Lacrosse World Cup rebuild in full swing for Hong Kong women’s team after thumping win over China

Youngsters thrown in at the deep end as hosts thrash China 18-2 in opening Hong Kong Lacrosse Open group stage game

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 April, 2018, 4:36pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 29 April, 2018, 11:05pm

After getting a little taste of World Cup glory last year, the Hong Kong women’s lacrosse team is already planting new seeds in preparation for 2021 with a firm focus on university students.

“We’re very much in a rebuilding year,” said head coach Travis Taylor, who saw his team comfortably defeat up-and-comers China 18-2 in their opening 2018 Hong Kong Lacrosse Open group stage game on Sunday.

“We have about six really young players who haven’t had experience in a tournament like this before. We’re experimenting a little.”

Hong Kong finished 18th out of the 25 teams in the FIL Rathbones Women’s Lacrosse World Cup last year, notably defeating Switzerland in the process. The team has succeeded in its mission to break into the world’s top 20, but the hard work begins now, said Taylor.

“This is our youngest team to date and we have a lot of players looking to make the next World Cup. It’s still four years out but we want to give them as much playing experience as we can,” added the former Netherlands and Slovakia men’s team coach.

The influx of fresh faces into the senior team is testament to the groundwork laid at university level. The new generation of Hong Kong lacrosse stars now have a viable ladder to climb what with the various development and reserve squads under the first team.

Hong Kong University and latest senior squad addition Suky Wong Suk-ngai – who did not play sports before lacrosse – is the perfect example of climbing through the ranks.

“I was living in university halls when someone encouraged me to play,” said the 22-year-old attacker. “We moved into inter-hall competitions and I started to really like it and want to improve.

“I decided to test myself against people better than me and I made it to the youth development team, then the HPP [High Performance Programme] after the World Cup. A lot of my teammates are like that, about one-third are [university] girls.”

Taylor welcomed any newcomers to the sport but warned that reaching the elite tier requires true dedication.

“It’s a funny situation in lacrosse because a lot of our players have only been playing for a year or two,” he said. “If they’re a good athlete and dedicate their time, they can rise because our sport is so small.

“People that would never get a shot at playing for a [national] team in another sport can make it to lacrosse but you have to have a minimum four years of hard work to get there.

“We’re asking players who – generally speaking – just started at university to put in three on-field and 2 weight room sessions every week. It’s a huge time commitment, especially for a student, but we’re lucky to have several able and willing.”

The senior team’s youngest member, 16-year-old Ella McCoy, is more than ready to hop on coach Taylor’s 2021 World Cup train.

“That’s the goal and the training has to start now,” said the Hong Kong International School lacrosse team captain. “I’m very privileged to be playing with such an amazing group of young athletes – it comes with a lot of pressure but also an unbelievable support network to teach and mentor me. My skills have grown exponentially since playing with them.”

McCoy was introduced to the game by her mother, who was also a keen player at school level in the UK. She is aware of the sport’s lack of time in the Hong Kong limelight but insists there is room for improvement.

“There’s not much interest at school because there are no youth programmes; you usually get boys or girls who trained overseas who then join the high school team,” she said. “I’m trying to push that within my school, to grow a community and start looking at youth systems.”

Coach Taylor and staff will be observing their young guns against Euhreuns of Korea and Vasallo of Japan in the remaining group stage games. The collective aim is to go on and win the whole tournament.

“I’m a firm believer that for Hong Kong to challenge the world’s best we need a lot of other Asian countries to start improving,” said Taylor. “China continues to make big strides every year and hopefully they can give us a bigger challenge. Japan and Australia are big and we want to get more interaction [with them], and it would be really nice to see Taiwan and Thailand start producing better teams for tournaments like this.

“Our elite group is now a lot bigger and it’s hugely important for the next World Cup run.”