New Zealand puts U.S. out of medal contention

Aug. 04, 2012, 4:26 p.m. (ET)

LONDON – The U.S. had had high hopes of contending for a medal in London, but tonight their Olympic dream was shattered. It was a match the U.S. had to win, and they came up one goal short against a strong New Zealand side.

In a post-game press conference, Head Coach Lee Bodimeade spoke about the devastating loss. “We trained four years to maximize our achievements at the Olympic Games and we know that tonight’s result has put us short of our goals. The scenario today was that one team was headed forward in the tournament and the other team is going to really struggle. It is devastating for us.”

Clarissa Eshuis’s goal in the final minutes of the match put New Zealand up 3-2, and ultimately eliminated the U.S. from the medal rounds, while keeping the Black Sticks alive for a spot in the semi-finals.

“We came into this game knowing we needed to get three points to keep going in the tournament and tonight we feel short and didn’t execute at the key moments,” said captain Lauren Crandall.   

New Zealand was successful at capitalizing on penalty corners, scoring their first of three goals just 70 seconds after the first whistle blew.

A great run by Paige Selenski (Shavertown, Pa.) set Katie O’Donnell (Blue Bell, Pa.) up for the equalizer in the 17th minute.

New Zealand battled back, drawing a penalty corner immediately following the U.S. goal and once again capitalizing to take the lead, 2-1. Kayla Sharland’s shot pinballed around the circle before sneaking past Amy Swensen (Grantville, Pa.). The U.S. argued danger, but the video review was denied and the goal was upheld.

The U.S. was awarded a penalty corner with two minutes remaining in the half. Claire Laubach (Centreville, Va.) netted her first goal of the tournament, when her shot was deflected off the pads of New Zealand’s goalkeeper and a defender’s stick. The match was back to even, 2-2, at the end of the first half.

New Zealand continued to attack and pressure the U.S. defensive unit in the second half.

“We were able to defend really well,” said Bodimeade. “In the second half when we applied pressure, I thought we may have been able to get a result. But when you are playing at the Olympic Games and facing a side as good as New Zealand… if you don’t take chances, the game slips away.”

Swensen had a string a crucial saves that kept the U.S. in the game and hopeful of a victorious finish. However, after New Zealand tallied a third goal, Bodimeade made the decision to pull Swensen from the cage for an extra field player.

The U.S. created a number of chances, but couldn’t get the goal they were looking for to at least draw the match. New Zealand added three points and a win to improve to a 3-0-1 in the preliminary rounds.

The U.S. will play in their final preliminary match against South Africa on Monday, August 6 at 10:45 a.m. The match will be broadcast live on NBC Sports Network at 5:45 a.m. ET. South Africa has yet to win a match at Riverbank Arena in London’s Olympic Park. The U.S. will look to finish the preliminary rounds on a high note.

“The goal now is the same goal that we had when we came into this tournament, which is to win one game at a time,” said Crandall. “I think taking that attitude into South Africa is what we really need to focus on. This is one that hurts, but we still need to come out in the next game and play our best.”