CHULA VISTA, CA - The USA Field Hockey Women's National Team defeated Belgium today, 3-0, in their third game of competition at the AtaHolding Women's World Cup Qualifier at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CA. The winner of the Qualifier receives a berth in the Women's World Cup in Rosario, Argentina this September.
Katie O'Donnell scored one goal and assisted another as the USA faced their first major challenge in the tournament. Belgium, previously undefeated in Qualifier play, held the USA offense at bay for times and pressured hard in the second half.
"It was a tough match," said Head Coach Lee Bodimeade. "We were up against a quality opponent today. We're pleased to get the win."
The USA was aggressive early, pushing into the French backfield and forcing penalty corners. On several occasions, USA shots were blocked, but Belgium failed to clear the ball from their own end. The USA players intercepted the attempts to clear and went right back in for another try.
The USA finally broke through in the 23rd minute, when Rachel Dawson fired a penalty corner blast for the first goal.
"At that moment it was 0-0, and I knew we needed a goal," said Dawson. "Lee gave me the first one [to strike] and it hit a Belgian foot, so we got another and he went with me again. He showed a lot of confidence in me. From there we controlled the first half."
Katie O'Donnell added a second goal in the 30th minute.
"It didn’t come easily," said O'Donnell. "There was some great passing by Carrie Lingo, and then Sara Silvetti seemed to tee it up for me and I hit it out the air."
"We wanted to get ahead early because we knew they would come at us in the second half," said Bodimeade.
Indeed, the balance of play shifted to Belgium in the second half. The second half began as a mirror image of the first, as Belgium forced play into the USA backfield. Belgium pressured the American defense and had opportunities to score.
"Belgium brought more pressure in the second half," said Bodimeade. "They had periods of ascendancy. There's no doubt about that."
"Belgium really had a go at us in the second half," said goalkeeper Amy Tran. "They really came out firing. But it was great to be challenged. I think our whole team stepped up."
The USA weathered the assault and did not allow a Belgium to get back into the game.
"I felt we were under control," said Bodimeade. "The shots they were getting were from wide angles and from deep in the circle. They created opportunities. But the best way to stop that is to go down and hit another goal."
In the 67th minute, Belgium's press resulted in a breakaway for Katie O'Donnell. Streaking past a defender, she spotted Katie Evans on the far side of the field. O'Donnell dumped the ball to Evans, and Evans scored the goal.
"I passed the defender running as fast as I could," said O'Donnell, "and then I saw Katie standing there, and I didn't know if I should shoot it or pass it but Katie was absolutely wide open, so I passed it."
Evans' goal shut the door on Belgium's attempted comeback.
"We put one away on them in their strongest press against us," said Tran.
"To be able to withstand the pressure they brought and then score a goal under that pressure relieved a lot of the tension," said Bodimeade. "That was fantastic."
"We threw everything we had at them today," said Belgium coach Murray Richards. "It wasn't enough. It's disappointing."
"In the second half we were playing more aggressively," said Belgium's Charlotte de Vos. "If we score one there it's a whole different game. But we didn't."
Katie O'Donnell's continues to elevate her game, as she has scored a goal in all three tournament games.
"It's awesome," said O'Donnell. "We couldn't have asked for a better end than shutout victory against one of the better teams here. This tournament is getting better and better for me."
The USA will face Korea on, Wednesday March 29 at 2:30 pm Pacific in a possible preview of the tournament final. Korea sits above the USA in first place with three wins, but owns an +11 goal differential after demolishing Mexico today, 11-0.
Six of the world's top field hockey nations have traveled to San Diego for a chance to play in one of the world's top international competitions. Playing on their home field, the USA Women’s Olympic Field Hockey Team welcomes traditional Pan American rivals Canada and Mexico, as well as Belgium, France and Korea. The tournament champion will head to the BDO FIH 2010 Women’s World Cup Rosario, Argentina in September. USA Field Hockey, the national governing body for field hockey in the United States, will host the Qualifier.
Tickets to all games are now available. The AtaHolding Women’s World Cup Qualifier features 18 matches over six days of competition. Competition days feature three matches per day. Additional ticket promotions are also available, including discounts for military personnel.
For more information on the 2010 AtaHolding Women’s World Cup Qualifier, visit www.usafieldhockey.com/worldcupqualifier.