Where Vicky Francke, Hannah Linnemann, Maren Linnemann, Azumi Misago and Nanami Inui grew up, field hockey is not a popular sport.
Shortly after arriving from Germany and Japan on exchange, the five girls became teammates on the Princess Margaret Mustangs field hockey team.
They had a desire to try a new sport and make new friends quickly. They have achieved both and have had fun learning the sport.
Francke, who is from Konstanz, a city with a population of 82,000 that lies on the border of Switzerland, said, “It’s kind of a little bit like soccer.”
“To hit the ball every time is kind of hard. I think if you really start from the beginning to try it, you get used to it really fast,” she said.
Strong coaching from Brenda Kelly, Christy Bevington and Mark Hartmann have helped the girls learn to play. One of Francke’s enjoyable moments was almost scoring a goal.
Hannah has loved the experience of being part of the team and going on trips. Growing up in Cologne, she never had success finding a sport that suited her. It has been different with field hockey.
“It’s a lot of running. You get used to it,” she said. “When you understand it, then it’s easy.”
Maren, no relation to Hannah, is the only one to have scored. She hit the scoresheet in a 4-0 win over the Trafalgar Middle School Thunder from Nelson during Oliver’s field hockey festival last weekend. So excited by what it was like to score, she couldn’t initially find the right words to describe the feeling.
“My first goal. It was very awesome. It’s so much fun learning the game,” she said. “At the beginning it was hard. In Germany I do gymnastics and climbing. Not any sports with balls and sticks. It’s different but I really like it.” Misago has improved as a player since she started. “Field hockey is like Canada for me,” said Misago, who will return home in November following a year in Penticton. “We got the field hockey hoodie. It’s really a memory of things.” Inui, having never played sports before, claims to not be any good, but feels she has improved in field hockey. “Azumi makes me jealous sometimes because she plays field hockey better than me,” she said. “When I scored (in practice), everyone was like, ‘Nanami, you can do it too.’ Oh yeah, I can do it.” Kelly said the girls have improved every time. They have learned about positioning, stick work and shooting. They have also become better at speaking English. Francke immediately stood out to the coaches because of her soccer background. Kelly said for Misago and Inui, it was a big learning curve. “Azumi was stronger. We noticed that,” said Kelly. “She started to know where to stand and where to go.” The Oliver tournament turned out to be a great playing opportunity for the five because it gave them a chance to get lots of playing time. With 27 players the coaches are always able to give them lots of time during league games. In Oliver, they were put onto a team that played on the novice side. “They improved so much and they learned so much,” said Kelly. “It’s a hard game. They are up there with some of the Grade 9s who just started.”
The Mustangs lost 1-0 to the South Kamloops Titans and 3-0 to the Okanagan Mission Huskies in the Valley Finals in Kelowna Monday. It was a back and forth affair against the Titans, said Kelly. “It was a tough one to lose so closely,” said Kelly. Madison Cook was strong offensively, while Sylvia Barnett and Sophie Biollo were great defensively against the Titans. Emily Trupp played very strong in goal. Taking on the Huskies shortly after, the Mustangs coaching staff noticed that energy levels were impacted from the first game. Yet, Trupp was strong again and earned team most valuable player honours with Cook. Belle Grant, Makeena Hartmann, Emily Bowen and Jamie Lezard played strong offensively. Biollo was a force on defence with the help of Joycelyn Legary. “We are very proud of the effort, determination and sportsmanship that the team displayed,” said Kelly. “They can feel very proud of how well they played.”