🏆 JWC 2021 : Canada Junior Women’s Hockey team super upbeat for the Junior World Cup
thedragflick.com/Credits : Field Hockey Canada

Dragflick Newsdesk : It was January 2020 when 70 athletes from the Women’s NextGen cohort made the trip to Chula Vista, California for a training tour and a series of test matches. For many of the athletes playing at the Junior World Cup this week in South Africa, that tour feels like a lifetime ago.

Since that trip, the world changed. The COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe, cancelling and postponing sports tournaments world–wide. The Junior Pan American Championship, a World Cup qualifier, was postponed until August 2021. Canada eventually attended the competition, winning gold and qualifying for the World Cup in December 2021.

That December outing, which promised to be a poetic culmination of two years of preparation, was quickly flipped on its head when the Omicron variant surged through southern Africa and then the world.

Team Canada was already on the ground in Potchefstroom, South Africa, when airlines started cancelling flights and the route home became unclear. Eventually, the team made it home and quarantined in their respective homes, spending their last days in quarantine before Christmas day.

Now, the team is back on familiar ground in Potchefstroom and looking to make a run at a World Cup title. Team Canada last participated in the Junior Women’s World Cup in 2013, finishing 14th. Canada’s best finish is 7th.

Julia Ross, a forward on the Junior National Team, was in Santiago last August, and in South Africa during the complex and emotional December period. She said, more than anything, she’s happy to finally be stepping on the field with her teammates after everything they have been through.

“It has been a long road to get here,” she said. “All the anticipation and delays. The COVID pandemic, then December, the tournament getting postponed again. It feels a little surreal that it’s finally happening.”

Ross said their time together in Potchefstroom has prepared them to play at this venue and has created an adaptable mindset for the team to draw on.

“In a way, it was the perfect training experience for this tournament,” she said. “We definitely look back on it. There are going to be a lot of emotions when we step back on that field. But we put those hours in, it kind of feels like our shot at redemption.”

Jenna Berger, a midfielder on Team Canada, admits that returning to the same spot as three months ago is a little nerve-wracking but echoes her teammate’s sentiment, that they will use their experience to boost the team.

“I’m a little nervous to be back there, just because of everything that happened [in December],” Berger said.

“More than anything, I’m super excited to finally prove to everyone what we are capable of. We have a lot of talent and I believe we can go a long way in this tournament.”

 

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