USA Field Hockey NEWS PHOTO GALLERY: Team ...

PHOTO GALLERY: Team USA Clinches Key Match to Establish 5th and 6th Placement

June 20, 2015, 12 a.m. (ET)

Team USA Clinches Key Match to Establish 5th and 6th Placement
The U.S. Women’s National Team defeats Ireland 6-1

VALENCIA, Spain – June 20, 2015 – Meeting for the second time at Estadio de Hockey de Valencia, at the center of its infamous electric rimmed orange and blue belly pitch, the U.S. Women’s National Team contended against Ireland late Saturday morning. Previously at FIH Hockey World League Semifinal, the international squads met for the last spout of pool play where the 14th World Ranked Green Army was able to pull ahead 2-0 despite USA’s statistical victories of possession, shots on goal, circle penetrations and corners. This time, USA and Ireland commenced the weekend’s final playoff matches to determine 5th-8th placement. Aware that capturing fifth place at Hockey World League Semifinal heightens a national team’s opportunity for selection to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, the pressure to perform at max capacity for 60 minutes was present. A feat the United States accomplished as they rose above Ireland 6-1.

“There’s no real difference from one game to the next here,” said Craig Parnham, Head Coach of the U.S. Women’s National Team. “I am very pleased with the number of chances we created as I was the last time we played Ireland. All it was for this match was that a couple of them went in and it gives you a bit of momentum. That’s the business we’re in. It can flip from one way to another just on the heartbeat of a goal.”

Quick off the starting line, the red, white and blue was able to burst into their attacking semicircle first and kept momentum flowing in their favor. With 22 circle penetrations verses Ireland’s five in the first half, dynamic offense was established in the early minutes of the match. These chances led to USA Captain Lauren Crandall’s (Doylestown, Pa.) punctuation on back-to-back penalty corners in the 8th and 9th minutes of play. Pulling ahead on the scoreboard, the USA wasn’t content and continued to claim territory in their attacking end.

The offensive tempo continued for the USA, not resting on their halftime goal gap. USA's Kat Sharkey (Moosic, Pa.) dished the ball to Paige Selenski (Shavertown, Pa.) who challenged Ireland's keeper Emma Gray with a backhanded shot. On the opposite end of the pitch, USA's goalkeeper Alesha Widdall (Whitney Point, N.Y.) delivered a diving save to keep Ireland at zero.

The scoreboard was stagnant until a pass was served to a goal-hungry Katie O'Donnell (Blue Bell, Pa.) in the sweet spot of the circle, who took no time to slam a ball into the cage during the 35th minute. O’Donnell wasn’t finished, keeping her eyes on the target during a scramble in front of the goal mouth following a corner. She translated the chance into another goal in the 41st minute. Echoing this mark in the 43rd minute of play, USA's Widdall saved Ireland’s first attempt to break the goal line but Anna O’Flanagan prevailed off the follow-up to change the score USA 4, Ireland 1.

Another tussle in USA’s attack semicircle permitted Selenski's backhanded shot to hit the net in the 47th minute, upping the score USA 5, Ireland 1. USA’s frenzy of goals was capped by a golden opportunity to challenge Ireland’s Gray solo and Jill Witmer (Lancaster, Pa.) capitalized on the chance. The final match recorded a score of USA 6, Ireland 1.

“Tomorrow is obviously an important moment,” said Parnham. “It’s an opportunity for us to try and finish 5th in the tournament which is an important part of our process, completing an event strong. It’ll be a tough match, but we’ll do our homework and prepare accordingly.”

The beginning of the tournament started with a 2-0 win over Uruguay as well as a 4-1 victory over South Africa. Team USA and Germany left the pitch with 2-2 draw. The squad lost to Ireland 0-2 and Pan American rivals Argentina 0-3. The United States will play Spain for their final game on Sunday, June 21 to solidify 5th or 6th place. Follow @USAFieldHockey on Twitter for live Team USA match updates. A live broadcast of FIH Women’s Hockey World League Semifinals can be viewed by subscribing to Willow. #UN1TED