T&T senior women’s hockey team coach Anthony “Bumper” Marcano says he is very pleased with his team’s performance at the just concluded Pan Am Challenge and is expecting a tough battle ahead at the Pan American Cup, next year.
The Pan American Challenge ended at the Villa Maria del Triunfo Pan American Complex, Lima on Saturday with the T&T women going under to Peru 2-0 in the four-team tournament final.
However, both teams had already secured qualification to next January 20 to 30 Pan American Cup in Chile following their semifinal wins on Friday.
During the one-week tournament, T&T defeated Peru 1-0 in their opening round-robin encounter on September 26, followed by 2-2 draw with Paraguay on (September 28) and 1-1 draw with Brazil a day later, to end in second spot at the end of group play with five points, one behind the Peruvians.
In the semifinal, T&T battled past Paraguay 4-3 on sudden-death penalty shoot-out after a 1-1 draw in regulation-time while Peru blanked Brazil 2-0, before avenging their round-robin loss to the "Calypso Stickwomen" for the gold medal.
Commenting on his team’s qualification to next January’s tournament, Marcano said he was very elated with the performance of the group. He also heaped praise on the leadership of the team adding, “I think the team was led properly by Amie Olton as captain and Avion Ahston making her 50th appearance also being part of the captaincy group and Savannah De Freitas.
“I think working alongside them and keeping the team together on the outside focused on what we needed to do and achieve in this tournament for our program, they did tremendous work."
Marcano also praised the efforts of his entire technical team saying, “It wasn’t just about the coaching staff either as I think the medical staff was excellent as they all worked tirelessly with my players.
“Even when they were off the pitch they were working with them to make sure they stayed healthy to come back on the pitch for us, and it was a pure team effort and that was commendable.”
Reflecting on the team’s difficult preparations in the lead up to the tournament during the coronavirus pandemic and having limited number of players attending training sessions based on the Ministry of Health protocols Marcano said what the team has accomplish is a big achievement for the program to get back on the circuit
“Yes we were missing four players from Long Island University (Samantha Olton, Saarah Olton, Felicia King, Kaitlyn Olton) that went with the junior team and we also had Kim Young who was supposed to be coming from Australia and that would have been difficult as they were in lockdown and couldn’t come out for it.
“But we felt that we had a good backbone in being able to participate in this tournament with who we had.
“We had Avion Ashton coming back as well as Amie Olton, and Brianna Govia and they all had experience behind them and we knew that would have helped us tremendously going into this tournament.
“Also being able to include some of our Under-21s that just concluded their own Junior Pan Am and we had a few of them joining the group as well and getting the exposure and experience at the higher level and actually coming out with a medal.
“This augurs well for the progamme and it also augurs well for their development going forward and hopefully that will help the program build.
In addition to Peru and T&T, the eight-team Pan American Cup will feature the six highest-ranked teams from the previous Pan Am Cup (2017) and as the host country, Chile had already qualified.
They include five-time Pan American Cup winners and the lone team to have ever won gold in the competition, Argentina, Chile, USA, Canada, Uruguay and Mexico.
The T&T women who have appeared at the Pan American Cup three times previously, in 2004 in Barbados when they ended eight; 2009 when they placed fourth in Bermuda; and four years later when they ended seventh in Argentina.
T&T men, who have qualified four previous times (2004, 2009, 2013 and 2017), have also qualified for the 2022 edition due to a fourth place finish in Lancaster, USA last time out, with their best showing, a bronze in 2013 in Canada.
The men join title-holders and three-time winners Argentina, 2009 champion Canada, USA, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Peru in their tourney.
The 2022 Pan American Cup will serve as the regional qualifier for the FIH World Cup.
With his focus now on preparing the team for the Pan Am Cup, Marcano said, “We now have three months to get ready and there is a lot of work to be done and it’s important that we get that done.
A realistic Marcano added, “That competition is going to be totally different as we are looking at the likes of Argentina, USA, Canada, and Chile and it's going to be a tough group that we are going to go into and in three months I am not sure if we are going to be able to be in that top four.
“But I think qualifying in the ‘top six’ to be able to make the next Pan Am Cup is one of the goals that we are going to look to achieve and that’s what we are going to work towards."
The T&T coach was also of the belief that the entire coaching staff must be kept together for the betterment of the team.
He said, “I also believe that in the short space of time it’s important that we keep this staff together.
“Everything has a cost to it, and everybody obviously have their lives to live but its important that this staff stays together to help develop the group as they know the group and understand the group and therefore we need everybody on board to work towards these three months."