Glen "Fido" Francis, coach of the T&T senior women’s hockey5s team says this country's chances of finishing among the top three teams at the inaugural Hockey5s Pan American Cup Tournament at the University of the West Indies, Mona Campus Turf in Kingston, Jamaica from June 4-11, are very good.
In the nine-team women’s competition, which serves as the continental qualifier for the FIH Hockey5s (five-a-side) 16-team World Cup set to be played in January 2024 in Muscat, Oman, the 'Calypso Stickwomen' will contest Pool B with host Jamaica, and South American duo, Brazil, and Uruguay while Paraguay, reigning Central American champions Costa Rica, Panama, Guatemala, and the USA are in Pool A.
The T&T women led by co-captains, Shania De Freitas and Krizia Layne-Alexander, will open their campaign in the 20-minute per match qualifiers against the Jamaicans on June 4 from 6 pm before facing Uruguay on June 5 (3.20 pm), and Brazil on June 6 from 4.40 pm.
At the end of the round-robin series in both men’s and women’s competitions, the teams will contest cross-over quarterfinals with the winners of each pool meeting the fourth-placed team in the other while the second and third-placed teams clash as well to determine the semifinalists.
From the semifinals, the two winners will qualify for the final as well as earn tickets to Oman, along with the winners of the third-placed playoffs.
The women's team to qualify for Oman so far are the African trio of Namibia, South Africa and Zambia while Europe, Oceania, Asia, and Europe are still to determine their three qualifiers each as well.
Speaking ahead of a training session at the St James Police Barracks Ground, Hockey Facility, Francis, a former national goalkeeper, and captain, as well as coach of both men's and women's Outdoor teams said, "Based on the groups and the format of the tournament I believe our chances of qualification are very good.
"We are definitely looking at a top-three finish to get to Oman and the girls are highly motivated to do well, which is also important."
In terms of his team's preparation to date, Francis stated that based on the facilities and time available they have done the best possible preparation that they can.
He said, "We have played at least 50 practice matches and the girls are all excited to compete in this new format with the chance to qualify for a World Cup.
"The group is a tricky one in that Jamaica will be playing at home and will no doubt feed off the energy of the home support, while Brazil is expected to be tough as well along with Uruguay, which is one of the top teams in South America, so we will not be taking any team for granted."
In backing the composition of his team, Francis said, "I think the make-up of the team is a very solid one with a lot of girls who have experienced this format and have the skill set to produce in the like of Amie Olton, Samantha Olton, Chelsea Dey, Savannah De Freitas, Shania De Freitas (co-captain), Zene Henry, and Krizia Layne-Alexander (co-captain) and the USA-based Felicia King-Ashby who will surely add some quality in attack as well."
However, one concern for Francis was the fitness level as he stated it was not exactly at 100 percent, nor where he wanted it to be for these types of tournaments, but with the running changes to be made during the game, it will allow him to make tactical adjustments when needed.
T&T Women's Team
Amie Olton, Samantha Olton, Arresia Sandy (goalkeeper), Chelsea Dey, Felicia King-Ashby, Savannah De Freitas, Shania De Freitas (co-captain), Talia Seale (goalkeeper), Zene Henry, Krizia Layne-Alexander (co-captain)
Technical staff: Glen Francis (coach), Blair Wynne (assistant coach), Jon Esposito (assistant coach), Miguel King (IT Technician/videographer), Kemoy Clarke (manager), Cindy Martin-Faustin (Team Administrator).