Sarah Murray (2nd from L, top row), head coach of the joint Korean women's hockey team, reacts after a missed opportunity against Sweden during the teams' Group B game in the women's hockey tournament at the PyeongChang Winter Olympics at Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung, Gangwon Province, on Feb. 12, 2018.
With her players reeling from their second straight 8-0 loss in the Olympic women's hockey tournament, joint Korean team head coach Sarah Murray said Monday she'll look for a fresh start in the upcoming game.
Korea was pounded by Sweden 8-0 in its second Group B game of the PyeongChang Winter Olympics at Kwandong Hockey Centre in Gangneung. Korea had also lost 8-0 to Switzerland on Saturday, and has been eliminated from medal contention in the eight-team competition.
But Korea can still salvage some pride on Wednesday when it takes on Japan in its final group match. At No. 9 in the world, Japan is 13 spots above South Korea and 16 spots higher than North Korea, but it too is saddled with two losses in the tournament so far.
Neither Korea nor Japan will get to the knockout stage, but given the long history of sporting animosity between the two neighbors, it's definitely a game that Murray would like to win.
"They're the top women's team in Asia. And our players have always been striving to beat Japan," Murray said. "More than just the history of the two teams and two countries, it's just that we want to be the best in Asia."
Murray said she doesn't think her players will feel extra pressure when playing Japan. The biggest challenge, she said, is to motivate her players again after two losses by a combined 16 goals.
"We have to forget the last two games and start fresh," she said. "It's tough to keep them motivated and excited to play after two tough losses but I think they'll pick it up."
As for the loss to Sweden, Murray said her young players were a lot better prepared than they had been for the Switzerland game, though the result didn't exactly indicate that.
"Every time we lose, it's a chance for us to improve," she said. "Teams here are very strong and it's a tough tournament. But the players don't give up. They're not scared. Even though they were losing by so much, I felt like the players played all the way to the end."
Korea gave up three goals to Switzerland in the first period, and then four to Sweden in the opening 20 minutes this time. Murray said it was just a matter of facing strong opponents in back-to-back games.
"I actually thought we started on time. But it's hard, when you get down by three goals, to stay motivated," she added. "If you go down by three, you have to score four to come back. It's tough. But the players work hard and they have great character and they don't give up."