Rossland-born field hockey player Thea Culley is one of 21 athletes named to the Canadian women’s field hockey set to once again take on the US in a four-game series Feb. 8 to 12 in San Diego, Cali.
The two teams last met in the 2015 Pan Am Games semi-final when the U.S. team (ranked seventh in the world) narrowly defeated the Canadian team 3-0. The US went on to win the finals and Canada beat Chile 1-0 in the bronze medal game, earning a medal at the Pan Ams for the first time since 1999.
“I think we’re excited right now,” said Culley. “We haven’t played games all together since the Pan Ams. So, you know, we’ve been training over the fall, and girls have been back with their CIS (Canadian Interuniversity Sport) teams, or NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) teams or over in Europe, so it’s exciting to come back together and give ourselves a benchmark for the year of where we’re going to start from and the best place to do that is against a top-notch team.”
The games against the US will be friendly matches.
“Teams often do this. You know, we go on tour and then we go and we play teams; it’s preparation,” said Culley. “The US will be playing games in preparation for the Olympics and we’re preparing in our 2017 World Cup buildup.”
For the most part, Team Canada will have the same roster as at the Pan Am Games, but with a few additions.
“We are predominantly the same team as at Pan Ams, but we are taking 21, so we have an additional five athletes with us,” explains Culley. “As [this is] a preparatory tour, we are trying to get as much experience as possible, and since we don’t have to travel very far, we are trying to capitalize on that.”
While some players on the team need more experience playing international matches, or caps, Culley herself is cap leader for the team (meaning she’s played the most international matches).
“There are retired players who have more than I do,” says Culley. “Steph Jameson holds the record of 168 international matches, so I’m at 142.”