle.
Tomorrow (Friday), in the North Under-15 Girls, SEPoS, Belmont Secondary, Corpus Christi, Bishop’s Anstey, Woodbrook Secondary will compete in one round-robin group from 8am to 11am.
Also on Friday, the North Under-20 competition comes off from 11am to 6pm with 12 boys teams and six girls teams.
In the boys, Queen’s Royal College, Woodbrook, St George’s are in Pool A; Group B is made up of Fatima College, Trinity College and Mucurapo East; Group C contains SEPoS, St Anthony’s and Diego Sec ‘B’ while Group D consist of St Mary’s College, Diego Sec ‘A’, Belmont Boys.
The trio of SEPoS, Corpus Christi and Providence are in Pool A of the girls competition and Pool B features, St Joseph Convent, Holy Name Convent, Woodbrook Secondary.
And on Saturday, the East/South Zone Under-20 competition comes off at the same venue from 8 am to 4 pm with nine boys teams, and three among the girls.
T&THB Schools Indoor Hockey Tournament groups
North Secondary Schools
Group A: Fatima College ‘A’, SEPoS, St Mary’s College, Belmont Boys, Woodbrook Secondary
Group B: Queen’s Royal College, Diego Martin Central, Belmont Secondary, St Anthony’s College, Fatima College ‘B’
SEPoS, Belmont Secondary, Corpus Christi, Bishop’s Anstey, Woodbrook
Group A: Queen’s Royal College, Woodbrook, St George’s
Group B: Fatimam College, Trinity College, Mucurapo East
Group C: SEPoS, St Anthony’s, Diego Sec ‘B’
Group D: St Mary’s College, Diego Sec ‘A’, Belmont Boys
Group A: SEPoS, Corpus Christi, Providence
Group B: St Joseph Convent, Holy Name Convent, Woodbrook Sec
Group A: Debe High, El Dorado East, Tunapuna Sec, Naparima College, Mt Hope Sec
Group B: North Gate, St Augustine Sec, Pleasantville, Bon Air High
St Augustine Girls High, St Josep’s College, St Joseph Convent (St Joseph)
Group A: Vos Govt, Tunapuna RC, Holy Rosary, D’Abadie Govt
Group B: Diego Boys RC, Hokett Baptist, Maloney Govt, Tunapuna Anglican
Girls: Maloney Govt, Hokett Baptist, Mucurapo Girls RC
The Trinidad Guardian