Field Hockey Canada > Junior National Team a 'special and connected' group

Junior World Cup signals a culmination of years in the making for Team Canada 

It was January 2020 when 70 athletes from the Women’s NextGen cohort made the trip to Chula Vista, California for a training tour and a series of test matches. For many of the athletes playing at the Junior World Cup this week in South Africa, that tour feels like a lifetime ago.  

Since that trip, the world changed. The COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe, cancelling and postponing sports tournaments worldwide. The Junior Pan American Championship, a World Cup qualifier, was postponed until August 2021. Canada eventually attended the competition, winning gold and qualifying for the World Cup in December 2021.   


That December outing, which promised to be a poetic culmination of two years of preparation, was quickly flipped on its head when the Omicron variant surged through southern Africa and then the world. Team Canada was already on the ground in Potchefstroom, South Africa, when airlines started cancelling flights and the route home became unclear. Eventually, the team made it home and quarantined in their respective homes, spending their last days in quarantine before Christmas day. 

Back on Familiar Ground – Looking for redemption 

Now, the team is back on familiar ground in Potchefstroom and looking to make a run at a World Cup title. Team Canada last participated in the Junior Women’s World Cup in 2013, finishing 14th. Canada’s best finish is 7th.

Julia Ross, a forward on the Junior National Team, was in Santiago last August, and in South Africa during the complex and emotional December period. She said, more than anything, she’s happy to finally be stepping on the field with her teammates after everything they have been through.   

“It has been a long road to get here,” she said. “All the anticipation and delays. The COVID pandemic, then December, the tournament getting postponed again. It feels a little surreal that it’s finally happening.” 

Canada spent two weeks training at the NWU campus during their extended stay in December.

Ross said their time together in Potchefstroom has prepared them to play at this venue and has created an adaptable mindset for the team to draw on. 

“In a way, it was the perfect training experience for this tournament,” she said. “We definitely look back on it. There are going to be a lot of emotions when we step back on that field. But we put those hours in, it kind of feels like our shot at redemption.” 

Jenna Berger, a midfielder on Team Canada, admits that returning to the same spot as three months ago is a little nerve-wracking but echoes her teammate’s sentiment, that they will use their experience to boost the team. 

“I’m a little nervous to be back there, just because of everything that happened [in December],” Berger said. “More than anything, I’m super excited to finally prove to everyone what we are capable of. We have a lot of talent and I believe we can go a long way in this tournament.” 

Balancing School and Hockey  

Ross and Berger are examples of NCAA athletes who have also been training in the National NextGen program for several years. Most of the team plays university hockey north or south of the border and has been balancing hockey and school during the last 24 tumultuous months.  

Berger plays NCAA hockey for UMass Lowell and Ross plays for the Maine Black Bears, the 2021 America East Conference champs. The two say that the National Junior Team has been doing their best to stay connected throughout this time of de-centralization and are connecting via online conference calling and other platforms.  

Almost all of the Junior National Team plays university hockey in the Canadian USPORTS league or in the NCAA, south of the border.

Ross is studying biomedical engineering on top of her university and national team hockey responsibilities. She admits that with everything going on, it can feel like a lot.  

“School can get exceptionally busy at times, but I truly feel like I get the best of both worlds,” Ross said. “I get an education and I get to play hockey, it’s very rewarding. I put a lot of effort into my school and it’s definitely not easy to balance it all. But I want to succeed both on the field and in school.” 

Ross also says she uses art as a getaway. When she has some time to let the pressures of school and hockey fade away, she likes to make ceramic vases and mugs in the school’s art studios.  

“If it’s the weekend or something, I’ll just disappear into the ceramics studio, I’ll have my phone off, the other day I was in there for seven hours,” she laughed.  

Team chemistry leading to on-field success  

This group has been building to the World Cup since 2020 and, as such, has created and fostered some long-lasting connections. Berger said the team is in almost touch every day, especially since December’s South Africa trip. These are teammates on the field, and many have created friendships off the field, as well, noting that Ross came to visit her at school in Lowell for a weekend getaway. 

“We have Zoom meetings to talk tactics; we have team group chats,” Berger said. “For us, it’s all about making everyone feel welcome and comfortable bouncing ideas off each other. 

The on- and off-field chemistry should work in Canada’s advantage as they take on familiar foes, USA, as well as Netherlands and Zimbabwe, in their group stage games. The top two in each pool advance to the bracket stage of the tournament. Berger said she’s not looking past any of their preliminary opponents. 

“I’m not going to put a label on any of these games. We know where we have to finish to advance,” she said. “I just go into each game ready to play and want to leave each game with no regrets. Honestly, the fact that we’ve already been here, it just makes me hungrier. We’re used to the facilities; I am confident we can do this.” 

Ross, Berger and Team Canada open their World Cup campaign on April 1 against Zimbabwe. They follow that game with a match against Argentina and close out their pool-play against USA, both promising to be fiery rematches from Pan American Championships in August.


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