USA Field Hockey

US women get first field hockey win

Aug. 16, 2008, 11:54 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) The U.S. women's field hockey team quickly made it clear that it hadn't given up its medal dreams.

Keli Smith scored 39 seconds into the match Saturday as the Americans went on to defeat New Zealand 4-1 for their first win of the Olympics. The victory kept the U.S. in contention for a berth in the semifinal round with one game remaining in pool play.

"The tournament's on the line," U.S. coach Lee Bodimeade said. "To put that performance on the field was fantastic."

Argentina's 4-0 win over Germany later in the day dimmed the Americans' hopes. Mathematically, the U.S. still has a chance to qualify for the medal round, but the Americans need to beat Britain on Monday and have Argentina lose badly to winless New Zealand.

Angela Loy scored in the 12th minute to give the U.S. a 2-0 lead. New Zealand's Joanne Galletly scored less than two minutes into the second half, but the U.S. countered quickly, with another goal by Smith in the 42nd minute and a final goal by Kayla Bashore in the 47th.

"When we conceded the one goal, we all just looked at each other and just regained our composure and stood tall and pushed forward," team captain Kate Barber said. "Then, we went back on the attack and executed some really nice penalty corners."

The U.S. improved to 1-1-2 in Group B. New Zealand remained winless, but this was its worst defeat. New Zealand's previous losses, to Germany, Japan and Britain, had been by 2-1 scores.

The margin of victory was important for the Americans because goal differential is a tiebreaker, yet the U.S. nearly lost ground in that area in the closing seconds. New Zealand had a penalty corner and got off a good shot, but Barber backed up goalie Amy Tran and poked it away with one second remaining.

Bodimeade knew that play could have been the difference between medaling and not medaling.

"I'm looking back at it now," he said. "The skipper (Barber) put the hand up, thank goodness, and made the save. That's as good as knocking another one in at the other end. I was very proud of the way they defended that final corner."

Argentina might have rendered that outstanding save pointless with a blowout victory over the 2004 Olympic champions. The game was scoreless at halftime, but Claudia Burkhart scored in the 38th minute, then Alejandra Gulla scored in the 49th to make it 2-0.

Argentina, knowing the importance of point differential, never let up. Gulla scored again in the 66th minute, then Luciana Aymar added another goal two minutes later.

The Netherlands defeated Australia 2-1 in a matchup of unbeatens in Group A to clinch a berth in the medal round. Maartje Paumen scored both Dutch goals, including the game winner in the 46th minute.

In other matches, China defeated South Korea 6-1 and Britain defeated Japan 2-1 on a goal by Crista Cullen in the 70th minute.

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