The Investec South Africa women’s hockey team won the Olympic Qualifier Tournament’s opening match 2-1 against Poland after the score was 0-0 at half-time at the National Stadium in New Delhi Saturday.
“The Poland game wasn’t as successful as we wanted it to be,” said SA captain Marsha Marescia. “Their goalkeeper was very good, but we got the three points and it was good for us to see that no game is going to be easy.
Kate Woods netted the first goal four minutes after half-time before Magdalena Zagajska replied for Poland from the re-start. The winner came from world record goalscorer Pietie Coetzee with 17 minutes left, her 232nd goal in 235 Test matches.
Not long after half-time, SA’s first goal resulted after striker Dirkie Chamberlain had won her side’s third penalty corner, which was nailed home by Woods. Poland struck back immediately with Zagajska’s goal from field play before SA captain Marsha Marescia provided the winning assist to Coetzee.
SA dominated the first half with 14 meaningful entries into the strike zone to Poland’s five, but neither side was able to open the scoring. The second half was further proof of SA’s superior penetration with 17 potential goal opportunities to Poland’s four.
Among their 31 potential goal chances in the match, SA earned five penalty corners to Poland’s one. Poland goalkeeper Marta Kucharska was in inspirational form, keeping her outclassed team in the game with half-a-dozen top saves, while the attacking Natalia Wisniewska, voted the player of the match, was always a threat up front.
SA generally relayed the ball with confidence and accuracy around the pitch but it was always a challenge to penetrate the maze of Polish bodies intent on blocking the ball and breaking down anything constructive.
There were a number of significant moments among SA’s several excellent goal-scoring opportunities.
In the last five minutes Jade Mayne displayed great stickwork as SA came agonisingly close to scoring a third goal before the industrious player’s deflection from Kathleen Taylor’s pass was another close call for Poland.
In the third minute a quick free-hit by left half Lesle-Ann George found Pietie Coetzee, who got in a shot that was repelled by the Poles. Three minutes later, another quick free-hit from Dirkie Chamberlain set Coetzee up with a golden opportunity, but umpire Claire Adenot of France blew her whistle too soon, negating any advantage for South Africa.
Two more SA shots at goal followed before Poland made their first strike-zone entry in the 10th and the dangerous Wisniewska had two shots with a minute in between, goalkeeper Mariette Rix up to the challenge.
Said Marescia after the match: “We are going to watch Ukraine play India tonight and will have a good look at Ukraine, who we play tomorrow (Sunday). I think that is going to be another tough match.”
Next up, SA play Ukraine at 2 pm (10.30 am SA time) Sunday.
Investec SA Olympic Qualifier Tournament Fixtures and Results:Sat, 18 Feb SA 2-1 Poland Sun, 19 Feb SA vs Ukraine Tues, 21 Feb SA vs Italy Wed, 22 Feb SA vs India Fri, Feb 24 SA vs Canada Final: Sat, Feb 25
Investec South Africa Team:Mariette Rix (Western Province) Kate Woods (Western Province) Shelley Russell (Western Province) Jade Mayne (Western Province) Lauren Penny (Western Province) Kathleen Taylor (Western Province) Tarryn Bright (Western Province) Marsha Marescia (capt) (Southern Gauteng) Lisa Deetlefs (Southern Gauteng) Bernadette Coston (Southern Gauteng) Pietie Coetzee (Southern Gauteng) Sanani Mangisa (Northern Blues) Dirkie Chamberlain (Northern Blues) Nicolene Terblanche (Northern Blues) Kim Hubach (Northern Blues) Lesle-Ann George (Free State) Lenise Marais (KZN Coastal Raiders) Sulette Damons (North West)