The White Sox have announced their 14-strong squad for their Olympic qualifier in Shanghai later this year.
Head coach Kevin Gettins announced the squad yesterday, saying with the Olympic qualifiers squad number restricted to 15 instead of the usual 17 observed at World Championships, a focus on player versatility, fitness and injuries were paramount.
Gettins said the selection process was challenging but a 15th player will be added to the squad after the Women’s International Fastpitch Championship (also known as the Canada Cup) in Vancouver in July where the NZ under-23s women's team is competing.
The squad is drastically different from the one that competed at the Asia Pacific Cup in Australia in December last year with just four of the 15 who competed there making the cut for Shanghai. A further three from that squad have been named as reserves for the qualifier though.
Veterans Jennifer Feret-Brear and Melanie Gettins have been retained along with captain Lara Andrews and young shortstop Mereana Makea.
The remaining 10 feature five US-based players and Brisbane-based outfielder Ancelle van Molendorff. The other four are NZ-based but have plenty of experience with the White Sox.
Previous White Sox Capitan, Ellie Cooper and US-based pitcher Taylor-Paige Stewart are unavailable for selection due to personal commitments.
The White Sox will square off with seven other teams in September for one spot in Tokyo. New Zealand, ranked 11th in the world, will face stiff competition from the likes of Chinese Taipei (sixth), Australia (seventh) and China (eighth) but will also need to fend off challenges from the Philippines (13th), South Korea (23rd), Indonesia (37th), Singapore (50th) and Malaysia (65th).
Gettins admits the team is in for a "tough competition" but says the White Sox have claimed wins over Australia, China, Chinese Taipei and the Philippines in the last three years.
Instead, Gettins believes finding form for the competition will be the toughest challenge with the domestic season in New Zealand now wrapped up until October.
White Sox Olympic Qualifier Squad
Ancelle van Molendorff (Brisbane/Auckland), Courtney Gettins (Alabama/Hawkes Bay), Hailey Breakwell (California, USA), Jennifer Feret-Brear (Auckland), Kelley Renner (California, USA), Kingsley Avery (Auckland), Krysta Hoani (Auckland), Lara Andrews (Hutt Valley), Melanie Gettins (Hawkes Bay), Mereana Makea (Wellington), Mikayla Werahiko (Canterbury), Pallas Potter (Florida/Hutt Valley), Rita Hokianga (Hawkes Bay), Stefanie Smith (California, USA)
Amy Begg (Canterbury), Ashley Johnston (Hutt Valley), Erin Blackmore (Hutt Valley), McKenzie Giles-Martin (Perth, Australia), Zoe Tolhopf (Auckland)