Smith has World Cup in her sights

Kelsey Smith has achieved one of her major goals this year, and will now be at a hockey World Cup qualifier early next year.

Smith has been named in the Hockey New Zealand Junior Black Sticks women's team which will compete at the 2013 Junior World Cup qualifier on the Gold Coast in February.

The top two qualifiers will earn the right to play in the Junior World Cup in Germany in late July. Smith and her team-mates will meet other top sides from the Pacific region, including Australia, Papua New Guinea and Samoa.

Smith said a strong performance playing at striker was her focus, and she hoped this would be enough to cement her spot in the team for Germany.

She hoped fitness would give her an extra edge. "My whole summer is going to be based on being fit and just training hard most days.

"Fitness will be one of the most important things, because at the [selection] camp they said barely anyone was fit enough, and I was one of the fitter ones there."

The final team of 18 players was chosen from a selection camp in mid-November. At that tournament, the Juniors got to rub shoulders with top-flight players from the Black Sticks.

Smith said she enjoyed playing against the top women and hanging out with Nelson's hockey Olympian, and former Waimea College student, Anita Punt.

"It was definitely a big step up. Now that I have played with them, you can see it is a possibility to get to that level. It's exciting."

Smith has had a big year on the hockey scene, being named in the 30-strong Junior Black Sticks wider training squad in May. That selection followed a strong tournament playing for the Capital Women's under-21s in the national under-21 tournament.

Smith was an integral member of the Waimea College team that won the Tasman regional college hockey tournament.

She was also in the Tasman team that finished runner-up at the national senior championships in Wellington.

Smith was also recently named in the Hockey New Zealand TigerTurf Academy under-18 women's team.

The Nelson Mail