GUYANA’s female hockey team will face the USA today, from 11:30hrs to start their quest for qualification to participate in the Indoor Hockey World Cup scheduled for Liege, Belgium in February 2022.
However, before the team could take the court for their first game, Guyana suffered two significant setbacks with the late ankle injury of prolific striker Sonia Jardine and the contracting of COVID-19 by captain Gabriella Xavier.
According to team’s head coach, Philip Fernandes, the loss of two of the team’s top players will leave a huge void on the forward line and midfield as their experience will be difficult to replace.
“These girls have put in so much time and effort that it is unfair for them to be left out at this late stage. As far as the team goes, we will have to now rely on our young inexperienced players. While they are skilful and energetic, you cannot rush experience and it will be a challenge for them to play with the discipline and consistency under pressure that is required for this level of competition,” Fernandes said.
Following the team’s first practice session upon arrival on Wednesday, Fernandes said the “tactical changes, especially among young players need time and repetitive practice to be successful. This means that we will make a few structural changes by moving players around the floor in different roles from what was originally intended.”
Fernandes indicated that although the loss is great, team morale remains high and the players are excited to apply what they have learnt and trained against foreign competition.
The global pandemic had prevented international hockey competition for over a year and this is a welcome return for the players.
The competition is being held under strict COVID-19 protocols which include no spectators at the facility and the team being confined to a bubble with no outside contact for the duration of the competition.
The USA are the top-ranked Pan American team at 12 in the world and will further benefit from competing on their home court where the team have been encamped.
Guyana are the lowest-ranked team in the competition at 31, with Argentina at 16, Canada 18 and Uruguay 22.
After their clash with the USA, the Guyanese ladies then face Argentina at 18:00hrs the same day before Canada and Uruguay the following day.
Goalkeeper Alysa Xavier, Trisha Woodroffe, Marzana Fiedtkou, and Aliyah Gordon are the only players returning from the team that contested the last IPAC held for the first time in Guyana in 2017.
Added to the team will be defensive-stopper Makeda Harding, the young Spartan trio of Abosaide Cadogan, Madison Fernandes and Sarah Klautky, experienced defender Ashley DeGroot and the baby of the team, Saints striker Clayza Bobb.
The team has benefitted from the support of major sponsors GTT, the Ministry of Sport, the Guyana Olympic Association, Bounty Farm Ltd and received a donation of training vests from MVP Sports.