Scotland’s senior women have a stern task ahead of them as they head to the Netherlands in their run-up to the Commonwealth Games. The Scots will play two matches against the Olympic and World Champion in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Head coach Gordon Shepherd has been in the process of selecting his last sixteen hopefuls for the Commonwealth games in Delhi this October, cutting his training squad this weekend from 32 down to 20. Not making the cut are Dundee Wanderers Becky Ward and Amy Rowan, as well as Kelburne’s Julie Bryce and Glasgow Western’s Clare Scott. Inexperienced GW trio Kay Bartlett, Susan McGilveray and Ellie Cockburn have also been dropped from the team. This leaves most of the squad who played in the World Cup qualifier in Chile earlier this year, as well as Susan Hamilton, Becky Merchant and Nikki Kidd, with Laura Bartlett still unable to compete due to injury.
Making these decisions has not been easy for Shepherd however, as he has been spoilt for choice when it comes to selecting his squad. He tells us, “There have been big improvements in the team, not only in their technical ability but in their fitness standards as well. It’s been a tough month for them and we’ve been doing a lot of high-intensity training, which lets us see who is capable of maintaining their form at this level. There have been big improvements throughout the whole training squad, but it’s been difficult for those coming in to break into the squad who were successful in Chile. This has put pressure not only on those coming in, but also the established squad to maintain their form in the face of competition.”
The hard decisions are not over either, with another two players to be placed on reserve, then the squad cut to 16 for Delhi. The Dutch should provide ample opportunity for Shepherd to do this, as he says “When you play a side like the Netherlands it’s all about seeing which players rise to the challenge. Selecting 20 players from the high-level training squad was very, very difficult, especially when we eventually have to reduce to 16 players. It can be even more difficult for the players as they can be dropped because of very small margins, but it’s all in their own hands.”
Shepherd is also keeping true to his word regarding the level playing field for selection, bringing in another uncapped Glasgow Western player to try her luck. Morag McLellan is coming straight from the Eurohockey Junior Championship in Lille, where the unfortunate Scottish side have recorded losses against Belarus, Germany, Lithuania and Spain, with a single victory against France. Twenty year-old McLellan will have to put the junior women’s string of defeats out of her mind if she wishes to make an impression against the Dutch.
The senior team have been more successful in their most recent matches, finishing a clean sweep over Ireland with three wins in Stirling for Shepherd to judge his side by. However current World and Olympic champions the Netherlands will provide the highest standard possible for him to measure his players against. The Dutch recently came second in the 2010 Champions Trophy in Nottingham and will be gearing up to defend their World Cup title in only a month’s time.
Shepherd is very much aware of the challenge that awaits his side in Rotterdam, saying “There’s a massive gulf between where we are and where the world champions are. It will be a great experience to play them, but we have no illusions about how difficult it will be. I do expect to see better performances than in the past as our confidence and fitness levels are higher, but it’s all about selection and training for us now.”
Team Scotland: Abi Walker (Canterbury Ladies), Carmin Dow, Vikki Bunce (Dundee Wanderers), Becky Merchant, Liegh Fawcett, Kat Cameron, Louise Baxter, Nikki Kidd, Susan Hamilton, Ailsa Robertson, Alison Bell, Linda Clement, Aimee Clark (Grove HC), Catriona Forrest, Holly Cram, Sam Judge, Morag McLellan (Glasgow Western HC), Kareena Marshall (Giffnock), Emily Maguire (Reading HC), Laura Wrightson (Kelburne HC)
Source: Scottish Hockey
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