High on confidence after scripting a 5-0 series whitewash over Belarus earlier this month, the Indian women’s hockey team led by striker Rani departed for West Vancouver to take part in the World League Round 2, starting on April 1.
The Indian eves will vie for top honours when they clash with teams likes Belarus, Canada, Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, Chile and Uruguay in the upcoming tournament.
“We go in as the top ranked team and we are confident we will finish in the top spot. We are going there 10 days before the start of the tournament so we will have enough time to get used to the turf, climate. We will also play two practice matches which will help us fine tune further,” said Rani.
Rani said the team has been working extremely hard in the national camp in Bhopal under the watchful eyes of chief coach Sjoerd Marijne and analytical coach Eric Wonink. Their training was also overseen by Hockey India’s High Performance Director David John.
“We were put through a rigorous training camp which began in the second week of January. We have worked a lot on our individual skills, brought in a few variations in our techniques to increase speed of play and the team has thoroughly enjoyed working under the new coaches who are very specific in their approach and ensure every girl in the team knows her responsibilities and what is expected of her.
“Apart from emphasis on fitness, there was also special sessions for mental training and it has helped the team a lot,” said the captain.
Vice-captain Deep Grace Ekka said that the series win against Belarus was a big confidence booster ahead of the World League Round 2.
“This group has been together for a while now and we know each others’ strengths and weaknesses. I feel the series win against Belarus was a big motivator. There were minor mistakes that we committed against Belarus and we worked on correcting those mistakes these past few weeks,” she said.
“Our primary goal is to qualify for the World League Semi Final and to do that our focus will not just be on attack and speed of play but also a lot of emphasis will be on our defensive structure,” Ekka added.
The Hockey Women’s World League Semifinal will be held in June and July with Johannesburg and Brussels set to be the two venues.
Speaking about the women’s team progress over these past few weeks, Dutch coach Marijne said, “The team possess great skill to play fast but we have also emphasised a lot on defence because a good defence structure is what wins championships. We have worked on our own small targets and I am hopeful they will fetch us good results.”
Goalkeepers: Savita, Rajani Etimarpu.
Defenders: Deep Grace Ekka, Sunita Lakra, Gurjit Kaur, Renuka Yadav, Lalhlunmawii.
Midfielders: Deepika, Navjot Kaur, Ritu Rani, Monika, Lily Chanu Mayengbam, Namita Toppo.
Forwards: Rani, Vandana Katariya, Poonam Rani, Sonika, Anupa Barla.