U.S. Women began their fight for the Paralympic podium against Brazil, on the first day of competition in Rio. Team USA’s first preliminary game against the host nation resulted in a 7-3 loss with Brazil taking advantage of penalty shots to win the game. But at the bronze medal final, it was Team USA’s turn to take advantage of penalties.
Team USA took the lead from the beginning, scoring on a Brazilian long ball penalty. Minutes later, Jen Armbruster pitched the goalball past Brazil’s right wing to extend their lead, 2-0. Brazil answered by popping the ball over Armbruster to get on the board. At the half, the score was 2-1.
Armbruster, Asya Miller and Amanda Dennis returned to the court in the second half and continued their strategy of patience. Brazil allowed one more penalty shot by Armbruster before they were able to score their second even strength goal to make the score 3-2 with 3 minutes left in the game.
Brazil increased the pace of their play, hoping to tie the score and keep their chance at the Paralympic podium alive, but were unable to break through the U.S. Women’s defense before the final buzzer.
It was a battle of the defenses and Team USA’s was more solid. The team looked much like they did against Canada in the quarterfinals, where they allowed no goals the entire 24 minutes.
“It was fitting that we got it done,” said Armbruster. “It’s great to come back from the loss to Turkey last night - to put that out of our minds and come out here and play the defense we know we needed to play. We were patient, executed the shots we needed to on a couple of those penalty shots and didn’t get flustered when they came within one [point].”
After being eliminated from the competition in the quarterfinals at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, the U.S. have been hungry for redemption since qualifying for the 2016 Paralympic Games and the 2014 IBSA World Goalball Championships. This win is redemptive, especially for Armbruster, who will retire after Rio.
"It’s good to go home with a medal for sure,” said Armbruster. “But it means a lot to go out representing our country on the medal stand.”
While this is another medal to add to the collection for veterans Armbruster and Miller, this is a first Paralympic medal for Dennis, who made her Paralympic debut at the London 2012 Games.
“It means so much,” said Dennis. “We’ve put in four years of hard work. After we got devastated in London, we were all committed to getting onto the podium. It just means so much.”
This is Team USA’s sixth Paralympic medal in women’s goalball. The U.S. will be the only nation with two teams on the medal stand at the victory ceremony tonight in Rio. U.S. Men will play for gold against Lithuania at 8 p.m. BRT.