VALENCIA, Spain – June 11, 2015 – The U.S. Women’s National Team began their FIH Women’s Hockey World League Semifinals campaign on the second day of the event with a 2-0 win over Uruguay.
“The team’s objectives going into this tournament are to begin on the right foot and start the first match well, which we did and look to position ourselves for quarterfinal competition,” said Craig Parnham, U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach. “We’re looking to win that round and progress into the semifinals to put us in a strong position to qualify for the Olympics.”
The stage was set for USA to take the first steps on the road to achieve the goal of Olympic qualification at the Estadio de Hockey de Valencia on Spain’s East Coast. With a FIH World Ranking of 29th, Uruguay was looking to get their World League Semifinal journey back on track after coming unstuck against Germany in a 0-8 defeat the day before. In front of a rowdy crowd there to support both national teams and under overcast skies, play got underway. The first quarter began with USA dominating possession and controlling the flow of play. The high tempo that characterizes the USA style of play led to the ball being moved into the attack circle on numerous occasions with USA earning a solid string of attack corners in the early minutes, a pattern that was to continue through the match. Uruguay’s Janine Stanley received a green card in the 12th minute to round out the period. Despite close attempts, the scoreboard remained unmarked.
The red, white and blue continued their dominance into the second period where Team USA’s circle penetrations proved to outnumber Uruguay’s overall attack attempts. On defense, Team USA continued to put pressure on the ball pressing Uruguay into conceding possession in their own defensive half. The best early opportunity of the match fell to Jill Witmer (Lancaster, Pa.) who was able to intercept the ball and trail it into the circle to earn another corner opportunity.
It wasn’t until the 25th minute when Rachel Dawson (Berlin, N.J.) launched a drag flick from the center of the semicircle, flying over Uruguay’s keeper Rosanna Paselle to put USA into the lead 1-0. In the 46th minute Paige Selenski (Shavertown, Pa.) earned a green card quickly followed by Uruguay’s Federika Kempner’s green card in the 49th minute. Team USA’s agility was present throughout the match to maintain a steadfast attack.
“The physicality of the group and the work completed prior to Hockey World League certainly helped the girls sustain a high work rate and facilitate a very high number of positive outcomes in the opponent's defensive circle,” said Dave Hamilton, USA Field Hockey’s Director of Performance Science.
In the final minutes of play, a series of passes connecting USA athletes stretched across the pitch to find Kat Sharkey (Moosic, Pa.) unmarked in front of the goal. Sharkey made no mistake and capitalized on the opportunity by slamming it into the left corner of the cage to seal the win and the all-important three points for an earned victory. The match closed USA 2, Uruguay 0.
“We’ve put in the work and did the proper preparation,” said USA athlete Michelle Vittese (Cherry Hill, N.J.). “Today wasn’t perfect and it was frustrating not to connect on corners, but we hold each to extremely high standards. I have confidence we’ll be able to capitalize more in the games to come. This game was an important stepping stone to get the tournament underway. We needed to play, get our feet running and get into game mode. As long as we stick to the process we’ll be able to bring our best game to the pitch.”
The top four teams from the pool stages will meet in the quarterfinals on Thursday, June 18th. The top three finishers in each of the two World League Semifinals are guaranteed places in the 2016 Rio Olympics Games. Team USA continues on with Hockey World League Semifinals Saturday against South Africa 9 a.m. EST. Follow @USAFieldHockey on Twitter for live Team USA match updates. #UN1TED