The opening day of the 2021 Indoor Pan American Cup could not have gone further from expectation for the Guyana women’s national hockey team. Guyana bravely took the court in their opening match against the pre-tournament favourites and hosts the USA without 25% of its players who were lost due to injury and positive covid-19 tests. So severe was this announcement that the team deliberated withdrawal from the tournament as an indoor team of only 12 players could ill afford to lose three of its best and most experienced.
The game against the USA was beyond the Guyanese from the very beginning when it was apparent that the superior passing and game experience of the USA made it a mismatch against the young Guyanese side. The USA would score through a penalty corner in the very first minute of the match past stand-in goalkeeper Princessa Wilkie, who unexpectedly had to don the goalkeeping gear to replace Guyana’s star goalkeeper Alysa Xavier who remained at the hotel in quarantine.
The USA steamrolled Guyana to an 11-0 halftime score and a 22-2 final score as Guyana managed few meaningful attacks, two of which were made successful through young striker Abosaide Cadogan. Eight of the USA goals came by way of penalty corners which was the most difficult aspect of the game for the new goalkeeper Wilkie to handle. Wilkie did however pull of a few good saves as she remained the best example of on-the-job training.
Guyana returned later in the evening for their second match of the day against the highly regarded and ranked, Argentina. This time the outcome was marginally better as Argentina pushed the Guyanese back into their own half of the field and used diagonal penetrating passes to strikers lurking near the goal. By now it was apparent that the absence of Xavier in goal was Guyana’s Achilles heel and the Argentines were keen to exploit it. Although Guyana did have a few counterattacking runs that threatened the Argentine goal, they could manage no better than a 14-0 loss, their second for the day in as many matches.
National coach of Guyana, Philip Fernandes, indicated that it was the most difficult conditions under which to compete for the team. “We were faced with losing our top goal-scoring striker, our most complete all-round player and our strongest contributor to the team’s success in goalkeeper Xavier in one fell swoop. These are three of our top five players and represent a quarter of our team. They are impossible to replace and we had a lot of discussion as a team on whether to take the court.” Said Fernandes. He indicated that the decision to play despite the insurmountable odds was made based on the vital learning experience it could play to the rest of the team, including the four teenagers who are playing in their first international tournament. “It would certainly have been a much nicer experience to finish with decent scores” said Fernandes “And, while I doubt we could have won against the USA and Argentina, even at full strength, we could have done significantly better.”
When asked about the key takeaways for Guyana on the first day, Fernandes indicated that eighteen-year-old striker, Abosaide Cadogan, was the biggest surprise of the tour so far. This is not just because she was Guyana’s lone striker to score, with two goals, but Abosaide looked threatening anytime she received the ball in the open floor due to her speed while in control of the ball. Princessa Wilkie got the nod for bravery as Fernandes indicated that the debutante goalkeeper was given an impossible task, but enthusiastically stepped up to the challenge and even made a few surprisingly good saves.
The full results of day one are as follows:
Canada vs Uruguay 1 – 1
Guyana vs USA 2 – 20
Argentina vs Uruguay 2 – 2
Canada vs USA 4 – 5
Guyana vs Argentina 0 – 14
Guyana will face Canada in their next match at 11:30AM on June 26th, followed by Uruguay later that same day at 4:00PM.