The USA Field Hockey women’s national team will open the 2005 Rabobank Champions Challenge with a familiar foe following the release of the tournament's match schedule by the International Hockey Federation (FIH).

 

Presented by Longstreth Sporting Goods, the Rabobank Champions Challenge features six of the world's top ranked teams and is scheduled for July 8-16 at the USA Field Hockey National Training Center in Virginia Beach. The tournament field includes the women's national teams from England, Japan, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain and the host USA.

 

On the tournament's opening day, the U.S. team will meet long-time rival South Africa in a rematch of the first international contest played at the Virginia Beach venue. South Africa defeated the USA, 5-2, in the Training Center's inaugural match in October, 2001. Other highlights of the rivalry include the USA's 3-0 win over South Africa at the 2002 World Cup and a penalty stoke victory for South Africa at the 1998 World Cup. Both teams are currently tied in the world standings with a #11 ranking.

 

In the other opening day matches Spain will meet Japan in a rematch of the 2004 Olympic Qualifying Tournament championship game while England meets New Zealand.

 

The U.S. schedule continues July 9 against New Zealand, followed by a July 11 contest with Japan and a July 14 match with England. The USA concludes round-robin play on July 14 against Spain.

 

The tournament concludes on Saturday, July 16 with classification matches.

Japan, New Zealand, South Africa enter the Rabobank Champions Challenge following appearances at the 2004 Olympic Games. New Zealand earned a sixth place finish at the Games while Japan placed eighth in its first Olympic appearance. South Africa defeated Spain in extra time to capture a ninth place finish while Spain finished tenth.

 

England makes its second Rabobank Champions Challenge appearance after winning the inaugural event in 2002. England currently ranks eighth in the world standings after and returns to the United States after earning a second place finish at the 2003 International Atlantic Cup in Virginia Beach.

 

The Virginia Beach event marks the third Rabobank Champions Challenge after

previous tournament in 2002 in Randburg, South Africa and 2003 in Catania, Italy. The USA is the only team to have competed in both previous tournaments and placed fifth in both events.

 

The tournament marks the return of a major international field hockey event in the  United States for the first times since the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games. In addition to the Olympic Tournament, the USA hosted the 1989 men’s World Cup qualifier (Intercontinental Cup) in Madison, New Jersey, and the 1993 women’s World Cup qualifier in Philadelphia.

 

For additional tournament information visit the tournament website at

Click here for the match schedule.