In the semi-finals of the 1st Junior Women’s Academy National Championship here on Thursday, Odisha Naval Tata Hockey High Performance Centre will clash with the Sports Authority of India (SAI) Academy while Madhya Pradesh Hockey Academy will play against Khalsa Hockey Academy of Amritsar.

All the four teams finished at the top of their respective pool standings and remained unbeaten in the league phase.

Odisha Naval Tata Hockey High Performance Centre will look to make the most of their home advantage and capitalise on their fine run of form in the competition so far. After overseeing two comfortable victories in the league stage, they faced a stern test in their 2-1 quarter-final win over HAR Hockey Academy.

“We had a benefit early on as we are the home team and already acclimatised to the playing conditions here. Our pool matches were relatively easy so our players were not at 100 per cent, but our quarter-final was a tough match and there you could see the coordination and sharpness building in the team. We have seen our opponent, SAI Academy’s matches, and played a friendly against them before the competition as well. It will be a good match tomorrow as both teams have their own strengths. May the best team win,” said Naval Tata Hockey head coach Abhishek Mishra.

SAI Academy will be looking to continue to put up the same level of performance which has seen the team make its way to the semi-final. After finishing the league stage without conceding a single goal, SAI Academy reacted positively to falling a goal behind in their quarter-final match against Salute Hockey Academy, and eventually won 6-2.

Ahead of their semi-final, head coach Prakhar Patel said, “We performed well in the league stage and scored a lot of goals. I am happy to see that we have coped well physically as due to Covid-19 all our centres were not open for a long time and players were mainly practicing at home. We organised a one-month camp before the competition. We know our semi-final opponents have home advantage, but based on our performance I am confident of our chances of making it to the final.”

Madhya Pradesh Hockey Academy have made the biggest statement of intent before the semi-final, winning their quarter-final match 15-0 against Bhai Behlo Hockey Academy Bhagta. They will be looking to replicate this form against their opponents in the semi-final.

Madhya Pradesh Hockey Academy head coach Paramjit Singh said, “I believe the girls from Khalsa Hockey Academy (Amritsar) have more experience, but we are at par with them, if not better in terms of skill and physicality. They have been in good form, but I am confident of our chances in the match tomorrow. Overall, you can expect to see quality hockey in this match.”

Khalsa Hockey Academy (Amritsar) has been in rich goal-scoring form throughout the competition thus far and will be relying on the competition’s top-scorer Taranpreet Kaur (14 goals) to deliver the goods once again in the semi-final. Captain Simranjeet Kaur (11 goals) and teammate Sneha Sabharwal (10 goals) are also high up in the goal scoring charts for Khalsa Hockey Academy (Amritsar).

Amarjit Arora, head coach of Khalsa Hockey Academy (Amritsar), said, “We have done very well to be at this stage considering the fact that our full team is not here due to some key players appearing for their Board exams. For tomorrow’s match, I think our opponent has the upper hand as they have an excellent defence line filled with some top quality players.”

The first semi-final between Odisha Naval Tata Hockey High Performance Centre and SAI – Academy starts at 7 a.m., while the second semi-final match between Madhya Pradesh Hockey Academy and Khalsa Hockey Academy (Amritsar) is scheduled to get underway at 9 a.m. on Thursday.

–IANS

qma/kh/rt

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