The Canadian WolfPack got off the mark in style in their games opener, defeating Wales 4-0 in comfortable fashion. Brie Stairs (Kitchener, Ont.) led the way with two goals, while Sara McManus (Tsawwassen, B.C.) and Hannah Haughn (North Vancouver, B.C.) also got on the board. Rowan Harris (Ottawa, Ont.) recorded the shutout, while Melanie Scholz (Calgary, Alta.) kitted up to earn her first senior cap.
“It was a good start for us today,” said double-goal scorer Stairs after the game. “We really capitalized on our opportunities and did a great job defensively, especially when we were a player down. We are hoping to continue building off of this game as we move forward in the tournament. It is also awesome to have the addition of some new up-and-coming athletes in the group as they bring a fresh perspective and energy to these games.”
The first quarter started with both sides creating a few chances, Canada’s Natalie Sourisseau (Kelowna, B.C.) with the first effort of note in the second minute. This was followed by a penalty stroke save by Harris in the Canada goal, denying Sian French giving Wales the lead after a frantic Welsch penalty corner. Both sides had another chance in what was a cagey first quarter, with midfielder Amanda Woodcroft (Waterloo, Ont.) shown a yellow card in the 10th minute. It remained 0-0 after the first period.
Wales started the second quarter on the front foot, with Sarah Jones denied twice by the busy Woodcroft. Despite this it was Canada that took the lead in the 21stminute through a Hannah Haughn strike. Shortly after Wales’s Isabelle Howell and Canada’s Lexi De Armond (Victoria, B.C.) were shown green cards. Wales’s Olivia Hoskins had the only other effort of any significance for the rest of the quarter which saw her compatriot Hannah Cozens shown a green card just before half time. Canada got to the break with their 1-0 lead in tact.
Despite an early Wales chance a minute into the second half Canada doubled their lead in the 33rd minute thanks to a calm finish from Stairs after a beautiful diagonal ball up the pitch. Wales’s Joanne Westwood was shown a yellow card just nine minutes later, and Canada took advantage of being a player up and extending their lead to 3-0 through McManus from a penalty corner, following a couple of opportunities being saved. The score line remained 3-0 going into the final quarter.
The final quarter started with some Welsh resistance resulting in Xenna Hughes seeing her effort from a penalty corner saved by Harris in the Canadian goal. Hughes’s teammate Leah Wilkinson was then shown Wales’s second yellow card of the game, before Stairs tucked away her second goal of the game to put the Canadians 4 goals to the good. There was still time for Wales to pick up one more yellow card, this one shown to Sarah Jones.
“A strong performance overall,” said head coach Rob Short. “It’s been a tough couple days with two test matches where we were not happy with our performance so this was a great start to the tourney. We played smart, stuck to game plan, pushed through adversity of the 10 minutes being down a player in the first half. We showed grit during that time. I am pleased with that.”
The game also marked the first Canadian international for newly-joined high performance director Emma Bray, from South Africa, and three-time Argentine Olympian Soledad Garcia who dawned the Canadian maple leaf as an assistant coach. Bray and Garcia joined Scholz in celebrating their first “cap” with Canada following the match. North Vancouver’s Chloe Walton, who didn’t compete at the World Cup, also joined the team for the Games and this was just her second international.
“Mel got a nice win for her first cap and she played very well, so it was a very good start to her senior women’s team career,” added Short. “Chloe also had a strong game in the forward line. The energy she brings to this group is massive.”
Up next the Canadian women will play Ghana on August 1 at 11:00 a.m. Pacific / 2:00 p.m. Eastern.