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UPCOMING OLYMPIC GAMES

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IN LATE February, even as the national men’s team was flying out to California, their female counterparts were returning from Uruguay; both squads failed to advance from their respective World Hockey League Round Two play-offs.

Recently, Newsday published the reflections of the men’s coach Glen Francis. Today, we feature those of women’s team coach Anthony Marcano.

Whereas the TT men lost all six of their matches, the women actually registered two victories - a 5-0 score awarded against Kenya by default and a predictable win over Caribbean neighbours Dominican Republic. Omitting the Kenya result, the women scored five goals and conceded 19 in five outings.

The World League is a means to qualifying for major hockey tournaments like the Olympics and World Cup. TT’s challenges, Marcano told Newsday, began at home; just getting the players assembled and in training was difficult. “We had a hectic year coming out of Commonwealth Games, straight into World League Round One, straight into the CAC Games,” he reflected.

The three tournaments were compressed between July and November 2014, after which the players took a break to recuperate, and some were also seeking gainful employment. The latter fact doubtless influenced the decision to select nine youngsters among the final18.

It was done, Marcano claimed, looking forward to the 2016 Pan Am Under-21 Women’s Championship, which Trinidad and Tobago are scheduled to host.

Given the many issues, “Bumper,” as Marcano is affectionately known, felt TT had done well. Key to their performances, he said, was the fact that in the three weeks available before flying to Montevideo, they had worked strictly on their defensive game.

“The young ones obviously need some work, but I think they stood up pretty well,” he stated.

Among the stand-outs, he said, were co-captains Alanna Lewis and Patricia Wright-Alexis, goalkeeper Petal Derry, Kryzia Layne and youngsters Amie Olton and Jessica Lee. On opening day, Azerbaijan, ranked 19 by the FIH, beat TT 5-1; Alanna Lewis scored TT’s only item. Following Kenya’s default, they suffered successive 3-0 losses to France and Italy.

A double from Blair Wynne led them to victory over the Dominican Republic, but the French returned to hand TT a 6-1 beating, consigning them to sixth place among the eight teams. “We played a half-court game on everybody; we never played a normal three-quarter, and I think that was the difference,” he mused. “We know we’re quick at the front; if we get the opportunity and we counter-attack we are going to be fast, and teams understand that.” He believes long-term work on defence would ultimately change the TT’s international performances significantly, “But we need high-level competition to test that defence, he added.” With that in mind, “Bumper” has been working on a four-year-cycle plan that would avoid problems such as those which arose before the tournament in Montevideo, Uruguay and it would be critical in attracting quality opponents, both for purposes of player development and assessing overall team progress.

“If finance is an issue, then invite teams,” he adds. “But you can’t invite a team today for tomorrow. If you have a four-year cycle, you can invite a team to come next year, and they’re going to fit it into their programme.”

Meantime, domestic competition remains on hold as the National Hockey Centre turf in Tacarigua is being cleaned. Marcano says it costs upwards of $600 for a training session on the Marvin Lee Stadium in Macoya, the only other artificial surface in TT.

Unlike the men’s team, the TT women did not qualify for Pan Am Games. Their next overseas assignment will be in October - the Pan Am Challenge in Peru.

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