Sports

Junior World Cup the ultimate goal for dynamic duo

Duke’s Mary Nielsen celebrates a goal in U.S. collegiate action.  - submitted
Duke’s Mary Nielsen celebrates a goal in U.S. collegiate action.
— image credit: submitted

Valley field hockey players Mary Nielsen and Sarah Keglowitsch put their heart and soul into a national team training camp in San Francisco.

The players left the valley on Dec. 27 and just returned last Wednesday.

“It was intense, competitive, but it was good,’’ said Nielsen. “I learned a lot.’’

A total of 28 players attended as the selection process continues to determine the Canadian team for the Junior World Cup in India next year.

Nielsen said there will be another camp in March and a series against the United States in April.

Nielsen just completed her third season at Duke University recently and Keglowitsch was part of a national Canadian interuniversity championship in her first season at UBC.

“It was a really good season,’’ said Nielsen. “We made it to the elite eight and the ACC (Atlantic Coast Conference) championship game.’’

Duke lost 2-1 to North Carolina but it was the first time in the final for Duke in some 30 years so Nielsen was happy to be a part of it.

Nielsen also had a hand in Duke’s defeat of No. 1 Maryland during the season on the road that was a huge game.

Nielsen was asked to write an account of the women’s junior national squad’s week-long training camp. Following is an excerpt of her experience at the camp, including an epic run over the Golden Gate Bridge.

After an early flight out of Vancouver, the squad arrived in San Francisco determined and excited for the week ahead. There was no time to waste. We ate lunch and immediately took off to “the farm” where we’d be training for the following seven days.

In contrast to the dismal dark days up north, the Bay area provided the staff and athletes with an excellent supplement of vitamin D. The days of sunshine were not only a pleasant change to the grey winter but moreover a revitalizing beacon-like brightness to an upcoming new year.

Expectations from Peter (head coach) and his coaching staff were clear from the get-go. This was preparation for our ultimate goal — the Junior World Cup. With that in mind, we began practice just after three hours of landing in San Francisco. After our first practice a daily schedule was set up. Wake up call; team run; breakfast; practice; nap; lunch; meeting; scrimmage; dinner; treatment; sleep. The schedule kept to its core for the most part, and we were lost in the routine with casual trips to Jane’s room for extra snacks which were (of course) always at the ready.

On New Year’s Eve day, instead of a journey to the Stanford facilities we were given instructions to wear our workout gear and bring a change of clothes. The uncertainty worried not only myself but my fellow roommates. Peter had mentioned a 20-mile run. Actually he had mentioned a lot of things and most of the time we had no idea whether they were true or not. It was best to prepare for the unlikely.

About 40 minutes of driving around San Francisco we stood, jaws dropped, in front of this godforsaken hill. The task was to run up it. A run with 30 or so highly competitive field hockey players quickly turned into an apocalyptic sprint. The killer-hill was completed, and although it felt like I was dead, casualties were few. After the hill, we were taken to one of the seven wonders of the modern world: The Golden Gate Bridge, designed by chief engineer, Joseph Strauss (my second favourite civil engineer). The two-mile run over the bridge was a highlight for many, but that didn’t stop the glory of what lay beyond the morning workout. We were given half the day to see whatever we liked in the city.

After a wonderful trip to the city, we went straight back into focus mode – more training, treatment, and inter-squad games. The coaches kept up the work rate, and with the week over, a new year in full swing and a goal set for the squad, we left San Francisco excited for the upcoming tours and itching to work hard in our separate field hockey endeavours before being reunited again.

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