Rising senior Mary Nielsen is playing on the Canadian Women's National Team in a four match series against the United States National Team, beginning May 19 until May 23. All matches will take place on the University of Victoria's Field Hockey Turf. Prior to the competition, the Canadian squad assembled for a multiday training camp in Vancouver. Nielsen, a Duncan, B.C., native is writing a blog to give Duke field hockey fan's an inside look into the international competition.
We woke up early for our first match and went straight to the cafeteria for breakfast. Nerves were high, but not out of control as we ate before our early practice, which would be of low intensity. After practice we met for a meeting announcing the line up and tactics for the game ahead. We all then settled back to our dorms to hang out and eat some more.
Right before our first match the Performance Director spoke to us introducing a concept, which has been carefully conceived by our coaching staff. We are a nation building its identity and reputation in hockey. Over and over it was said that this entire series is part of the bigger picture - and the final goal lays not in how we perform in a few hours, but in the ultimate destination leading to the World Cup of 2015.
Of course we went out to win. The first half was a battle, as we fought for territory, with the U.S earning the only corner all half. It ended 0-0 and our coach brought us in to review key points. The second half had much more action. After back and forth battle between both teams, we scored first (a tip by Kelly Newton) off of an amazing ball by Anna Kozniuk. The U.S immediately put on the pressure but we were able to hold them until ten minutes left. The score then stood 1-1, but lack of experience from our end led to two more goals by the U.S and a final score of 3-1. Despite the score, I had so much fun playing. Earning my first cap was one of the most exciting things to have happened to me, and the tradition to follow my and my fellow first-earning-cap members was an ultimate highlight.
The rest of the days continued with the same routine. Unfortunately, despite all efforts we were unsuccessful in winning a match, but credit must be given to the London bound U.S team and their offensive strength. To play in matches at such a speed and against such strong players was extremely exciting for me. I have learned so much and appreciate the finer details of every bit of training.
Regardless where we were, we are rising, and there was some really great hockey played throughout the weekend. The U.S came out strong, scoring 18 goals on us, and we in turn scored 5. There is no doubt they have much more experience than us, and it showed on the field. Despite being defeated in all four games, I feel there is a high sense of positivity and potential in what lays ahead for us.
Most of the Senior Team is compiled of junior players - and we juniors head off to Argentina in two days for test matches vs. Chile and Argentina.