Wattignies, France: Belarus lived up to their billing as the highest ranked team (World Ranking: 20) in the competition as they took first place at the Hockey Series Open event in Wattignies, France, and booked their place at the Hockey Series Final in 2019.
Herman Kruis’s team made it three wins from three to take maximum points at the third women’s Hockey Open Series of this inaugural season.
Russia (WR:25) finished in second place and will join Belarus in the Hockey Series Finals, as will the host nation, France (WR: 31) who were beaten into third place.
Austria (WR:32), who finished in fourth place after losing all three matches, will rue missing out on this opportunity to earn a place at the qualifying events for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The opening half of the first match between Belarus and France would have given the host nation plenty to cheer about as the lower ranked team matched Belarus blow for blow. However, Kruis’s team ramped up the pressure in the second half and were rewarded with a penalty stroke in the 39th minute. Yulia Mikheichyk duly slotted the ball home to open the scoring. The goals that settled the match didn’t materialise until the 58th minute as France dug deep and defended well. Eventually, however, Belarus’s experience paid off as Krestina Papkova, Mikheichyk and Sviatlana Bahushevich all found their way onto the score board.
In complete contrast, Russia’s opening match against Austria saw all the goals come in the first half of the game. Bogdana Sadovaia opened the scoring in the fourth minute with a rasping penalty corner. Svetlana Eroshina followed up with a well-taken goal from open play before Sadovaia and Kristina Shumilina wrapped things up with two more goals.
The closest match of the competition was the final game between France and Russia. The two teams were locked at 1-1 until the final 20 minutes of action. It then went to 2-2 until Sadovaia and Shumilina both popped up on the score-sheet again to give their team their second win of the competition.
Unsurprisingly, Russia’s hot-shot Bogdana Sadovaia was the event’s top scorer with five goals. Belarus’s Sviatlana Bahushevich, Yulia Mikheichyk and Elena Sazhina were all in second place on three goals apiece.
The event in Wattignies was a continuation of the Hockey Series Open, with other events in the Series taking place across the world over the coming weeks. The next Hockey Series Open takes place in Vilnius, Lithuania, from 21-26 August.
This stage of the FIH’s new Hockey Series is the first step towards Olympic qualification for participating teams.
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