By Sarah Higgins | July 22, 2015, 11:56 p.m. (ET)
The United States women's field hockey team celebrates during a match against Spain at Polideportivo Virgen del Carmen during the Hockey World League semifinal on June 21, 2015 in Valencia, Spain.


Watch the Pan American Games on the networks of ESPN.

TORONTO -- When the U.S. women’s field hockey team stepped off the pitch after defeating Canada, 3-0, the athletes knew they had earned a trip to the gold-medal game at the 2015 Pan American Games. 

What they didn’t know? With the win, they had qualified the United States for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

“We just qualified?” Katie O’Donnell asked, tearing up, when told the team had qualified for the Games. “I’m like a giddy kid on Christmas right now.”

The U.S. will face Argentina in the gold-medal game Friday. The top-ranked country in the tournament, Argentina, won its semifinal against Chile, 5-0, earlier Wednesday. The winner of the Pan American Games qualifies for Rio, but since Argentina has already qualified for the Olympics through its finish at the FIH Hockey World League Semifinal, the U.S. has now punched its ticket to Rio by virtue of both teams advancing to the final at the Pan Am Games.

Kelsey Kolojejchick opened the scoring in the ninth minute to give Team USA a quick 1-0 lead. Canada gave the Americans a defensive battle, though, and with some key saves from goalkeeper Jaclyn Briggs, the U.S. was able to keep the 1-0 lead into the half.

Team USA came out with more firepower in the second half. Kolojejchick tallied her second goal of the game in the 47th minute to put the Americans up 2-0. With just two minutes left in the game, Alyssa Manley’s shot found the net and sealed the win for Team USA.

“To come out in a semifinal with three goals is really good,” O’Donnell said.

At the London 2012 Olympic Games, Team USA went 1-4-0 and failed to move out of pool play. Since then, Team USA has won critical matches on their path to Olympic redemption, including winning the 2014 Champions Challenge and finishing fourth at the 2014 World Cup, the United States’ best finish in 20 years.

Watch the Pan American Games on the networks of ESPN.

So far at the Pan Ams, Team USA has gone undefeated, beating Uruguay, Chile, Cuba and Dominican Republic before overcoming host nation Canada to earn a spot in the final.

“To make it there with all these awesome girls,” O’Donnell said, “I can’t explain how emotional it makes me.”

Team USA has not allowed a single goal against, outscoring its opponents 37-0.

“To have that be our qualifying game,” O’Donnell said of facing Canada at home, “is something you will always remember throughout your career.”

Team USA will face Argentina on July 24 for the title of Pan American champion.

“We’ve got a job to do,” team captain Lauren Crandall said. “The journey continues. Right now, it’s about this final game versus Argentina and the process we go through.”

“Because of all the hard work we do at home,” O’Donnell said, “to come out here and qualify and do the job, it makes it all worthwhile.”

The members of the 2016 U.S. Olympic Women's Field Hockey Team will be selected by June 27, 2016.