Black Sticks left empty after series defeat

By Michael Brown

Canterbury's Cassandra Reid in today's game. Photo / Hernan Barrios
Canterbury's Cassandra Reid in today's game. Photo / Hernan Barrios

The New Zealand women's hockey side weren't supposed to seriously threaten a full-strength Argentina on their five-match tour of South America but in the end they were left with an "emptiness'' after falling agonisingly short.

Argentina won the fifth and final match 1-0 today, taking the series 2-1 (there were two draws), but will count themselves lucky.

The Olympic silver medallists came under intense pressure from the Black Sticks in the fifth match, particularly in the second half, and will thank goalkeeper Florencia Mutio for pulling off a number of spectacular saves. New Zealand dominated with 11 shots on goal to Argentina's four and Katie Glynn also hit the crossbar in the first half.

The two teams are going through considerably different phases.

Argentina have a new coach since the Olympic but fielded 13 of the 16 who played in London, including seven-time world player of the year Luciana Aymar.

In contrast, New Zealand coach Mark Hager was able to call on eight of his Olympians with a number of experienced players either having retired or on a break and he chose to blood a number of newcomers as he plots success at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

They went to Argentina with side with an average age of 22 and average caps of 55, which was boosted significantly by four centurions and one double centurion. They exceeded all expectations, except perhaps their own, and beat Argentina for the first time in South America.

"One of the things about this group, they have really developed a hatred of losing,'' Hager said. ``When we lose, there's a real emptiness for a few days. We will reflect on this series and, to be honest, we did pretty well. We had a lot of young kids playing for the first time against a team like this.

"Normally nerves and the speed of the game is too much for the young kids but the pleasing thing is they didn't look out of place out there.

"Unfortunately, the luck didn't go our way but I can't fault how the girls played today. We were a bit apprehensive in the first half but really took it to them in the second. What we have to do is learn how to win those games instead of being on the wrong side of the ledger.''

They will get a good chance when New Zealand host Argentina, the US and Korea in two four nations tournaments in Whangarei, Hamilton and Tauranga from April 10-21.

Argentina 1 (Delfina Merino) New Zealand 0. HT: 1-0.

- APNZ

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