Uruguay U22 women’’s national team made history in August when they secured a place at the FIH Women’s Junior World Cup after finishing runners-up to Canada in the final of the Junior Pan American Championships.
It was the highest finish for the Uruguay team since the competition started in 1986, with their previous best place being fifth in 2016. Now the team will be heading to South Africa in December to pit their talents against the other best junior teams in the world.
Constanza Barrandeguy represented Uruguay at the 2014 Youth Olympic Games, where the South American team finished second in their pool, including beating New Zealand and Germany, before losing in the quarter-finals to Argentina. Uruguay eventually finished in sixth place on that occasion, impressing the international hockey community with their flair and energy.
In this interview Barrandeguy is joined by two players who were part of the squad that took silver in Santiago just a month ago, Elisa Civet and Pilar Oliveras.
Looking back at the Pan Am Championships, Civet said: “We didn’t know what to expect because we had a very hard pool but we stayed focused and we ended up doing very well and I am very proud of the team.”
Oliveras added: “The most important thing was that the whole team played defensively very well. That meant we could win the ball and then start to build an attack.”
In the next few months, both Oliveras and Civet agreed that the team needs to focus on its attacking prowess. “We have the defence well prepared,” said Oliveras. “Now we need to make sure we can score the goals too.”
Like every other team, Uruguay had a lot of challenges to overcome due to the restrictions posed by the pandemic, and Barrandeguy said that she felt the team had coped very well with the barriers they faced. “Uruguay has so much potential and we want to reach the top levels of hockey,” she added.
“These results mean a lot for all the teams., including the senior team. It is important that the juniors win because they are the future. And when they get onto the world stage, they can show what Uruguay hockey is all about.”
Barrandeguy added that the new pitch which is being built in Montevideo will be a huge boost for hockey in the South American country. “It will make a big difference in our training, our games and our future tournaments. It is things like this that will reduce the gap between Uruguay and the USA and Argentina.”
For the next few months, the junior women’s team will be making their preparations for their South African adventure. For Pilar, most of those preparations will take place away from her teammates as she is in college in Michigan, USA.
“We are training four hours a day [with the college team] and we play two times at the weekend. The rest of the team will be playing every day. We will all be working as hard as we can in the coming weeks.”
Civet added that the team will be playing matches against the Uruguay senior team and club sides.
“The most important thing is to enjoy it. They are making history so I really want them to enjoy it. But I also want them to train hard and make more history at the Junior World Cup. They have already made history but if they win medal in South Africa, that will be a plus, plus.”