LIMA, Peru – After a disappointing finish in the inaugural International Hockey Federation (FIH) Pro League, the U.S. women’s field hockey team looked to bounce back at the Pan American Games Lima 2019.
The team secured a bronze medal by defeating Chile 5-1 at Villa Maria del Triunfo. Erin Matson, a 19-year-old midfielder, notched a hat-trick, and the U.S defense held Chile scoreless in final three quarters to secure the victory. A 2-0 semifinal loss to Canada on Tuesday placed the U.S. in the bronze medal game.
“After Canada, we obviously were disappointed,” said Matson. “And we just wanted to make sure we came out with as much energy and left it all out here. We definitely proved a point today, how well we can play, and that we’re ready to take on anyone.”
After ending the first quarter in a 1-1 tie, the U.S. scored three goals, two coming from Matson, in a span of 5:03 during the second quarter to pull away from Chile. Most of Matson’s goals came from scrums near the goal line. The gritty midfielder described how she was able to find the ball in the mess of players.
“Honestly, as a team we’re very gritty, and just kind of ruthless in the circle,” she said. “Which we talked about having that attitude a lot. I think today everyone was just really looking to get outcomes in the circle, and I was just lucky enough to be on the ball – two times in there – and managed to put it away.”
The U.S. got off to a hot start by scoring in the first 1:54 of play. Lauren Moyer received the ball near the end line on the left side of the goal and fired a shot towards the net from a sharp angle. The ball bounced off Chilean goalkeeper Claudia Schuler’s right pad and trickled just past the goal line to give the U.S a 1-0 lead.
However, Chile managed to find the back of the net just 45 seconds later. The U.S. defense failed to close in on Maria De las Heras, who was standing wide open near the penalty spot. De las Heras received the pass and fired her third goal of the tournament past U.S. goalkeeper Kelsey Bing’s left shoulder to tie the score 1-1.
With the score tied 1-1 and 10:28 remaining in the first, Chile was awarded a penalty corner. All but Bing and four U.S. defenders had to clear the crease. As Chile fired the ball towards the net, Bing flung out her left pad. The shot thumped off her pad and skittered harmlessly to the left corner. With one save, Bing had changed the momentum of the game.
“She’s been great the whole tournament,” Matson said. “And I think that’s a big thing to learn from your mistake but not dwell on it. It’s kind of been a focus of ours as well to just put it behind us and keep on coming strong. The motivation of the team followed afterwards.”
Boasting two of the tournament’s top five scorers coming into the match, Maria Maldonado and Manuela Urroz Richter, Chile appeared primed to score in bunches. But after the motivating save, the young U.S. team led by captain Kathleen Sharkey shut down the goal scorers for the remainder of the game. Sharkey also added a goal of her own in the second quarter.
“I think a big part of it is a mental piece,” Sharkey said of watching the squad grow. “It’s them believing that they actually are world class field hockey players. I think that we have so many young players, and we need all of them to step up. And I think that’s different from teams in the past.”
The midfielder that has been with the national team since 2011 believes big things are on the horizon for USA Field Hockey. And much of it is due to the talents of Matson.
“I think the future of U.S. field hockey is so bright,” Sharkey, who also scored in the second quarter, said. “I think these past couple years we’ve been investing in younger players and getting them exposed to the international level earlier. And Erin Matson is unbelievable – that she’s only 19 years old – she plays like a veteran out there. She’s a special player that really only comes around once in a while. She showed up for the big game and did her thing.”