The field hockey ball doesn’t roll far from the family tree on the Island.
Deb Whitten of Victoria and Milena Gaiga of Port Alberni played together for the UVic Vikes and for Canada in the Olympics. Now their daughters — Maddie Hunter and Julia Berk, respectively — are on the Canada Under-18 team for its four-game Test series against the United States U-18 team running Wednesday to Saturday at The Proving Grounds in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.
Throw in graduating UVic Vikes star and four-time U Sports champion Anna Mollenhauer, who is on the Canadian senior national team heading to the 2022 World Cup in the Netherlands and 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games this summer. She is the daughter of two-time 1984 Los Angeles and 1988 Seoul Olympian Nancy Mollenhauer of Victoria. Nature and nurture have collided in a big way on the Island field-hockey pitch.
“My mom taught me the love of the game, and to work hard at it,” said Maddie Hunter.
“I grew up with that.”
Mom Deb Whitten was an outstanding goaltender for UVic and then for Canada at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and in winning silver and bronze medals in the 1991 and 1995 Pan Am Games. But even that wasn’t enough to convince her daughter to put on the goalie pads.
“I stayed away from goaltending — I only like shooting on them,” quipped Hunter, a striker.
Berk and Hunter are among the six Island players on the Canada U-18 team in Pennsylvania. The others are Julia Boraston, Shyana Ringma, Maeve Connorton and Anais Chace.
Hunter, Berk and Chace were on the Oak Bay team that won the B.C. high school Triple-A championship last fall to give the school its first provincial championship in the sport since 1993.
“We had such a good high school team and it was exciting to win the provincials, and now to join two of my Oak Bay school teammates on the national U-18 team, and five of my club teammates,” said Hunter.
Boraston and Ringma play for Mount Douglas Secondary and Connorton for Lambrick Park Secondary. All six Island players are out of the Lynx 1 team in the Vancouver Island Ladies Field Hockey Association and four have already played for the parent Island Wildcats senior team.
“I want to play at the highest level possible, my dream and my goal is to one day make the senior national team,” said Hunter.
Genes and history are certainly on her side.
“It’s cool to be on the national U-18 team and to play with athletes from across Canada,” added Hunter.
Hunter is in Grade 11 and said she will eventually choose between UVic and the NCAA when the time comes for her varsity career.
UVic Vikes assistant coach Krista Thompson, meanwhile, is among the Canada U-18 team staff in Pennsylvania.