Team Canada hasn’t sent a field hockey team to the Women’s Junior World Cup since 2005, so not exactly everyone is lining up to bet on their chances. However, being the underdog hasn’t stopped the team from believing. Quickly shaking off the jetlag after touching down in Mönchengladbach, Germany, the team made it to the pitch for several practices leading up to the tournament. They faced off against England in a test match, which ended in a 2-2 tie. “We felt good,” Kathleen Leahy, one of the team’s go-to defenders, commented after the game. “We came back to tie the game 2-2 after being down 2-0, which proved to ourselves that we can compete at this level.” Leahy is a third-year Kinesiology student at UVic who was born and raised in Victoria, B.C. For her, being named to the national team has been an incredible experience. “I love playing for my country. It is such an honour to be selected to represent Canada in a tournament like this, and I am loving every second of it.”
Kathleen is no stranger to representing her country—she was first named to the Junior National team while still in her senior year at Oak Bay Secondary School. She is what many would call a natural athlete, evident even in her elementary school days. A friend of Leahy’s had asked her to play field hockey because they needed another player. In only five years, she found herself on the Island Regional team. Just another year later, the B.C. provincial team added her to their ranks, and two years after that, she made the Junior National team. She now plays for both the Junior and Senior National teams. Adding yet another accolade, Leahy was also named to the U.S. Olympic Development All-Star Soccer team in 2010, which delayed her decision to commit to field hockey over soccer at UVic until midway through her senior year.
This year’s tournament in Mönchengladbach (just outside Düsseldorf in western Germany), from July 27 to August 4, showcased some of the best field hockey in the world. Canada was joined in Group B by fierce competition: South Africa, China and Argentina, the latter who was arguably the title favourite this year. Unfortunately, the competition proved too much for this young Canadian squad, which lost its first three pool games and was quickly knocked out of the tournament.
The cup final pitted two of the perennial favourites against each other — Argentina and the Netherlands. The match, tied 1-1, went to a shootout in which the Netherlands defeated Argentina 4-2 on penalty shots, clinching a record third straight gold in the tournament. India took its first ever medal, winning bronze as the team outlasted England for a 1-1, 3-2 shootout victory. As for Canada, the women faced Korea, Russia and finally Belgium for placement, with a win coming vs. Russia (5-2). Canada finished 14th overall in the tournament, a good standing for this young team.