“Thrilled to be back in Hawke’s Bay” American women’s hockey coach Schopman

The American women’s hockey coach says she is thrilled to be back in Hawke’s Bay as they kick off their campaign against Australia today.

Janneke Schopman who first came to the Vantage Hawke’s Bay Festival of Hockey as assistant coach was excited for her girls to vie for the Hawke’s Bay Cup two years later.

“I remember in 2015 the festival was really well set up and it was always nice for the team to play in front of a packed crowd who valued and appreciated the sport.”

Schopman who used to play herself said there was nothing worse than playing in front of an empty stadium.

“It really downvalues the game so to know you have good support here for the sport creates a great experience for us.”

On Wednesday the Americans had a day away from the Hawke’s Bay Regional Sports Park so explored the sites of Hawke’s Bay.

The team went up Te Mata Peak, visited Arataki Honey and tasted some local cuisine.

“I think we timed the trip up Te Mata Peak in that one hour of sun so we got to see some incredible views, we all loved it.”

She said the girls and coaching staff were both avid coffee drinkers so staying in Havelock North suited them well.

“We can just walk outside and go get some really good coffee from all of the cafes you guys have, it is good for us to sit and chill when we’re not playing or training.”

The team remembered Milk and Honey and Hawthorne from two years ago so paid both those places another visit.

“It is cool going back to the places you know as they take such good care of us.”

Yesterday the team had a training session in the morning and were relaxing in the afternoon ahead of their game today.

Schopman encouraged people to get down to the sports park to watch their festival opener as they planned to play some high energy and tactical hockey.

“We like to attack and go forward with speed, creating wide open spaces similar to Australia.”

Both teams have had a high player turnover rate since the Rio Olympics and Australia have a new coach.

“This should make it an interesting match up and exciting for the crowd.”

Schopman was also excited about the prospect of playing the Black Sticks again on Monday after a couple of high scoring games down in Rangiora.

She said they both play some competitive but fair hockey.

America play Australia at 4pm today and the Black Sticks take on Japan at 6pm.

Tomorrow the action continues with America and Japan at 3pm and the Black Sticks and Australia at 5pm.

The Furnware Cup which features eight premiere schoolgirl teams from across the North Island starts on Wednesday and the Affiliates Tournament held at Park Island starts on Monday.

The festival wraps up on Sunday April 9 with the final of the Hawke’s Bay Cup and Furnware Cup.

Tickets can be purchased online at Ticket Direct or through the box office at the Hawke’s Bay Regional Sports Park.