The Indoor Pan Am Cup intensifies as US Mens and Womens Squads draw closer to finals

April 10, 2014, 1:33 p.m. (ET)

The Indoor Pan Am Cup intensifies as U.S. Men’s and Women’s Squads draw closer to finals

Every team has the same goal at the Pan American Cup: to win. In the post-match interviews, every time an athlete is asked what their objective is, the answer is the same, “To win the tournament and qualify for the 2015 World Cup.”  With the cancellation of the 2012 Championships, there hadn’t been an Indoor Pan Am event since 2010 so in some cases these athletes have been preparing for and waiting for this moment for years. 

Yesterday’s match for the U.S. Men’s Indoor Squad was a very tight, fast pace game against a much different Argentina side than their first game - which was a tough loss to Guyana. Fired up, Argentina came out hard from the gate and took a 2-0 lead with 4 minutes left in the half.

With proper ball movement and creative passing, Moritz Runzi (Boston, Mass.), put away USA’s first goal of the game, and headed into the halftime with a marginal deficit behind 1-2. USA felt the pressure from the Argentine press but was able to capitalize on a loose ball in front of the goal where Sebastian Scheurer (Greenwich, Conn.) made sure to hit the backboard and bring the score back to even at 2-2.

Only 2 minutes later, Mo Gandi (Ventura, Cali.) fed a ball into the circle where Rob Schilling (Long Beach, Cali.) one-timed it past the Argentina keeper to give USA its first lead of the match. This would not last long as Argentina, from a penalty corner rebound, was able to put away the second attempt to even the score 3-3.

USA showed extreme character, poise and confidence in their game plan heading into the final 10 minutes of a very intense match. Crowd cheering, legs burning and coaches directing, Scheurer was able to block the distractions out and put away an amazing reverse stick shot from the left corner to bring USA to a 4-3 lead and a victory in sight. Argentina pulled their goalie to give them an extra field player, but USA was professional and precise in their defense to lock in a win and a spot in the 2014 Pan Am Cup finals. The U.S. will meet Canada tonight at 6:15 p.m. local time (5:45 EST). 

“I am extremely proud and impressed with our guys patience and poise in all areas of the game,” said Coach Andrew Thornton. “We knew Argentina was going to come out firing on all cylinders. We are back to our preparation for our next game against Canada.”

Yesterday was day three of the Pan American Cup competition and marked the last day of round robin play for the women’s division. In the four-team tournament format, pool play standings determine the first crossover match-ups, so the Argentina game was the U.S. women’s teams opportunity to have a shot at finishing in first to meet the fourth place team.  The Argentina team was a bit of an enigma so far.  Canada had beaten Argentina by a shocking lopsided score of 10-0 and Uruguay had beaten them 4-0 in a tight game. In the Uruguay match there was no doubt that Argentina had brushed off their big loss to Canada and they carried that momentum in to last night’s game with the U.S. The U.S. women expected a battle and came to the court prepared for a fight. 

The U.S. Women’s Indoor Squad took the court against Argentina yesterday. Co-Captain Rachael Milne (Hatfield, Pa.) led the U.S. ladies out on the court for lineups and national anthems. It is during the anthems that the athletes are reminded of the importance of each match, that they are representing their countries. Both teams looked tentative in the first few minutes of the match. In the 5th minute, the U.S. women caught the Argentina team in the midst of a substitution and found themselves with a two versus the goalkeeper chance but a lifted pass ended the opportunity. The Argentinians drew their first penalty corner in the 6th minute, but U.S. keeper Maria Keesling (Downingtown, Pa.) turned the shot away.

Attacker Alexa Hoover (Collegeville, Pa.) brought hard pressure and stole the ball in the next minute but was unable to capitalize. Following another defensive corner and a near goal by Argentina, the U.S. begin to look tight and in the 12th minute they found themselves down by one after an attacker found a teammate on a cross ball from the right corner for an easy finish. That seemed to get them going again and in the next few minutes the U.S. had chances when Susan Ciufo (Bangor, Pa.) found the post from the left side of the circle and on their first attacking penalty corner, Amanda Fleischut (Doylestown, Pa.) just missed.  In the fifteenth minute, the pressure paid off and Fleischut scored on a corner off a pass from Hoover to even the score. The score remained at 1-1 through half time. 

Argentina came out firing in the second half and in the first minute attacker Emma Yanzi received a long ball down the left board and quickly fired a shot into the U.S. net to put them back up by one.  The U.S. women didn’t relent under the pressure and Erin Matson (Chadds Ford, Pa.) drew a corner in the 25th minute, but this time Ciufo’s shot went wide on the near side.  The intensity of the battle intensified and an Argentine shot from the right side nearly found the cage just a minute later but just missed the far post. 

In the 31st minute, the Argentina women earned another penalty corner but this time it was defender Lauren Hibshman (Allentown, Pa.) who made the defensive save and cleared the ball from the goal line. Just a few minutes later Kim Tunell (Wilmington, Del.) found Ciufo on a breakaway but the Argentine keeper saved Ciufo’s shot to keep the score at 1-2.  Under the trial rules implemented by the FIH and PAFH for the tournament, a coach may not substitute a field player or kicking back for a keeper until the last 5 minutes of the match.  At the 34th minute the U.S. called timeout and it appeared as if that was the game plan. That possible strategy was delayed, however, as Hoover drew a green card in the 36th minute to put the U.S. women down a player.  Argentina was able to earn a penalty corner and scored their third goal of the match in the 37th minute.  At the conclusion of the penalty period, goalkeeper Ashley Dalisera (Millersville, Md.) did indeed leave the game and Maeve Doherty (Millersville, Md.) entered the court as a field player with goalkeeping privileges.  Despite intense play for the last few minutes the U.S. ladies were unable to tally a goal and the match ended with a score of 1-3.  

“It was a tough loss for us, more so because we know that we did not perform up to our own expectations," said Coach Denise Zelenak. "There are no weak teams at this tournament so we need to be ready to compete at the highest level at all times. In this format tournament play starts tonight for every team, each match is a must win.” 

In the other Women's match last night, a hotly contested physical game ended with a total of 8 cards (1 green and 7 yellow) and a rare few minutes of 4-2 play and 3-3 play. Canada lost to Uruguay by a score of 2-4. The U.S. will meet Canada tonight in the first crossover match at 8:15 p.m. local time (7:45 EST). 

Be sure to check out highlights and interviews from the third day of competition at the Pan Am Cup play!

Men’s highlights:
Women’s highlights: