What the IIHF Challenge Cup gold means for Philippine women's ice hockey

The Philippines beat Abu Dhabi, 2-1, to win gold in the 2019 IIHF Women's Challenge Cup of Asia Division 1. Photo by Yuka Fukuma

The Philippine women's ice hockey team recently bagged gold in the 2019 IIHF Women's Challenge Cup of Asia Division 1 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

The national squad, who took home bronze last year, swept the tournament -- blanking Kuwait (10-0) and India (5-0) before beating the host team (2-1) in the championship match.

ESPN5 caught up with forward Kayla Herbolario to ask about their experience in UAE and what's next for the Philippine ice hockey team.

What were the team's expectations heading into the tournament?

All of us had been training for months on end for this year's IIHF Challenge Cup. Aside from the team training together on the ice, each of us did some extra work individually to maintain our strength and conditioning, so the expectations for us were to perform better than how we did last year. We definitely played the best hockey we've ever played and getting the gold medal was the cherry on top.

What was the competition like in Abu Dhabi?

It was the most competitive tourney we have been in and it was also the most fun experience we've all had. Our team and all the nations that joined have improved a lot and it was amazing to see how far hockey has come in Asia.

What does it mean to win gold in a competition like the IIHF Challenge Cup?

Winning this years IIHF Challenge Cup of Asia puts us up a higher division for next year, which means faster and more competitive hockey and we are excited to see how we are going to perform in the top division. It means a whole lot especially for Philippine hockey. Our men's team won gold at the 2017 SEA Games and now our women's team won its first gold medal.

Does it ever get old, playing for the country?

It never gets old. It is always such an honor. Having to move to Australia and leave my teammates back in the Philippines was hard so getting the opportunity to still come back and play with them again is something that I look forward to every year and something that I will always be proud of.

What's next for the Philippine women's ice hockey team?

After a little bit of recovery from this years tourney, we all get back to training and start getting ready again for next year's IIHF Women's Challenge Cup of Asia. The girls and I have been dreaming of getting a women's division in the SEA Games so hopefully that will happen soon and we get a chance to showcase what we are capable of on a higher platform.