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Mammoth Cap Accomplishments Mark World League Semifinals, 600 Caps Among Three U.S. Olympians

June 13, 2015, 11:41 a.m. (ET)

Mammoth Cap Accomplishments Mark World League Semifinals, 600 Caps Among Three U.S. Olympians
The U.S. Women’s National Team Overcomes South Africa 4-1

VALENCIA, Spain – June 13, 2015 – Three seasoned veterans of the U.S. Women’s National Team are commemorated for their contributed leadership and skill during their continued tenure with Team USA. For Olympian Melissa Gonzalez (Mohegan Lake, N.Y.) (150 caps), two-time Olympian Katelyn Falgowski (Landenberg, Pa.) (200 caps) as well as captain and two-time Olympian Lauren Crandall (Doylestown, Pa.) (250 caps), the recognition comes at a time where their extensive experience on the pitch is vital. In Valencia, on their quest to secure 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games  selection, Team USA’s second match at FIH Hockey World League is recorded as a  4-1 win against South Africa.

The match kicked off in dramatic fashion as lively volley in the midfield for possession began, a foreshadowing of the intense battle that was about to ensue. Within the opening minutes of the game, Team USA secured their first penalty corner opportunity against 11th FIH World Ranked South Africa. A diving safe from South Africa’s keeper kept the game up for grabs. In the 7th minute of play, South Africa’s Dirkie Chamberlain regained control of a bouncy ball in their attacking end and at close range was able to hit USA's keeper Jackie Briggs’ (Robesonia, Pa.) pad at the right angle to create a score of USA 0, South Africa 1.

Reflecting on what she has learned from her journey of collecting a stack of caps, Falgowski says she gathered the mentality of resilience which was necessary to maintain for today’s match.

“No matter what, don’t stop fighting, don’t ever quit,” said Falgowski. “Don’t ever get down on yourself. There’s always hope. Today that was evident. Together as a unit we were able to get the performance and result we wanted because we never stopped believing in each other.” 

There were no lulls in Team USA’s response to the board change. Rapid fire shots from the attack line and the reward of earned penalty corners were a present theme until the final seconds of the first half. Gonzalez was able to whip a wicked backhanded shot on cage without result. This was quickly followed by Katie O'Donnell’s (Blue Bell, Pa.) supreme ball control to draw in a RSA defender and force an error, earning Team USA one of the many attack corners of the half. It wasn’t until the 29th minute where off of an attack corner did Crandall rip a shot down the left channel where it nicked off a South African athlete’s stick and into the net for an equalizer.

The United States carried momentum from the first half into the second when in the 33rd minute a clever give-and-go play from Michelle Vittese (Cherry Hill, N.J.) to Falgowski created the necessary space for Falgowski to crank the ball into the cage for USA to take the lead. On the opposite end of the pitch, Briggs made a crucial save by cutting off right post access to a backboard bound ball to keep their opponent’s at a lone goal. Despite South Africa valiant attempts run into their attack 25 yard line, defenders Stefanie Fee (Virginia Beach, Va.) and Julia Reinprecht (Perkasie, Pa.) were able to shut down the offense.

In the 49th minute, Paige Selenski (Shavertown, Pa.) positioned herself on the left side of the semicircle to send a smooth cross to forward Kat Sharkey (Moosic, Pa.) who redirected the ball to break the goal line barrier. Mirroring this play, in the 59th minute, another quick cross from USA attacker Kelsey Kolojejcheck (Larksville, Pa.) took a sharp path to Jill Witmer (Lancaster, Pa.) who bashed the ball into the net. The final result of today’s Pool B match was made permeant with a score of USA 4 - RSA 1. 

“What’s so beautiful about our team right now is the pop-up leadership and culture,” said Gonzalez. “Whether it’s your first cap or your 150th cap there is a unified sense of belief. We were down today, but we were never out.”

The three landmark cap recipients wish to thank their families, friends and coaches to propel them to this achievement. 

“I dedicate this cap to anyone who has worn the U.S. jersey, of any sport, at any time,” said Crandall with patriotic pride.

Previously the United States defeated Uruguay 2-0 with an unrelenting attack in the first round of pool play. Team USA continues on with FIH Hockey World League Semifinals play Sunday against Germany 9 a.m. EST. Follow @USAFieldHockey on Twitter for live Team USA match updates.  View the Hockey World League Semifinal by subscribing to Willow, who will be live streaming the tournament.  #UN1TED