A largely inexperienced Hockeyroos team featuring five debutantes has scored a stirring 4-2 win over India on a memorable night in Adelaide.
Heading into the opening match of the series with 13 players having 20 international caps or fewer to their name, the Hockeyroos stunned their more experienced opponents, all four of the home side’s goals coming in a 14-minute burst.
Alice Arnott, Alana Kavanagh, Olivia Downes, Aisling Utri and Pippa Morgan became Hockeyroos cap numbers 518-522 as local South Australian Jane Claxton led the team out in her 219th appearance.
Arnott and Utri both scored on debut, adding to the thrill of the win in front of a parochial home.
The Hockeyroos started brightly with some early attacking circle entries before India won the first penalty corner of the match, flashing the resultant drag flick just wide.
Teenagers Maddison Brooks and Hannah Cullum-Sanders combined which led to the latter unleashing a stinging tomahawk from an acute angle that was just kept out.
The breakthrough came in the 21st minute when Kavanagh started a sweetly worked team move from inside her own half. She linked up with Courtney Schonell who released a flying Abby Wilson down the right and her searching ball into the circle was met by the instinctive Utri and she knocked the ball home.
The lead was extended when Maddison Fitzpatrick converted a drag flick in the 27th minute before India reduced the deficit through Sangita Kumari just before half time.
Any danger of the goal rattling the Hockeyroos cage was short lived when Claxton received an overhead in a threatening position before driving the ball into the circle and Arnott got the faintest of touches to put it in the back of the net.
Three minutes later it was 4-1 when a Maddison Smith overhead unlocked the India defence again when she found Brooks. The Tasmanian produced some sublime skill and stick work to square the ball up for Schonell and she hammered her tomahawk past India substitute goalkeeper Devi Kharibam.
Despite the Hockeyroos surge, India refused to lie down and the margin was back at two when Sharmila Devi converted a well worked penalty corner move with 20 minutes to go.
A last gasp tackle from Kavanagh thwarted a dashing India counterattack in the last quarter as the Hockeyroos stayed composed.
With six minutes left Arnott watched her shot crash into the post before substitute goalkeeper Zoe Newman ensured there would be no nervy finish as she saved a penalty stroke from Navneet Kaur with three minutes remaining.
“It was my first time playing against India so it was exciting and a really tough game,” said Schonell, who was named Player of the Match.
“We stuck to our processes and combined well considering we had five debutantes and we haven’t played a lot of hockey together.”
“We know there is a lot we can improve on but it’s a great way to start the series and we look forward to getting out there again on Saturday.
Match 2 of the series is on Saturday at 6.30pm local.
Hockeyroos 4 (Utri 21’, Fitzpatrick 27’, Arnott 32’, Schonell 35’)
India 2 (Kumari 29’, Devi 40’)
@ MATE Stadium, Adelaide
Hockeyroos: 10.Maddy Fitzpatrick, 12.Greta Hayes, 13.Hattie Shand, 16.Courtney Schonell, 18.Jane Claxton (c), 19.Jocelyn Bartram (gk), 22.Tatum Stewart, 28.Hannah Cullum-Sanders, 33.Alice Arnott, 35.Maddison Brooks, 37.Morgan Gallagher, 40.Pippa Morgan, 41.Zoe Newman (gk), 42.Maddison Smith, 44.Abby Wilson, 46.Olivia Downes, 49.Alana Kavanagh, 51.Aisling Utri
Hockeyroos v India Series
MATE Stadium, Adelaide
Match 1 – Thursday 18 May 2023 (6.30pm local, 7.00pm AEST)
Match 2 – Saturday 20 May 2023 (6.30pm local, 7.00pm AEST)
Match 3 – Sunday 21 May 2023 (6.00pm local, 6.30pm AEST)
Ticketing details: Pre-purchase tickets now
Broadcast: LIVE on FOX Sports 507, Kayo and livestreamed on LIVEHockey and Watch.Hockey
Australia A v India Series
MATE Stadium, Adelaide
Match 1 – Thursday 25 May 2023 (6.30pm local, 7.00pm AEST)
Match 2 – Saturday 27 May 2023 (6.30pm local, 7.00pm AEST)
Ticketing details: Entry is FREE but patrons must register for the matches. Register now
Broadcast: Livestreamed on LIVEHockey