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.
After enduring the sweltering heat of Durham, North Carolina, it was a refreshing turnaround to head back west for training. Flying into Vancouver, on all clear days, is a magical and highly optically pleasing privilege - just another wonder of living on the west coast. As the plane made its descent, I saw the snow capped mountains peaking high up into the clear blue sky. Even further west I caught the distant horizon of the hazy, blue Island, and the glistening waves of the Strait of Georgia. Utterly intoxicated by the sheer beauty of my birthplace, I forgot for an instant that this moment would be over in a few seconds, as the inevitable future and law of gravity would pull me further towards my homeland. As much as I would like to fawn on about British Columbia, this isn't a blog to promote the natural wonders Canada, and my primary focus, after a few minutes of digression into nature, returned to the reason I was heading back home at this time - it was time to train with the Senior National Team.
We met up on Tuesday for our first training session before the four game series vs. the US Olympic team, which will be hosted in Victoria, B.C at University of Victoria. As Peter is coaching the Senior Team now, it was easy for me to adapt to the drills throughout the training session - Peter is also the coach of the Junior National Team, so I am familiar with his drills and coaching style. Our first session was more or less getting back into it all, and having all the girls together. Receiving the ball in a variety of different ways for a shot on net was one of the primary focuses for practice. The Senior girls who have been consistently touring with the team were eager to help others with footwork pointers.
As proud as I am to represent my country, it was awesome to see some retired Duke University Field Hockey players (or DUFHers), and incoming DUFHers, as well as present DUFHers, all training together in Vancouver. Marian Dickinson, class of 2008 greeted me with a warm hug at the beginning of our first training session, and young Kendra Purrin, class of 2016, an incoming freshmen, was greeted warmly by me as we put on our shinpads before the first session. Along with Kendra and Marian, there training was Jess Buttinger and me.
This afternoon we'll be having our last training session before we head off, on the glorious ferry ride to the Island, for the first game of the series (tomorrow). I think all the girls are excited, I know I can barely wait to meet the Americans on the turf and show them some tough Maple leaf pride.