Team USA celebrates after winning the bronze medal in a penalty shoot-out during the 2016 FIH Women's Hockey Champions Trophy at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park on June 26, 2016 in London.
The U.S. women’s field hockey team will bring home the bronze medal after defeating Australia in a shootout in their final Champions Trophy match Sunday at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.
The medal is the first for the U.S. at the annual gathering of the world’s top teams since 1995, when they won bronze in Mar del Plata, Argentina. It gives U.S. medal hopes a significant boost heading into the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
The U.S. had met the Aussies in the tournament’s opening match and came away with a 2-2 tie. However, instead of matching each Australian goal with one of their own as they did in the opener, the Americans found themselves on the short end of a 2-0 tally four minutes into the third quarter on Sunday.
That’s when the U.S. side went to work, powered by striker Katie Bam (née O’Donnell). A member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team, the former University of Maryland Terrapin pulled the U.S. to within one with a goal in the 42nd minute, then found the net again to even the match less than three minutes from its conclusion.
Melissa Gonzalez scored the game winner in the shootout as goalkeeper Jackie Briggs turned away all five Australian tries.
“It didn’t matter who we played, we’re just so happy with the result,” said Briggs after the win. “We worked really hard to keep it at 2-2. I made a few mistakes in the game, but I was just really thankful that the team had my back today. I knew that going into the shootout I just had to keep it out.”
The medal sends a statement that the United States is ready to challenge for a podium finish in Rio. Finishing last in the 12-team Olympic tournament four years ago, the American women entered this year’s Champions Trophy on a roll that would belie their No. 7 world ranking, having split a pair of games against the Netherlands, the world’s No. 1-ranked team, days prior to going to London. During pool play they played even with the world’s best, scoring draws against No. 3-ranked Australia and No. 4-ranked New Zealand and defeating host Great Britain before picking up the win Sunday.