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Four 19-year-old rookies have been named in the Black Sticks women's team for next month's hockey World Cup in The Hague.
Coach Mark Hager today announced a strong mix of experience and exciting young talent in his 18-strong team for the tournament, which gets underway on May 31.
Inspirational captain Kayla Whitelock leads the side with support from other experienced players like Emily Naylor, Krystal Forgesson, Gemma Flynn and Anita Punt. But it is the inclusion of teenagers Michaela Curtis, Sophie Cocks, Liz Thompson and Rose Keddell that is the feature of the team.
Hager said competition for spots in the team was very strong and the selectors are pleased with the versatility in the fial line-up.
"We believe we've got a good mix of youth and experience within the group and a team that can play various positions, so if we get injuries we can cover them pretty easily," said Hager.
"We think we've got the right balance, all 18 girls deserve their spots and I know they are very excited."
The World Cup team is also bolstered by the inclusion of striker Katie Glynn and midfielder/defender Stacey Michelsen, who both missed much of the past 12 months with serious knee injuries. Michelsen played well throughout the recent Hawke's Bay Festival of Hockey, while Glynn has been training hard in recovery from a torn ACL which she suffered in last year's Ford National Hockey League.
Whitelock said it was a huge bonus to have Glynn and Michelsen back at full strength, as well as Forgesson who has also been injured.
"It's awesome to have those girls back. Katie leads the girls up front, talks well to the others and gets them connected and of course can get the ball in the back of the net," she said.
"Stacey is very skilful and can break the line so sets up a lot of attack for us down that side and adds a lot to our game.
"We're shaping up well and are all looking forward to getting over to the World Cup. I played club hockey in The Hague so I'm pretty excited to play in front of their crowds, it's going to be huge."
The Black Sticks team leave for Europe in two weeks, basing themselves in the Netherlands for a week of training before moving into The Hague four days ahead of the tournament. Their opening game is against Belgium on May 31.
Black Sticks women's team for World Cup:
Kayla Whitelock, Emily Naylor, Krystal Forgesson, Olivia Merry, Katie Glynn, Petrea Webster, Sally Rutherford, Sam Charlton, Michaela Curtis, Liz Thompson, Sophie Cocks, Rhiannon Dennison, Gemma Flynn, Rose Keddell, Jordan Grant, Bianca Russell, Stacey Michelsen, Anita Punt.
- Dana Johannsen of the NZ Herald