India: Year Ender: Indian Junior Women’s Hockey Team recalls memorable 2023

~The Junior Women made history by winning their maiden Junior Asia Cup title this year~

Bengaluru, 27th December 2023: The Indian Junior Women’s Hockey Team had some memorable outings in 2023, with their dearest memories emanating from the Women’s Junior Asia Cup in Japan. The Team defeated Korea 2-1 in the Final to lift the Junior Asia Cup trophy for the very first time in India’s history. 

The first international outing for the team was in the India U21 Tour of South Africa in February. The Indian Team defeated the South African U-21 team in all three games and were held to a 4-4 draw by South Africa’s ‘A’ team in their last match. The unbeaten Indian Junior Women’s Hockey Team was then well poised to battle the best Asian Teams in the Women’s Junior Asia Cup, following a period of intense training. 

An 18-member squad flew to Kakamigahara, Gifu Prefecture, Japan, and emerged as Champions of the Women’s Junior Asia Cup 2023 by defeating Korea with a score of 2-1 in a captivating Final match. All the 18 members of this triumphant Indian Junior Women’s Hockey Team were part of the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) National Centres of Excellence (NCOE). 

Reminiscing the swell of emotions after lifting the Women’s Junior Asia Cup 2023, Indian Junior Women’s Hockey Team Captain Preeti said, “We were elated to bring back the trophy, and the fact that we were the first group from India to win the Women’s Junior Asia Cup 2023 was the icing on the cake. Something clicked in the squad back then, we were playing free-flowing hockey, scoring loads of goals in the process, and we were destined to win. The love and support we received upon returning was overwhelming and I am thankful we got to experience that.” 

As the Team prepared for the FIH Junior Hockey World Cup 2023, former Indian Men’s Hockey Team Captain Tushar Khandker was roped in to spearhead the development of the Indian Junior Women’s Hockey Team in June. In August, he was joined by Herman Kruis, charged with the responsibility of overseeing both Indian Junior Hockey Teams. 

For a final test run, the Indian Junior Women’s Hockey Team participated in the 4 Nations Tournament – Dusseldorf 2023 where they faced Germany, Spain, and England in August this year. Meanwhile, defender Sonia Devi Kshetrimayum and forward Dipi Monika Toppo were part of the squad that won the inaugural Women’s Asian Hockey 5s World Cup Qualifier in Salalah, Oman. 

The moment of reckoning arrived as the team made its way to Santiago, Chile to stake their claim for the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023 in November. After an ecstatic victory against Canada in the opening match, the Indian Junior Women’s Hockey Team lost to Germany and Belgium to crash out of their Pool. But their spirit remained intact, inspiring them to beat New Zealand, Korea, and the United States in the classification matches and ultimately finished 9th in the World Cup. 

Reflecting on the trials and tribulations of 2023, Preeti said, “All-in-all it was a memorable year, we started on the right foot but fell short in the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup 2023. Although we desired a better result in the World Cup, the growth of the team this year has been astounding. The players improved technically, gained tactical knowledge, and showed great mental resilience when it was most required. I am proud that I got the opportunity to lead this Indian Junior Women’s Hockey Team.” 

By Hockey India

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