US Indoor Squads conclude 2014 Pan Am Cup with podium finishes
The 2014 Pan American Cup concluded with well-deserved podium finishes for the U.S. Women's and Men's National Teams in Montevideo, Uruguay.The U.S. Women solidified a bronze medal against the host nation Uruguay while the U.S. Men clinched a silver medal for their performance against Canada.
The U.S. Men's Indoor Team competed against Canada in the final medal round of the Pan Am Cup. Canada took an early lead into the start of the game. U.S. faced high pressure throughout the half and were not able to capitalize on opportunities created. Coach Andrew Thornton calmed the men down during the break and reminded them that we are still alive in this game and to keep fighting. Going into the second half, behind, Team USA was able to keep possession and gain comfort on the ball. Not even 2 minutes into the 2nd half, Sebastian Scheurer (Greenwich, Conn.) was fed a ball from the right corner to the top of the circle where he one-timed it into the net, edging the score to 2-1 and swinging the momentum USA’s way.
The next 10 minutes the fight was end to end for both teams. The intensity was kept high and at minute 32 Canada converted on a penalty corner to notch the score at 3-1. Coach Thornton called a time out with 7 minutes left to discuss pulling the goalie. Inside 5 minutes, with a kicking back on the pitch, Mo Runzi (Boston, Mass.) found the back of the net bringing the score to 3-2. USA kept high pressure up a player and missing the tying goal by only a few inches on a couple occasions. Unfortunately, Canada earned a penalty corner where they increased their lead at 4-2. Time expired and USA fell short to a quality Canadian team who has won many Pan Am titles during the years.
“I am really proud of the guys this evening, we showed character to come back from 2-0 down," said Coach Thornton. "We went for it at the end, when we pulled our goalkeeper. We had a couple of looks to tie the game but it was not to be. Canada pressed us really well an took their chances. They deserved the victory and I wish them all the best at the World Cup.”
The U.S. Women had an early wake up call Friday on their off day. The bus was picking them up at 7:00 a.m. to take them to their 2 hour practice session. The gym was dark when they arrived and mosquitoes buzzed in the air. The team looked tired but ready to play again. The result of the match the night before was disappointing but it was time to put that out of their minds and get back to work. If the bronze medal remained the best result they could achieve then that’s what they would do. By the time practice ended the spirits were up, feet were flying and the goal was clear again.
Today the team showed up at the British Schools looking determined and ready to play. The first few minutes of the match were tentative and the U.S. Women got their first scoring opportunity in the 4th minute but the Uruguayan keeper turned away the shot of Susan Ciufo (Bangor, Pa.). They quickly earned their first penalty corner in the next minute but a foul on the exchange kept the U.S. from getting a shot off. In the 8th minute forward Erin Matson (Chadds Ford, Pa.) intercepted a pass and found Kim Tunell (Wilmington, Del.) on the counter attack to earn another penalty corner. Again they were unable to get a shot on net despite a second penalty corner.
In minute 11 Ciufo stole the ball away and countered to earn a free hit at Uruguay’s defensive circle. On the ensuing free hit co-captain Rachael Milne (Hatfield, Pa.) found t (DoyleAmanda Fleischustown, Pa.) at the left post for the finish and a 1-0 lead. More opportunities came when Alexa Hoover (Collegeville, Pa.) stole the ball from a Uruguayan defender but she wasn’t able to convert the chance. Pressure built and in the 16th min Matson earned a green card and the U.S. played down a man for the next minute. Uruguay took advantage and earned a penalty corner but Maria Keesling (Downingtown, Pa.) blocked the shot and the U.S. suddenly found another counter attack. They were able to earn a penalty corner of their own but on the insert the ball skipped off the floor and no shot opportunity came.
In the closing minute of the half Tunell sent a long ball down the right board and found Fleischut who earned another corner. A Uruguayan defender intercepted the option pass and flew down the court in the final seconds of the half but goalkeeper Keesling tackled her at the circle edge to preserve the lead.
Uruguay came out strong in the second half and drew a penalty corner in just the 23rd minute. This time the shot found the back on the next and the match was evened at 1-1. The U.S. women countered with a penalty corner of their own but were unable to convert again. Just a minute later Keesling came up with another big save but Uruguay was able to earn another penalty corner in the 26th minute. This time it was Tunell’s turn for the interception to deny Uruguay a shot on goal.
In the 29th minute Uruguay earned a green card for a hard foul to put the U.S. Women on a man advantage for a minute. Uruguay fought through the penalty and in the 31st minute an attacker evaded Keesling at the circle edge and found a teammate at the top of the circle shot a shot on goal that was saved by Ciufo. U.S. Coach Denise Zelenak asked for a timeout with 9 minutes left in the match to go and laid out her game plan for the remainder of the match. Play coming out of the timeout was even until the 36th minute when Uruguay drew another penalty corner. Again they were unable to convert but a second corner was awarded when the shot hit a U.S. defender. On the next corner Keesling again blocked the direct shot and sent the ball down the court. In the last minute of play both teams drew yellow cards and the last moments of the match were played short handed. Regulation ended with the match in a tie at 1-1.
After a short break each coach named their goalkeepers and three attackers for the shootout. The U.S. would defend first with Keesling taking the net. She successfully defended against Sofia Mora of Uruguay but Rachael Milne’s shot on the next chance found the post. On the second round, Keesling made a hard stick tackle on Lucia Lamberti and a second chance was awarded. This time Lamberti got her shot off but the ball missed and struck the post harmlessly. Ciufo stepped up for the U.S. women and neatly fed the ball past Uruguayan goalkeeper Rossana Passelle Decia to take a 1-0 lead.
In the final turn, Uruguayan attacker Carolina Mutilva found the back of the net to even the score. 14-year-old Matson stepped up for the U.S. Matson used just a few of the allotted six seconds and neatly slipped the ball past Paselle Decia for the win.
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**Photos courtesy of PH. Blair Sheir and Pan American Hockey Federation