(Photo: Hockey New Zealand)

The Junior Black Sticks Women can’t wait to put four years of hard training into practice at the 2013 Junior World Cup which starts in Germany next week.

Head coach Chris Leslie said the players have been training well in their regions and are excited about getting the tournament underway.

“I am confident athletes are on track – all the indicators are good – but we won’t know until we are together as a team, get over there and start playing and scouting the other sides.  We are aiming for a semi-final spot, but it will be tough,” said Leslie.

The Junior Black Sticks will face Russia first before playing India and Australia in Pool C.  If the results go their way, they then head to quarterfinals where they are likely to play either England or Germany.

“We know more about India and Australia as we have played them recently, but Russia is an unknown one. It is going to be tricky to prepare for that first game, our focus will be on what we do well and sticking to our game plan rather than trying to counteract them.

“We only know about Germany and England through the senior programme, so we will scout throughout the tournament and prepare as best we can when we are over there. We did play a German side when we went to India, so we have some knowledge about them – they are a very polished side, they will be pretty tough,” said Leslie.

There are six national squad members in the Junior Black Sticks team, with Canterbury’s Olivia Merry having to pull out this week after she suffered a rib injury at a recent club game.

“Olivia is a key player, she was the top goal scorer in the 2012 Ford National Hockey League and there’s no doubt she will be a loss for us upfront,” said Leslie.

“Her decision not to go is a courageous one, she has trained hard for this and it is very unfortunate. There is chance that she would have been okay, but it is a big risk to take and so she decided to put the team first which is honourable,” said Leslie.

Replacing Merry is Capital defender Genevieve Macilquham who was named originally as a non-travelling reserve and has been part of the 2013 wider squad, playing games against the junior Korean and Australian sides this year.

“Genevieve is a defender, so we will be reshuffling our attacking line. She is a sound and steady player, a good team member who has been very diligent with her training so it is great to give her this opportunity.”

The other 15 teams competing are Ghana, Korea, Netherlands, USA, Argentina, Canada, China, South Africa, Australia, India, Russia, Belgium, England, Spain and Germany.

The team depart for Germany on Friday and have four training sessions plus two practice games - against England on the 23rd July and USA on 24th July - before their first game against Russia on the 27th July.

The Junior World Cup is being held at Monchengladbach from 27 July to 4 August. The Junior Black Sticks Men will compete in their Junior World Cup in December in India.

With no Government funding, the Hockey Foundation – a charitable trust set up to foster the growth and development of hockey – is aiming to fundraise and cover 50 per cent of the athletes’ costs. 

CLICK HERE for the full 2013 Junior World Cup schedule

Hockey New Zealand Media release