Commonwealth Games: All eyes on national hockey team ahead of New Zealand duel

Kenya women's hockey defender Beatrice Mbugua in action during a training session at the Sikh Union Club in Nairobi on July 19, 2022 ahead of the 2022 Commonwealth Games between Thursday, 28 Jul 2022 - Mon, 8 Aug 2022 in Birmingham, United Kingdom. (Kelly Ayodi, Standard)

The national women's hockey team continued with their preparation ahead of their Commonwealth Games opening match against New Zealand tomorrow from 11am (East African Time) in Birmingham, United Kingdom.

Commonly known as 'Blades', Kenya narrowly lost 2-1 to Ghana in a build-up match played on Tuesday night.
Former Sinyolo Girls star and Lakers Hockey Club striker Alice Owiti scored the lone goal for the Blades as the girls continued to sharpen their sticks ahead of the games.

Kenya are in Group B alongside defending champions New Zealand, 2014 winners Australia, Scotland and South Africa. Group A has India, Canada, Wales, Ghana and England.
They will start their campaign tomorrow against New Zealand, before taking on Australia the following day from 4pm local time.

Kenya will then battle Scotland on August 1 at 11am (EAT) before they complete their group matches with a clash against African giants South Africa on August 2 (4pm).

The top two teams in each pool will qualify for the semi-final.

Kenya were awarded a berth through the re-allocation of returned qualification slots from the teams placed higher in the FIH World ranking teams but opted not to take part in the games.

They joined Ghana and South Africa to compete at the Commonwealth Games, the two nations having received qualification as the continents top two ranked nations.
"We are optimistic the players will do well at Birmingham. We have had intense training for the last one month and we hope that our presence will be felt.
"This is a good opportunity for the girls to showcase and sell their talent to the world because you never know who is watching," said Kenya Hockey Union vice chairperson Elina Shiveka during a past interview.

Meanwhile, Strathmore University Scorpions striker Gilly Okumu will captain the national women's hockey team at the Commonwealth Games.
Okumu who has been instrumental in Scorpions perfect start to the now paused Kenya Hockey Union women's Premier League will take over from Rhoda Kuira who failed to make the cut of 18-players.

Strathmore are currently top of the standings with 12 points after winning all their opening four matches of the 2022 season.
Okumu together with 17-other players and five officials arrived in Birmingham last Sunday.

Versatile Lakers Hockey Club defender Vivian Onyango is among four players from the Kisumu-based club also in the national team.
Onyango who also plays for the national women's Floorball team headlines Lakers quartet of twins Alice and Maureen Owiti and goalkeeper Millicent Adhiambo.

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