First senior call pushes Hollie a step closer to her Olympic ambition
HOLLIE Webb is celebrating her first senior call-up to the England hockey squad – seven years after she made her international debut as a 14-year-old at Belper.
Webb, from Blackbrook, is part of a new look England side who will head to South Africa next month for the Investec Challenge.
The 21-year-old, who now plays for Beeston, is one of eight newcomers to the senior team for the week-long tournament, in which England will play Olympic gold medalists Netherlands, Australia and hosts South Africa at the Hartleyvale Stadium.
Although it is still four years away, a place in the Great Britain team for the 2016 Rio Olympics is top of Webb's list of priorities – after she's graduated this year, of course.
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"I had trials for Great Britain back in October and November and had to take part in three different training camps," she said.
"I was selected from one of those and knew about my call-up back in December, so it's been a difficult secret to try and keep.
"I'm just waiting to hear if I'll be in the centralised England squad in the lead-up to Rio but being called up to the senior team is a pretty big deal and something that has been a goal of mine since I started playing hockey.
"I will graduate from the University of Sheffield later this year and, because of university commitments, I will fly out a day after the rest of the squad when they leave for South Africa next Monday."
Webb joined Belper at the age of seven and played senior hockey for the Nailers' first team at the age of 13.
She was part of the team that won promotion to the National League and has played regularly for England at junior level, winning a gold medal at the Australian Youth Olympic Festival in 2009.
"I played for the England A team last summer but this selection is something that I've been working on for a long while," added Webb.
"I will have to continue to work hard if I'm to join the GB squad in the run-up to Rio, which is everyone's main aim.
"But, for now, I'm really looking forward to the Investec Challenge.
"It will be great to play against such established opposition in an environment that I'm unfamiliar with."
Webb joins former Repton School pupil Susie Gilbert in the squad, while ex-Belper men's coach Craig Keegan, who has been coaching the England Under-21 women's side for the past few years, will also be part of the coaching staff in South Africa.
Karen Brown, England's most capped hockey player and former assistant coach to the England and Great Britain women's squad, will head the group.
She said: "It's a great opportunity for us to look at new players for the next Olympic cycle as well as providing an opportunity for some players who just missed out on Olympic selection.
"The high quality opposition will mean a steep learning curve and with so many established internationals missing, I will be interested in which athletes step up and show leadership and who relishes the extra responsibilities they will have to take on both on and off the pitch."
England's first game is on Monday, February 4.