TRINIDAD AND Tobago’s qualification to the January 2022 Pan American Cup in Santiago, Chile is the first step towards rebuilding the national women’s hockey team.
So says Douglas Camacho, TT Hockey Board (TTHB) president, who expressed elation with the squad’s tense 4-3 victory, via penalty shootout, over Paraguay in Friday’s Pan American Challenge semi-final in Lima, Peru.
After full-time, both teams were deadlocked at one goal apiece. TT’s Shaniah de Freitas scored first via a penalty corner in the 37th minute but Paraguay’s Mia Catebra equalised in the 51st minute.
In the shootout, Brianna Govia scored twice, de Freitas bagged another while Zene Henry also found the back of the net to earn TT a hard-fought victory.
The result saw TT progress to Saturday’s final against hosts Peru, who disposed of Brazil 2-0 in the opening semi-final on Friday. TT’s finalist spot also earned the women’s team a precious place in January’s Pan Am Cup.
Camacho believes the team’s ability to advance to Saturday’s final augurs well for their development. Advancing to the Pan Am Cup however, was the squad’s ultimate goal heading into this competition.
“We’re happy to reach the final but the bigger achievement is that we have qualified for the next stage, which was the primary objective of the tournament for us.
“This win is a step in the right direction for women’s hockey. We’re trying to rebuild our women’s team so I’m really pleased with the result,” Camacho said.
During the preliminary round-robin stage, TT finished second on five points (behind Peru, six points).
They completed the first round unbeaten as a last-minute goal from Brianna Govia secured a crucial 1-0 victory over the hosts in their opening match, followed by a 2-2 draw against Paraguay and a 1-1 result against Brazil.
Camacho, who also serves as Sport Company of TT chairman, hopes the team can replicate their previous form in Saturday’s second meeting against the hosts.
“We beat them in the prelims. They won two and lost one and their lone loss came against us (TT). The played well against Brazil (on Friday) so hopefully we will be able to repeat the win over them to win it all,” he mentioned.
Owing to the pandemic and a lack of competition prior, TT slipped down the region’s rankings and was forced to seek qualification to next year’s Pan Am Games through the Pan Am Challenge, a qualifier event.
The team’s performance at this tournament will aid TT’s climb back up the rankings. It also sets a good platform for the women’s team to maintain their momentum heading into the Pan Am Cup.
“We usually directly qualify for the Pan Am Games and what they now call the Pan Am Cup, but this time we had to go through the qualifier event. We lost our previous rankings because we didn’t get to play as often as we like.
“We’re very pleased that we’re moving back up the rankings heading into the Pan Am Cup, with a good chance of qualifying for the Pan Am Games,” he continued.
TT’s best performance at the Pan Am Games came in 1987 (USA) and 1999 (Canada) when they placed fourth on both occasions. The men’s team however, earned silver back in 1967 (Canada) but have never placed within the top-three since.
Their most improved performance came in 2007 (Brazil) where they finished fourth.