The U.S. Olympic Team for Women’s Field Hockey defeated New Zealand today, 4-1, at the Olympic Green Hockey Stadium. Striker Keli Smith scored two goals to pace the USA.
The win gives the United States five standings points, tied with Argentina for second place. The USA remains in contention for a spot in the semifinal rounds as the remainder of Pool B plays Saturday evening.
The USA took the opportunity against the winless New Zealand team to put together the complete game they admit they’ve been lacking.
“As a collective unit, I think this was the best 70 minutes,” said USA midfielder and team captain Kate Barber. “It always feels better when you’re on the winning side of things.”
After being plagued by slow starts the past three games, the USA seemed determined to attack early. Almost immediately, striker Keli Smith (Selinsgrove, Pa. / Maryland) plowed through the New Zealand defense with deft stick work and scored the first goal to set the tone for the match.
“We knew it was important that we come out hard in the first five minutes,” said Smith.
“We were caught napping,” said New Zealand midfielder Joanne Galletly.
The American assault continued, as the majority of play in the first fifteen minutes was spent on the New Zealand side of the pitch.
On a penalty corner in the 12th minute, Kelly Doton (Greenfield, Mass. / Wake Forest) launched a pass to Angie Loy (Loysville, Pa. / Old Dominion), who sat undefended at the edge of the goal. Loy chipped it in for a 2-0 U.S. lead.
“We just had a training run where we drilled penalty corners,” said Loy. “I think it paid off.”
New Zealand slowly regained their form from the Oceania Cup Championship. As action shifted to the American side of the field, USA goalkeeper Amy Tran (Grantville, Pa. / North Carolina) made several glove and kick-saves on New Zealand’s six first half shots.
“Amy Tran was unreal,” said Barber. “She made some brilliant saves back there.”
New Zealand opened the second half with a quick penalty corner, and striker’s Joanne Galletly sailed past Tran to tighten the score at 2-1.
“We knew coming out of halftime that New Zealand was going to come hard at us,” said Barber. “We knew that consciously as a group. When they came out and scored that goal, we all just looked at each other and regained our composure and stood tall.”
Six minutes later, Keli Smith scored her second goal of the day from a penalty corner, which featured a slick set of fake shots from the battery. Kayla Bashore (Shoemakersville, Pa. / Indiana) eventually passed it into the middle, where Smith received the ball and deflected it past New Zealand goalkeeper Beth Jurgeleit.
“That was one we have been practicing for a long time,” said Smith. “We had great execution by the whole penalty corner battery.”
The USA added a fourth goal in the 47th minute on another penalty corner, as Bashore deflected a Doton pass into the net, a play similar to Smith’s second goal.
“We pushed forward and attacked,” said Barber. “We executed some really nice penalty corners today.”
“It is,” said Bodimeade, when asked if this was his team’s best performance so far. “I was very happy with our 70 minutes against Germany [on Thursday]. They had great execution on their set plays, and you could argue today we had similar success in ours. The tournament is on the line, we needed to have a good performance, and to see the girls put that performance on the field was fantastic.”
Germany, undefeated in Pool B, faces Argentina later today. A victory from Germany may give the USA a window to sneak past Argentina in the final standings.
“We’ve always been fans of Germany,” said Bodimeade with a smile.
The United States faces Great Britain on Monday, August 18th at 6:00pm in the final pool play game of the Olympics.