BEIJING (AP) The U.S. women's field hockey team got the same message in its seventh-place match it had been receiving throughout the Olympics - close, but not quite there yet.
Spain defeated the United States 3-2 Wednesday, with Rocio Ybarra scoring on a penalty corner late in the second extra period.
The Americans completed the tournament having earned a win against New Zealand and draws with Argentina, Japan and Britain. The team's other loss was to defending Olympic champion Germany.
The draw with Argentina, the world's No. 2-ranked team, was the highlight. But especially against Britain and Spain, the effort was there, but numerous opportunities were wasted in two matches that well could have been wins.
"It's probably no real one thing that we can pinpoint," U.S. coach Lee Bodimeade said. "The way the girls played throughout the tournament gave to belief that we could have come away with some more wins. We're going to be better for this Olympics and this experience, but it's (the loss to Spain) a hard one to take along the way."
In the other early game, South Korea defeated Japan 2-1 for ninth place. It was a disappointing finish for Japan, which was ranked No. 5 in the world.
The U.S. qualified for the Olympics for the first time since 1996, when it was given a host bid, and won its way in for the first time since the 1988 games. The American showing in Beijing wasn't so bad, considering their world ranking of 11th was the second-worst among the qualifiers.
The U.S. rolled through its qualifier in April but struggled to score at times during the Olympics. The three draws caught up with the Americans and kept them out of the medal round.
"We were successful against a lower level of competition, but when it really matters, we need to step up," Bodimeade said.
U.S. captain Kate Barber said the lack of experience on a world stage was a factor in the results.
"I think with more experience on these top levels, as we continue to play against the best teams in the world on a consistent basis, that's what's really going to continue to develop this team and this program."
The Americans seemingly had Spain beaten when Angela Loy scored in the 59th minute to give her team a 2-1 lead.
American Carrie Lingo was sent off after getting a yellow card late in regulation, and Spain took advantage when Raquel Huertas scored in the 68th minute to force extra time. Ybarra's goal came in the 84th minute, about 90 seconds before the match would have gone to penalty strokes.
Barber said the timing of Spain's last two goals left some bitterness, but she believes the Americans will learn from the games.
"We have nothing to be ashamed of," Barber said. "We played very, very well and gave it everything we could out there. Unfortunately, Spain just kept coming at us."