US National Field Hockey Squad To Travel To Russia In Hopes Of Qualifying For The 2008 Beijing Olympics

September 24, 2007
By ODU Athletics
ODU Sports

Sept. 24, 2007

Courtsey of US Field Hockey

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- The USA Field Hockey Women's National Team with former Lady Monarch standouts Tiffany Snow ('03), Melissa Leonetti ('04), Angie Loy ('05), Dana Sensenig ('06), and Caroline Nichols ('06) will have to go through Russia to reach the 2008 Beijing Olympics following the announcement of the Olympic Qualifying Tournament draw by the International Hockey Federation (FIH).

The draw places the USA as the top seed in the Olympic Qualifier in Kazan, Russia, April 19-27, 2008 with India, Netherlands Antilles, Belgium, Chinese Taipei and host Russia. Two additional Olympic Qualifiers are scheduled for Baku, Azerbaijan and Vancouver, Canada with the winners of each of the three events earning spots in the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

"With the qualifier you attend being based on your world rankings, it pretty much means that you earn the tournament that you are in," said U.S. coach Lee Bodimeade. "Being the third highest ranked team that has not already qualified for the Olympics does place us in the more difficult of the three qualification tournaments. We would have preferred to play a lot closer to home, but I am sure that we will be better prepared for the Olympic Games, should be successful in Russia."

The USA will see some familiar foes in the tournament including India - a team the USA had to defeat in a best-of-three series to qualify for the 2002 World Cup - as well as a strong Netherlands Antilles team that earned the bronze medal at July's Pan American Games.

"Our strongest opposition will come from the very skillful Indian team who are ranked 13th in the world, Netherlands Antilles (19th) and the Russians will also be difficult on their home turf," says Bodimeade. "Playing in Russia for the first time will add new challenges for the team but it is in this area that I have been impressed the most with our current squad. I believe that they thrive on overcoming the spanners that get thrown at them and that is when they play at their best."

The USA is 7-1-5 in all-time games against India with the team's last victory coming in 2002 to clinch the best-of-three World Cup Qualifying series. Against Netherlands Antilles, the USA broke open a tight game in the second half to post a 4-1 victory in the first-ever meeting between the two teams at the 2007 Pan American Games.

The USA has never played Chinese Taipei (World No. 28) and last met Belgium (No. 26) in 1994 in a match won by the USA, 7-0. The USA last played Russia at the 2004 Olympic Qualifier where the USA earned a 6-0 victory. The USA is 3-1-0 in all-time games against Russia.

In its preparations for the qualifier, the USA hosts No. 6 Japan in a five-game series, Oct. 7-13 at the Univ. of Maryland. Matches for the Japan series are scheduled for Oct. 7, 8, 10, 12 and 13 at the Univ. of Maryland. Game time for the Oct. 7 match is 4 p.m. with all other matches scheduled for 7 p.m. at the Univ. of Maryland Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex. The USA's Oct. 7 and 12 matches will be played as part of an NCAA/International doubleheader with the Univ. of Maryland taking on Boston University on Oct. 7 (2 p.m.) and Maryland vs. Old Dominion on Oct. 12 (5 p.m.).

In the other two Olympic Qualifying Tournaments, world No. 8 Spain heads the field at the Baku, Azerbaijan venue with Ukraine, Kenya, Chile, Belarus and host Azerbaijan, April 12-20. In Vancouver, Korea (World No. 9) will be joined by Ireland, Italy, Malaysia, Cuba and host Canada, April 26-May 4.

"It is not going to be easy," says Bodimeade. "But now that we know where we are heading, we can start to focus on what will be required to be successful."