Wales’ women’s side recently returned from Round 1 of the Hockey Open Series held in Lithuania’s capital city Vilnius, where they fought their way proudly to third place, a standing that further grants them qualification into Round 2.
Catching up with Head Coach, Kevin Johnson recently he told us:
There were many challenging parts of our recent open series experience in Lithuania that tested pretty much every part of our processes so first and foremost I’m delighted that we have managed to negotiate our way through to one of the three open series finals in the next round thanks to our 3rd place finish. We knew that in reality with up to 9 of our players playing in either their first (6) or second (3) senior tournament there would be a lot of learning to experience over our time there, made more difficult due to the varying nature of how our different opponents play the game. All our players and staff will have learnt so much that will help our future progression and development and that is a very positive and powerful lesson to be gained from this round. We have also learnt important lessons as a side, who now do have some expectation to win matches at this level and how we need to deal with these matches in future but again this is a positive part of where Welsh hockey currently finds itself.
Johnson admits Wales didn’t have the ideal start to the tournament but crucially pulled it back during their game against highest ranked team in series, Czech Republic:
Whilst in truth we got off to a slow start to the tournament despite winning our first game against Turkey, I was very pleased with how we won our game against the Czech Republic where we finally found some form and tempo to our play which should be a template to aspire to in future performances. Qualification for us was vital so we look ahead to being able to access yet another high-quality competition next year and continue to develop the depth and quality of our squad.
Alongside celebrating a win against Turkey during their opening game, Captain Leah Wilkinson reached a record breaking milestone worthy of even bigger celebrations:
I’d like to pay special mention to our captain Leah Wilkinson for earning her 150th cap in the tournament as well as being voted our best player by the other teams and at the other end of the scale young goalkeeper Emma Brierley for her 1st senior cap in our last game. Congratulations should also go to those other players who have also made their first senior appearances over the last month and who have now also completed their first senior international tournament.