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Bermuda in it to win it, says Tavares

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Make no mistake, the Bermuda field hockey team are going to the Central American and Caribbean Games qualifiers to win, according to captain LaKae Tavares.

Bermuda fly out for Jamaica tomorrow and begin their quest to qualify for next year's CAC Games, in the Colombian city of Baranquilla, on Sunday, when they take on Puerto Rico. They follow that with games against Guatemala, Panama, Guyana and Jamaica.

This will be the first time that qualifiers for the tournament have been played and Bermuda have a realistic chance of success. The team have been working on their fitness and have the right mentality for glory, according to their captain.

“One of the strengths that we're going to have in this tournament is fitness,” Tavares said. “This is probably the fittest side that I've ever trained with. Then it just comes down to mental toughness.

“I've played with most of these girls on every tour and our head is in a different space. We're going to win and we don't normally have that opportunity, so we're hoping to capitalise and do well.”

The team have a solid blend of youth and experience, although there have been a couple of scary moments recently. Tavares herself was the victim of having a ball hit her in the shoulder last week, while Jasmine Patterson, the vice-captain, took a shot to the face while playing for Budgies at the weekend, which left her with a bruise.

Both are ready to go, though, with Tavares anchoring a strong Bermuda defence and Patterson the main target up front.

There is plenty more experience in the shape of goalkeeper Angela Dunstan and midfielder Keishae Robinson. However, there are 11 players in the squad in their teens and early twenties. In defence, Selina Whitter provides an excellent link from the rearguard to the attack; Renee Greenslade is a quality midfielder who can make an impact in both shooting circles, while there is plenty of pace and guile in attack from Maya Palacio, Tihanna Booth, Alex Francis and Chrysda Smith. And they are led by a captain who is genuinely moved by her team's progression.

“I'm just so passionate about it,” Tavares said. “I've been playing since I was 11 and a lot of these girls I've been training with since they were 11, so it really touches my heart to see them doing so well and us gelling and working hard together as a team.”

“We're doing our best to work on stick-to-stick passes, using our speed and taking advantage of our opportunities. We've been doing well in training and I think it's showing in our games.

“One of the great things about the juniors on this team is that they are so mature; Chrysda especially.

“I swear, week by week, she just gets better and better. She's extremely coachable; she listens and she learns.

“She takes what she can from the older senior players and I think that's what's working really well for them. They're playing up to the standards that we expect them to,”

And the players have been training like professionals in their bid to do as well as they can in Jamaica,

“We've been doing the same amount [of fitness work as in previous years] but we've been adding in one additional fitness in the last three months, which is Sunday morning, but it's just everyone is doing stuff outside our sessions, which doesn't always happen, and that's a huge advantage for us.”

Bermuda have built on a remarkable summer, when they beat NCAA Division II national champions Shippensburg University, and are in good shape to end the season the best way possible.

“We don't want to have too much expectation when we go there,” Tavares said. “But we're just excited about the chance to be able to win.

“The way I look at it is that none of these teams are going to be much better than us.

“It's who's going to show up on that day and just follow through and take advantage of the chances and, hopefully, that's going to be us.

“I'm happy to captain this tour. I believe in this team — I believe in my girls.”

SQUAD

Angela Dunstan (GK), Xela Swan (GK), Maya Palacio, Selina Whitter, Taylor Mullan, Maha Clarke, Iman Smith, Tihanna Booth, Azari Thomas, LaKae Tavares, Keishae Robinson, Renee Greenslade, Jasmine Patterson, Alex Francis, Chrysda Smith, Kascia White.

Captain of industry: LaKae Tavares says Bermuda's fitness could be key in the Central American and Caribbean Games qualifiers (Photograph by Akil Simmons)
In the thick of it: Renee Greenslade will anchor the Bermuda midfield at the CAC qualifiers in Jamaica (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

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Published November 01, 2017 at 9:00 am (Updated November 01, 2017 at 12:56 am)

Bermuda in it to win it, says Tavares

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