Three debutants in youthful Black Sticks women's squad for test series in Argentina
New Zealand women's hockey team head coach Mark Hager has named three uncapped players in a youthful squad for a test series in Argentina next month.
Midfielders Tessa Jopp (Southern) and Stephanie Dickins (Midlands) and goalkeeper Grace O'Hanlon, a former Queensland representative and member of the Australian national development squad last year, were all announced in a 21-strong group on Thursday.
The squad for the series, which will be played in Buenos Aires from February 10-22, has an average age of just 23 and also includes eight others with less than 50 caps for the Black Sticks.
Spearheading the group is experienced defender Stacey Michelsen, who has 216 caps, while defenders Sam Charlton, Liz Thompson, Rose Keddell and Ella Gunson and striker Olivia Merry have all played more than 100 games.
Other familiar faces Anita McLaren, Gemma Flynn, Charlotte Harrison, Petrea Webster and Sophie Cocks are taking a break from international hockey and were not available for selection, with North Harbour defender Kathryn Henry still rehabilitating from a torn ACL suffered in 2016 and also out of contention.
Hager said the series is a great opportunity for the world No 5 Kiwi side to open the year against the third-ranked Argentinians.
"This will be a fantastic tour for the group in their first international competition of 201.
"We have three debutantes and a lot talent who will be pushing for the additional five spots still up for grabs in the national squad.
"Following the Rio Olympics it's a new era for us and it will be exciting for all these players to have a high quality hit-out ahead of a big year."
BLACK STICKS SQUAD
Goalkeepers: Georgia Barnett, Grace O'Hanlon
Defenders: Sam Charlton, Frances Davies, Natasha Fitzsimons, Erin Goad, Ella Gunson, Rose Keddell, Stacey Michelsen, Brooke Neal, Jenny Storey, Liz Thompson
Midfielders: Stephanie Dickins, Jordan Grant, Tessa Jopp, Rachel McCann, Phoebe Steele
Strikers: Michaela Curtis, Olivia Merry, Amy Robinson, Kelsey Smith