In August 2021, Team Canada hoisted the Junior Pan Am trophy, it was the first time — men or women, indoor or outdoor — that a Canadian junior team had claimed the top spot. This week, they start their title defense in Bridgetown, Barbados.
The team consists of 18 athletes from 15 different universities and clubs. They have embraced their stylistic and diverse backgrounds and come together for the Junior Pan American Championships. The team trained together over the New Year break by touring to Mexico for training sessions and test matches. According to head coach, Jenn Beagan, the team has made the very most of their short times together and will be ready come game time.
“This is a really special group. They have formed so much cohesion in very little time together,” Beagan said. “They are well-prepared. They come fit and ready. It’s a fantastic group that has gelled well and are constantly in touch, despite being spread out.”
The team has four returners from the Junior World Cup — Arden Goddard-Despot, McKinley Kennedy, Allison Kuzyk and Harnoor Mahli and one returner from the 2021 Pan Am gold medal team in Nora Struchtrup. This group will provide that experience and leadership to the younger athletes. According to University of Toronto’s Kennedy, the experience at the World Cup has allows her to ready her own game for the international level and to support and mentor the younger athletes.
“The World Cup was the first time I really experienced the international level. It’s a big adjustment, it’s a big step,” Kennedy said. “I’m able to support and encourage the younger girls in this sense. The ball speed is faster, the players are quicker, and I feel like I’m prepared and ready for that.”
The Pan American Championships is a qualifying tournament for the upcoming Junior World Cup. The top three teams from the Pan American region will qualify for the Junior World Cup. Canada is in a pool with Barbados, Chile and Guyana. A top two finish in their pool ensures a semi-final berth.
Kuzyk, who plays for University of Pennsylvania in the NCAA, echoes Kennedy’s sentiment about making the mental and physical shift to the international speed. She adds that this team has meshed well on and off the field and is ready to tackle the challenge.
“We have worked really hard for this moment and we’re here with our full force,” Kuzyk said. “We’ve been preparing for this tournament since last summer. We are focused, ready and we’re going to show what Canada hockey is all about.”
According to Beagan, this is a connected group on and off the field and she believes this team has what it takes to get results and to qualify for the Junior World Cup.
“The ultimate goal is to qualify [for the Junior World Cup], and I know we have what it takes. We will prepare for each game and expect results. We have strong core values, the culture on this team is very selfless,” Beagan said. “This team supports each other, and no single individual is bigger than the team. They work so hard, they are a fantastic group.”
The National Junior Women’s Team begins their Junior Pan American. Championship campaign on April 11 when they play Guyana. Follow the team here.
Field Hockey Canada is excited to announce the three Canadian officials that will be representing Canada at the 2023 Junior Pan American Championships. Click here to support their journey.