Image Credits: @HockeyIndia
An exciting inaugural edition of the 1st Hockey India Sub Junior Women Academy National Championship 2021 is about to conclude as we head into the Semi-Final on Wednesday. SAI- Academy, Madhya Pradesh Hockey Academy, Odisha Naval Tata Hockey High Performance Centre and Roundglass Punjab Hockey Club Academy are the top four teams, who have made it to the Semi-Final of the tournament.
Having finished first in the Pool A table and winning each four of their league stage matches, SAI Academy will look to keep the momentum going in the knockout stage when they take on Madhya Pradesh Hockey Academy in the first semi-final of the day at the iconic Kalinga Stadium.
SAI-Academy coach Pradeep Kumar Sarangi expressed that their Semi-Final match will be a challenging one, and the team will overcome it only if they approach the game positively.
"I am happy with the team's performance so far considering they didn't get much time to prepare for the tournament. However, the results of the league stage match won't be deciding our fate in the Semi-Final. It will only depend on how the team approaches the game. I think Madhya Pradesh Hockey Academy are a very good team and it's definitely going to be a challenging one. But, my team is capable of overcoming any kind of challenge, but they will deal with the situations positively. I also believe if they play with the same intent, they can win the trophy as well," said SAI-Academy coach, Sarangi.
Madhya Pradesh Hockey Academy, on the other hand, won three of four league stage matches and finished second in Pool B. Having scored as many as 57 goals, Madhya Pradesh Hockey Academy are the top goal scorers of the tournament. They also registered a monumental 42-0 win in the tournament, which came against Tamil Nadu Hockey Academy.
Speaking about the team's overall performance and the prospect of playing Semi-Final against an unbeaten side, Madhya Pradesh Hockey Academy coach Paramjit Singh said, "A lot of players in the team are playing their first ever tournament of their life. Our target before coming here was to be in the top four, which I think we have achieved. So, there's no pressure of winning or losing anymore. Or any kind of fear as such of playing against an unbeaten team in the semi-finals. I want my girls to enjoy the game, and make the most out of it".
The second semi-final will witness Odisha Naval Tata Hockey High Performance Centre square off against Roundglass Punjab Hockey Club Academy, who are coming off from a remarkable come-from-behind 5-3 win over Markandeshwar Hockey Academy in their last league stage match.
Roundglass Punjab Hockey Club Academy coach Jyoti Kamboj was overwhelmed with her side making it to the semi-finals at the very last moment.
"I am so overwhelmed with the team's performance. We were not fully prepared for the tournament because of the pandemic situations, and then earning a spot in the Semi-Final, especially after win in the last match made our campaign a memorable one. I am proud of how my team responded to the situation and showed great character to turn things around in their favour at the last minute. It has boosted the team's morale and confidence and I am sure my girls will give their 100% in the Semi-Final as well", she said.
Meanwhile, Odisha Naval Tata Hockey High Performance Centre coach Sandeep Kaur expressed that the team is confident of winning the match.
"Girls have been performing so well and hope they continue to do so. They are confident enough to win the match. Of course, it is going to be a challenging game for us because everyone wants to win, and I feel those who will play well will definitely win", said Sandeep Kaur.
The first Semi-Final between SAI- Academy and Madhya Pradesh Hockey Academy starts at 16:30 hours, while the second Semi-Final match is scheduled to get underway at 18:30 hours on 24th March 2021.