VANCOUVER, BC – With the Tokyo 2020 Olympics postponed until 2020 due to COVID-19, the summer sports world has seen a compressed schedule and will continue to do so until the flame is extinguished at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
With that, World Championships, major meets, and World Cups are flying fast, and as July begins, a large U SPORTS contingent takes on the next step — the Women’s Field Hockey World Cup.
After missing out on the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, the Canadian women’s national field hockey team travels to Spain and the Netherlands for the World Cup, their first appearance at the tournament since 1994. They will be in a group with hosts Spain, as well as South Korea, and Argentina, with a roster featuring 13 current and former U SPORTS field hockey players.
While U SPORTS field hockey may not see the glamour, to an extent, of football and ice hockey, it is one of the sports that elevate athletes to the highest level of the Canadian university system.
In 2021, the University of Victoria Vikes downed the U of T Varsity Blues on a blistering fall day in Toronto to win the national championship. Now three members of the Vikes are off to Europe with the maple leafs, including 2021 captain Anna Mollenhauer.
How did Canada get here?
Canada qualified for the World Cup with a tight, one-goal win over rivals Team USA in January, with former Toronto Varsity Blue Amanda Woodcroft scoring the winning goal and the tally that booked the team’s ticket to the tournament.
“Someone has to put it in, and I was the one in the right spot at that time,” Woodcroft said in an emotional post-game interview to Field Hockey Canada. “It’s a total team effort, and I’m so proud of the team. We worked so hard today.”
Now heading to Europe, the team does so with their 13 U SPORTS players, representing four different schools from UVic, UBC, Guelph and U of T.
Jordyn Faizcak, Sara Goodman, Rowan Harris, Shanlee Johnson, Hannah Haugn, Sara McManus, Natalie Sourisseau, and Thora Rae represent former UBC Thunderbirds and the largest contingent of any U SPORTS school, with Sourissea captaining the side.
“The road to qualification was not just about the Pan Am Cup [qualifier], but was really years in the making and was filled with a lot of ups and downs,” Sourisseau said to Field Hockey Canada. “We have worked tirelessly to progress the team forward to get us the point at which we could cinch that World Cup spot.”
15 of the 18-player roster return from the Pan-Am qualifier, which brought them to the tournament, as the group relies on veterans and a young presence in the locker room. Mollenhauer, the U SPORTS player of the year, leads a young contingent, joined by fellow Junior National Team grads Grace Delmotte, Faiczak, and Goodman.
“Our core group that has spent many years getting to this moment is ready to perform, lead, and show the country that we can compete alongside the world’s best,” head coach Rob Short said.
“We are excited for them, but also excited for our younger players to who have an opportunity to experience a World Cup so early in their career.”
While UBC holds the greatest share of national team players bound for the World Cup, U of T features Amanda Woodcroft, and Alison Lee, while UVic sends Mollenhauer, Kathleen Leahy, and Alexis de Armond.
Taking the next step
Led by Short, the Canadian group is experienced, but they’ve never been tested at a level with as much exposure as the World Cup. Going into the tournament, Canada is anything but favourites but could come out with a win, potentially enough to advance past the group stages.
Canada opens its first tournament in 28 years against the host Spanish team but does so on July 1, Canada Day, making for a perfect return to the sports’ most significant stage.
The Spaniards are a familiar foe for Team Canada, having faced the European side nine times since 2018, with Canada holding a slight advantage with three wins, compared to Spain’s one win amidst five draws.
It will be a difficult tournament for Canada, but returning to the largest stage is a massive victory in itself, as the team looks toward the upcoming 2022 Commonwealth Games and Paris 2024 Olympics.
Canada’s first game of the World Cup is against Spain at 3:30pm ET on July 1.
U SPORTS players on Team Canada:
Aleixis De Amrond – UVIC
Kathleen Leahy – UVIC
Anna Mollenhauer – UVIC
Tora Rae – UBC
Natalie Sourisseau – UBC
Sara McManus – UBC
Hannah Haugn – UBC
Rowan Harris – UBC
Sara Goodman – UBC
Jordyn Faiczak – UBC
Brienne Stairs – Guelph
Amanda Woodcroft – Toronto
Alison Lee – Toronto