Newbies are too hot for India
Manawatu's feisty little hockey striker Michaela Curtis satisfied her home legions in the best way possible by scoring New Zealand's third goal in their 3-1 win over India at Fitzherbert Park last night.
Banners featuring the 19-year old adorned the turfs as friends promoted a Facebook page they had set up in her honour.
Each time she touched the ball there was a discernible rumble from the crowd.
But eight minutes from the end when she missed what appeared to be a certain goal from a long breakout, she fumed. "I was brassed off about that; I thought it was my chance."
A minute later it was a carbon copy and this time Curtis slammed it past the Indian replacement goalie.
At Napier on Sunday, Curtis had been jittery on her debut.
"I wasn't as nervous this time, more excited," she said. "It was good to get that first one out of the way. I enjoyed this one much better."
Curtis was among the newbies coach Mark Hager threw on at the start last night as he kept Anita Punt, last night's captain, and Stacey Michelsen, in reserve.
Hager said Curtis is very quick but very young and has plenty of learning to do.
"She is used to playing her own individual game. We're trying to teach her around structures."
With the Kiwis two tests up, they were all but outplayed by the little, silky-running Indians in the first half.
The Black Sticks are missing up to seven of their best in this series, but they are ranked No 3 in the world while India are No 12.
Yesterday, Hager was without Gemma Flynn (hamstring-quad injury), who won't play in Palmerston North in the fourth test tonight, and Petrea Webster (broken thumb), who has gone home.
The Black Sticks repeated their feat at Napier on Sunday when they came from a goal down to win by two.
Despite the scruffy first half, they equalised eight minutes before halftime when the dynamic Punt blasted a ball from outside the circle and it pinged in off a defender. Under a new rule, that now stands as an own goal.
New Zealand had the better of the second spell. Katie Glynn cracked in a high shot from a drag-flick penalty corner and Curtis nailed her field goal with seven minutes left.
"We weren't good in the first half," said Hager.
"We were slow to react and they were sharp.
"All credit to India. They outplayed us in tactics. We didn't cope with them and it took a couple of positional changes in the second half."
He switched Michelsen into the middle and they started to control their own play.
But as Hager said, this series is all about moulding the new eight women.
India stunned the Kiwis when vice captain Vandana Katariya scored from a rebound in a melee at a penalty corner after only eight minutes.
The Indians were dangerous on the break earlier, but as they appeared to flag in the second half, the Black Sticks caught them on the rebound.
New Zealand play many of their tests at North Harbour, where they are lucky to attract 50 spectators. Last night, they pulled in about 1500. They had to shift when the hoses had to be deployed beforehand and at halftime because the water-based turf dried out.
New Zealand could wrap up the series 4-0 if they win at Fitzherbert Park tonight.
Scorers: New Zealand 3 (own goal, Katie Glynn, Michaela Curtis) India 1 (Vandana Katariya) HT 1-all.
The Manawatu Standard