1 Jul 2015

Black Sticks win again

11:30 am on 1 July 2015

The New Zealand hockey player Pippa Hayward believes being such a tight-knit group has certainly helped them progress at the World League tournament in Antwerp.

Black Sticks hockey player Pippa Hayward in action against Australia 2014.

Black Sticks hockey player Pippa Hayward in action against Australia 2014. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

The Black Sticks remain unbeaten after qualifying for the semi-finals with a 5-1 win over Japan.

The result means they'll now play South Korea for a medal and a shot at Olympic qualification.

Japan opened the scoring, the first goal conceded by the Black Sticks at this tournament, but defender Pippa Hayward says they were confident of fighting back.

She said there are some very encouraging signs from their performance

"(We've) got to take the positives away with it and really build on that. I think we're quite a close team and we've been training hard. We've been playing quite good hockey and it is a positive step in the right direction, so I think we are pretty happy with how things are going and just taking it one game at a time."

If they win their next game they will earn automatic qualification for the 2016 Rio Olympics, while the top four placing also earns them a spot to compete at the World League Final in Argentina in December.

Even if they finish fourth, the Black Sticks world ranking of fourth should be enough to gain them Olympic qualification.

With the game delicately poised and locked up at 1-1 at half-time, New Zealand overpowered Japan in the second half and the flood gates opened.

Head coach Mark Hager says Japan caught them off-guard in the first quarter but it was pleasing to come back and wear them down.

He says it was pleasing that at 1-0 down they didn't panic, they kept striving along and changed their tactics as the game went on which worked for them.

Hager says they knew if they scored goals the game would open up, luckily for them that happened and girls like Stacey Michelsen and Anita Punt were able to run freely in the midfield.

Japan came out running against the Black Sticks and were quickly creating chances on attack, taking the lead inside five minutes when Akiko Kato pounced on a loose ball in the circle.

The Black Sticks responded immediately though, with a good passage of play ending with Petrea Webster knocking home a rebound.

Both sides had their chances throughout the second quarter but went into halftime locked up at one goal apiece.

The Black Sticks lifted the intensity after break and took their first lead of the game in the 34th minute with Sophie Cocks putting the finishing touch on a superb baseline run and flick back by Gemma Flynn.

Eight minutes later the Kiwis pushed the buffer out to two goals with Anita Punt rocketing a penalty corner drag flick into the roof of the net.

Kirsten Pearce put the game beyond doubt midway through the fourth quarter with a brilliant run into space and then lobbed over the keeper before Gemma Flynn knocked another one home from close range for her side's fifth goal.

In the other quarter-finals Australia beat Italy and the Netherlands beat India.

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