BC Teams Chase the Elusive Gold Medal at U18 National Championships
The 2018 U18 National Championships begin tomorrow, running from July 17-20 at the University of Toronto, Ontario. BC has a total of five teams competing in the tournament, with three on the girls side and two on the boys side all fighting for the National Title.
After two consecutive silver medal finishes at the U18 National Championships, the BC Girls Rams have one thing on their minds going into this tournament: first place. Their Ontario rivals took home the gold medal at the 2016 and 2017 Nationals, a streak they hope to break this year.
BC Rams senior and 5 time Team BC athlete, Tessa Johnston has never won gold in her Team BC career and in her last year playing at the junior level, she is hungry for it.
“There’s so much drive there from each team, I think everyone is so competitive and pushing for it so hard,” said Johnston. “It’s really exciting. Even watching the U15 game today, everyone was so excited and just ready to start.”
Eve Carrothers, midfielder for the BC Rams, is also chasing her first gold medal victory. In her second year with the U18 Rams, the 17 year-old Tsawwassen native has embraced her position as both a mentor to the younger players and one who can learn from the seniors on her team.
“Last year I was a bit nervous being the youngest and now that I’ve gotten that over with it’s fun to get to know the younger girls, they’re all really confident and nice to have around,” explained Carrothers.
The BC Stags, who finished third at the 2017 National Championships, are looking to improve on that result with a trip to the finals this year. The Vancouver Island team has no shortage of young talent, with only three seniors on their roster, including Victoria natives, Cara Butler and Stefanie Sajko.
“It’s cool to see the different perspectives of the game,” reflected Butler. “I think they’re learning from us as well as we’re learning from them and I think they want it as much as we do even though we’ve been around a bit longer.
With the two Vancouver Island teams finishing first and third at the BC Regional Trials back in April, the Stags are feeling confident that they can push for a podium finish and contend for the gold medal this tournament.
“It gives us some motivation, I think we have a really strong team,” said Sajko. “We’ve meshed really well together and trained really hard. I think we have a really good chance at getting a medal this year.”
The Lions, BC’s mixed team with athletes from the Interior, Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast and the Lower Mainland, narrowly missed the semi-finals at last year’s Nationals and ended up in fifth place.
On the U18 Boys side, the BC Rams are hungry for revenge on the Ontario team who has come out on top at Nationals the past several years. For senior players Rowan Childs and Gary Mann, the rivalry with Ontario has been developing since their years at the U15 level.
“It’s our last year at U18’s so I just want to give it my best,” said Mann. “We want to make sure we come out of the tournament strong and get that gold.”
For all of the U18 Boys seniors, this is their last chance as junior players to finally capture the gold medal that has eluded them each year at the National Championships.
“Watching the U15’s today brought back those painful memories of always getting silver,” Childs explained. “For me, it just gives me that drive and pure excitement.
Also in strong medal contention are the BC Lions, who took the bronze medal at last year’s U18 National Championships. Lions forward Sahjun Sehmi is one of two players on the Lions who has been travelling from Vancouver Island every week for the past two months to train on the Lower Mainland with Team BC.
As a player who has faced adversity through injury and the added challenge of travelling from the Island to play field hockey, Sehmi embraces the underdog status that his team holds.
“We know what we’ve got to do, stick to our strategies and play our game,” said Sehmi. “Everyone loves a good Cinderella story, the other teams might come in underestimating us. I’m used to it, I like being an underdog.”
With so many strong and determined teams competing for a common goal, we can’t wait to see how this tournament unfolds for our BC teams. You can follow the action live at fhc.altiusrt.com and follow the official tournament website at http://www.fieldhockey.ca/2018-national-championships/
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