First Steps

Hockey is yet another contender for the title of second most popular sport in Germany. And it is one of those sports with which I have some sort of personal connection. I used to play Hockey for (too short) a while in my youth and again a few years later at school. From my home it was only a five minute walk to the Hockey grounds of the UHC Hamburg, and at times I could actually hear the very distinctive knocking sound they made while practicing or playing.

DSCF6278Last Wednesday marked the start of a new Olympic cycle for the Women’s national team (aka ‘Danas’). After a training camp in Stellenbosch, South Africa, the team came to the Düsseldorfer Hockey Club at the sweetly named street “Am Seestern” to compete the first of four test matches during this year’s Easter week.

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The German team mainly consists of youngsters, with several of them taking their very first steps on the international stage here. But the time to accomodate and find their way into the team is short. The European Championships in Amsterdam are only four months away, and even before that, the World League in Johannesburg which serves as an all important qualifier for the World Championships will take place in July. So, it was for the young to prove that they have already reached international class and for the more experienced to integrate them and form one team. It’s fair to say: all of them did just that…

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The match started with the national anthems or… it should have, were it not for some technical difficulties. Members of the German coaching staff tried to convince Jana Teschke to sing an a capella version of the anthem but were, unfortunately, not succesful…

Germany got into the game really well and put some early pressure on the Irish defense, even though they could not convert their efforts into meaningful attempts at goal early on, except for one penalty corner late in the quarter which the Germans however failed to use to their advantage. Their own goalie, Julia Ciupka (Rot-Weiß Köln), had a mostly calm first ten minutes. The Irish were able to catch up in the closing minutes of the first quarter and came back even stronger in the second 15 minutes. For a while a certain lack of routine for the ‘Danas’ became apparent with easy mistakes in the defensive and often too complicated offensive gameplay.

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But a strong effort 10 minutes into the quarter by Marie Mävers (UHC Hamburg) served as a wake-up call. The last five minutes of the half and most of the third quarter belonged to Germany again. In the 39th minute, they were finally able to put their team on the board with a goal scored by Naomi Heyn (Rot-Weiß Köln).

The fourth quarter saw a concentrated and overall convincing performance by a strong German side. In the 51st minute it was Camille Nobis (Mannheimer HC) who scored on a rebound from a shot that hit the post, followed by a third goal by Laura Keibel (HDM Den Haag) only three minutes later. More often than not, it was nearly impossible to figure out the rookies among the ‘Danas’. Some of them only wore numbers, not names, on the backside of their jerseys, but I’m not quite sure if that was intentional… As far as I could verify (and please correct me if I’m wrong!), both Heyn and Nobis, two out of three goal scorers, played their very first (senior) international match in Düsseldorf (except for some practice matches in Stellenbosch, maybe).

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It was a promising performance by a young team which has enormous potential. From my point of view, one of the strongest players today was Anne Schröder (Club an der Alster) who not only showed outstanding technique, on several occasions outplaying two defenders at the same time, but also had the role of a motivator, time and again pushing her team forward, taking even such a ‘friendly match’ every bit seriously. A day later, again against Ireland, Schröder would receive her 100th cap.

Together with her more ‘experienced’ colleagues like Jana Teschke, Janne Müller-Wieland (both UHC Hamburg) and also Nike Lorenz (Mannheimer HC), Schröder will be a vital factor in leading this team of youngsters during the Olympic cycle on the road to Tokyo 2020. And this mixture of young talents and experienced world class players seems to be just made for further outstanding results in the years to come. By the way, Anne Schröder is 22 years old, Nike Lorenz only 20… For the ‘Danas’, the future is shing brightly and perhaps even golden…

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