Deep Grace Ekka Competing against strong teams will be beneficial in the FIH Hockey Women's World Cup 2022

The team was beaten in the doubleheader match against Belgium in the FIH Women's Hockey Professional League, 2021/22, Indian Women's Hockey Team midfielder Sonika is optimistic that the team can bounce back during the upcoming matches against Argentina scheduled to take place on June 18th as well as 19th June, in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

"We have been training hard after the matches against Belgium. Those two games were a learning experience for us and we have worked on our strategies for the upcoming matches against Argentina, accordingly. We are hopeful we will bounce back and give a good performance," Sonika told.

Sonika continued to talk about how she started becoming interested in hockey when she was only nine years old. An invitation from a seasoned hockey coach on her campus located in Hisar, Haryana, sparked an interest in Sonika to take up the sport. "It was the first time I had seen someone wearing the Indian tracksuit. I wanted to wear the same and represent my country on the biggest platforms," Sonika told me.

Sonika's coach encouraged her to work tirelessly to realize her goals. From that point she was focused and began to train hard each day. Her father who was a former volleyball player, provided her with complete support in her pursuit of the sport. Her mother also disapproved of neighbors who challenged their motives for pushing their daughter to play sports.

"I was quite a naughty kid. My parents thought the sports will bring discipline to me, so they never refused to let me go for training," Sonika stated.

In the year 2011, Sonika participated in her first rural Nationals for Haryana in Ranchi. After that, she join the Senior Nationals team that won the Gold medal in 2013. For the year 2014 New Zealand Test series, Sonika made her debut with the India the Junior Women's National Team and then lead the team as captain in Spain during the Five-Nations tournament.

Sonika was picked for an Senior Women's National Camp in 2016. She made her senior debut at the Hawke's Bay Cup in New Zealand. She also was part of the Indian Women's Senior Women's Team which took home the Gold medal at the Women's Asia Cup in 2017.

In 2020, following having completed the New Zealand Tour in January, Sonika decided to take time off from her sports and National camp, which was held during the Covid-19 lockdown for time to enjoy her loved ones. "I wanted to be with my family amid the lockdown. I was finding it hard to focus on the sport. I am thankful to my parents, my teammates, and the Hockey India coaching staff, who all really supported me at that time," she stated.

"Everyone stayed in touch with me and kept motivating me to bounce back. It really helped me out a lot," Sonika told me.

At the age of 20, Sonika was able to decide to her return to hockey by participating in her first ever Senior Nationals. "The Senior Nationals gave me a platform to showcase my talent once again, and gave me a chance to bounce back. I feel grateful that I am back on the field again. I am thankful to everyone who stuck by me during that time."

in 2022. Sonika has been selected once more to her second stint on the India Senior Women's Hockey Team and was a part of the team at the FIH Women's Hockey Pro League 2021/22 games which she's already scored a score in 5 games.

With coming the FIH World Cup for Women's Hockey 2022 coming up, Sonika is hopeful that India Women's Hockey Team will be able to secure an overall podium this year. "We have been working really hard and we are in the camp for almost a year. We want to have a podium finish as it will be the ultimate reward for all of our hard work," Sonika said before signing off.

Hosts Belgium beat the Indian male hockey players by a score of 2-1 in the second leg of the double-header in the FIH Hockey Pro League here in Antwerp. In the end, it was Abhishek that scored the game's first goal. Mandeep Singh scored the last-minute strike to India; Nicolas de Kerpel and Alexander Hendrickx were goal scorers for the hosts.

This win means that Belgium has moved India to third position in the standings of the pool, and the Netherlands remains at the top of the league in this year's highly regarded FIH Hockey Pro League. The the hosts Belgium that got off to an impressive start, demonstrating they are determined to bounce back following their loss to India 5-4 in a heated shootout that took place on the weekend.

After a couple of attempts, Belgium had a chance to score at the end of the seven minute via an electronic device, but a mistake in the play did not allow them to take the lead. Just three minutes later, Jarmanpreet's assistance to Sukhjeet Singh on the top of the circle created an amazing opportunity for India to lead however, Sukhjeet's strike went over the goalpost. Both teams played the following few minutes in a cautious manner and tactfully rotating the ball and creating space, but neither team succeeded in scoring goals.

After displaying patience throughout their game India eventually broke an impasse in the 25th minute of the game when Gurjant joined forces with Lalit Upadhyay in a move that led to an amazing goal scored by Abhishek. With a 1-0 lead at half-time, India came out of the 10-minute break in the half-time interval with a clear goal in mind to extend their advantage.

Harmanpreet Singh created one such chance when he assisted veteran forward Akashdeep Singh with a fantastic long pass less than one minute and a half from the end of the 3rd quarter. He was placed on high on the circle, Akashdeep made a powerful shot in the goal, but the ball went straight to Belgian goalkeeper Vincent Vanasch who padded the ball away.

A few minutes after that, Belgium scored a splendid goal in the 33rd minute , when an impressive interception took away India and set up an incredible run into the circle, where Arthur de Sloover set up Nicolas de Kerpel to score. Kerpel played the ball through India's watchful custodian Sreejesh to score in the top right corner of the goalpost. The goal gave the hosts a desperately needed equalizer after they used the goal to create opportunities over the following minutes.

The hosts were able to extend their lead after being granted a PC following a foot-slide by Indian defense players within their circle. Alexander Hendrickx was on target shooting the ball over Indian PC defence.

In the five minutes that were left to the last hooter, India found a fine chance to win an X-Box after a successful video-based referral. Harmanpreet, a drag-flick expert, tried to hit the top of the goal was blocked by Belgium's skilled goalie Vanasch. Just minutes before the final whistle, Belgium put India under pressure by driving into the circle of strikers.

It was at this point that an incredibly body-smack by Sreejesh was the cause of India give up a penalty shot that resulted in a goal by Hendrickx easily. But, India fought back to the end of the game Manpreet Singh set the stage for India's second goal after the defender was assisting Vivek Sagar inside the circle. An incisive Vivek moved the ball towards Mandeep Singh, who slid the ball through Belgium's keeper and narrowed the lead to 2-2. Unfortunately, with less than 30 seconds remaining the Indians' incredible fightback was a disappointment.