A convincing victory over Trinidad and Tobago has propelled the Canadian women’s national field hockey team into the semifinal of the Pan American Cup in Mendoza, Arg. today.
Canada will play the U.S.A in one semifinal while Chile face offs against Argentina in the other semi with the winners advancing to Saturday’s final.
Hannah Haughn netted the winner at the 27 minute mark of the first half and Rossland native Thea Culley scored once as Team Canada erupted for four goals in the second half to cruise to a 5-0 victory over Trinidad and Tobago to complete round-robin play Tuesday.
The Canadian side at 2-1, finished in second place in Pool A behind the Argentinians who walloped Guyana 22-0, and finished with a perfect 3-0 record. The Americans meanwhile went 3-0 in Pool B with a 6-1 victory over Uruguay in its final game of the round robin.
Culley is the veteran leader of the team with 96 Caps, and while she she has played with the national team for almost seven years now, she says it’s a decidedly different Canadian team with new coach Ian Rutledge at the helm.
“Ian definitely brings a different perspective,” said Culley in an email. “I think we learned a lot of the tactical basics from our previous coaching staff and now Ian is bringing a slightly new way to look at the game and it is fitting in very nicely. We are all learning a lot and it’s really exciting.”
The 40-year-old Australian coached the New Zealand team at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens and has the Canadian team’s long-term goals firmly fixed on a berth in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, as well as a good finish when they host the 2015 Pan Am Games in Toronto.
“Every competition and practice or training session is to prepare us for qualifying for Rio,” said Culley. “Our short term goals are to establish a performance standard and then to exceed it every game. We are focused on progression while still staying in the moment.”
Culley leads the Canadian team with three goals in the tournament, and while the 23rd world-ranked Canadians may be in tough against the 10th ranked U.S. squad and the number-two ranked Argentinians, the 27-year-old RSS grad is savouring the experience.
“I think for me, I’m entering the final years of my career and its really important for me to enjoy every moment,” added Culley. “I’m really trying to enjoy the day-to-day environment while continuing to be a student of the game. When I have the pre-game jitters I remind myself that I’m lucky to still get excited to represent my country.”
Canada won bronze in the 2001 and 2004 Pan Am Cup, while missing a medal in 2009. Argentina has won gold and the U.S. Silver in the past three Cups.
Team Canada will try to break that streak when they play the U.S.A tonight in the semifinal at 6:30 p.m. at the Mendocino Hockey Stadium. The final goes Saturday with the winner automatically qualifying for the 2014 World Cup in the Hague, Netherlands.