In preparation for the Pan American Hockey Federation (PAHF) Cup in Argentina, the Guyana women’s team will take part in the Canadian senior national championships from June 12-16 in Brampton.
Guyana joins Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, the province’s Under-23 side and the Under-21 national team in the five-day competition.
The South American visitors play their first match against the national Under-21 team on June 12 at 3:30 p.m. They will then oppose British Columbia the following day at 8:30 a.m., Alberta on June 14 at 8:30 a.m., Ontario later that day at 5:15 p.m. and the Under-23 team on June 15 at 2 p.m.
The tournament, which ends on June 16 with the playoffs and championship game, takes place at Cassie Campbell Sports Complex, 1050 Sandalwood Parkway W. (northwest corner of Sandalwood and Chinguacousy Dr.)
The 17-member touring party will be captained by Chantelle Fernandes, who is one of three overseas-based players in the squad. She resides in England. The others are Canadian-born midfielder and University of British Columbia graduate Leigh Sandison (her mother is Guyanese-born) and defender Marzana Fiedtkou, who is a freshman at Robert Morris University in Pennsylvania.
The rest of the squad is Ulrica Sutherland (vice-capt.); goalkeepers Alysa Xavier and Natalie Hing; Tiffany Solomon, Marisha Rodrigues, Maria Munroe, Vanessa Pires, Trisha Woodroffe, Ashley DeGroot, Gabriella Xavier, Kerensa Fernandes, Samantha Fernandes, Janella Munroe and Aliyah Gordon, who at age 15, is the youngest member.
Rawl Davson and Philip Fernandes are the manager and coach, respectively.
This is the first time that a Guyanese women’s team will be competing in Canada.
“The game is played at a very high level in Canada and we are convinced the national championships will offer the best possible game preparation for us leading up to the PAHF Cup,” said Fernandes, who is president of the Guyana Hockey Board. “We are going to use this tournament to expose our players to different tactics and systems of play. We need to experiment a bit by putting players under pressure in different positions on the field to see how they respond and whether they are able to perform.”
Guyana’s women’s hockey program was resuscitated in 2001 after years of dormancy. The country made its return to international competition eight years ago in a triangular tournament in Venezuela that also included Brazil. Guyana has also competed in the Caribbean championships, the Central American & Caribbean Games, the PAHF Challenge and the World League.
“Since Guyana does not have an artificial hockey pitch which is a requirement for international competition, it’s imperative that we travel overseas prior to major tournaments to expose our players to competition on such a surface,” said Fernandes. “We are grateful that Field Hockey Canada granted our request to take part in its national championships.”
The visitors are counting on the support of the large Guyanese community in the city, including almost a dozen former national and Guyana club players who reside in the Greater Toronto Area. They include centre back Roxanne Hill-Hinds, a former national captain who represented Guyana from 1970 to 1978; forwards Marilyn Thijs-Farnum, Regina Lissone-Cheong and Donna Burgan-Thompson, centre half Mercylyn Bourne, defenders Janice Longe and Hazel Khan and goalkeeper Myrtle Thompson-George.
“It was certainly a huge honour for me to represent Guyana and I am certain the current members feel the same sense of pride,” said Hill-Hinds, who migrated to Canada in 1994. “This is the first time a Guyana women’s hockey team will be playing in the GTA and those of us who played the sport and other supporters will be there to support them if we are not working or otherwise engaged.”
The Guyanese will face several of the Canadians again at the PAHF Cup competition in the next three months.
Guyana, which is ranked 58th in the world is in the same group with the 23rd ranked Canada, Trinidad & Tobago and the host country. The other group comprises Chile, Mexico, the United States and Uruguay.
The winner advances to the 2014 World Cup in The Hague and the top six teams qualify for the 2017 Pan American Cup. The seventh and eighth place teams will compete in the 2015 Pan American Challenge series.