Pennsylvania test for Sushila and India

This is the first time the Indian women’s team qualified for the Olympic Games on merit.

16 June 2016

Newly appointed captain and gritty defender Sushila Chanu will lead India’s eves in a Three-Nation Invitational Tournament involving host Team United States and Canada from July 18-26 in Pennsylvania.

Dubbed the ‘Citi Rio Send Off Series’ of the US Women’s National Team that is ranked fifth in the FIH World Rankings, the three-match Test series against India and Canada (ranked World No 18) are the final preparatory matches for the Indians and Americans before they travel to the Olympic Games.

The first match of the series against India on July 18 at the Spooky Nook Sports Centre in Lancaster County will be broadcasted live on NBC Sports.

India’s Women Hockey Head Coach, Neil Hawgood, has thrown his full support and confidence in Sushila, who has been given the mandate to lead the World No 13 side at the Rio Olympics. However, results in Pennsylvania would determine just how far the Indians could go in Rio against several top ranked nations.

“You have to admire what this group does. You have to play it out. This group is what is going to carry India,” Hawgood said in an interview in the Times of India recently. “Sushila is not new. She captained the team on the Australian tour and earlier the Junior World Cup team. That was the most successful team in a long time for India.”

“We have got experience and I think people underestimate our captain. She’s someone who leads by example, does everything. She has been very strong in recovering from the ACL injury,” he said, adding that qualifying for quarterfinals stage in Rio is the team’s main target.

India is drawn in Group B at Rio Olympics alongside World No 2 Argentina, Australia (No 3), United States (5), Great Britain (7) and 10th-ranked Japan.

Team USA head coach, Craig Parnham, said: “We are excited to host India and Canada in Lancaster before we depart for Rio at the end of July. The games will provide us with an opportunity to continue to refine our game as we enter the final stages of our Olympic preparation. The differing styles of play that both opponents offer will be a good test for us, requiring us to be flexible and adaptable in our play.”

“We hope that the local community will come and support us in what will be our last matches at Spooky Nook Sports before we embark on our Olympic Dream campaign,” added Parnham who has been coaching the side since 2013.

The last meeting between Team United States and India was at the 2015 Eight-Nations Tournament in Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand. The teams met twice, once in a league match and again in the semi-finals stage. The Americans won 4-2 in the group stage and also triumphed 3-0 in the semi-finals.

This is the first time the Indian women’s team qualified for the Olympic Games on merit. Their last participation was in 1980 through invitation.

The Canadians and Team USA had met this year in Chula Vista, California in a four-match Test series. Team USA, however, swept the series and only conceded one goal.

To find out more about the Olympic hockey events there, click here.

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