USA Field Hockey NEWS Team USA Deflects Ho...

Team USA Deflects Host Nation’s Opposition for Token Fifth Placement

June 21, 2015, 11:18 a.m. (ET)

VALENCIA, Spain – June 21, 2015 – The most sought-after souvenir at the Valencia FIH Women’s Hockey World League Semifinals didn't come in the form of an ornament or knickknack but rather a ticket to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. By challenging and upsetting the event’s host nation during the fifth and sixth place contention round, the U.S. Women’s National Field Hockey Team has better aligned themselves to earn an invitation to the five famous rings. Team USA secured a necessary fifth place finish with a score of USA 3, Spain 1.

“Throughout the tournament, I was pleased with how we set ourselves up,” said Craig Parnham, U.S. Women’s National Team Head Coach. “We created consistent chances. The only difference with the earlier part of the tournament is we didn’t take those chances. In the second part of the tournament we were able to convert chances making the results more helpful for us."

A clear, cloudless summer sky accompanied the final day of competition play. With heat radiating off the Estadio de Hockey de Valencia pitch, the United States took on 15th World Ranked Spain to determine a crucial fifth and sixth spot. Spain came off the starting line with tangible intensity driving into their attacking 25 yard line in relentless waves. United States defenders Rachel Dawson (Berlin, N.J.), Lauren Crandall (Doylestown, Pa.), Julia Reinprecht (Perkasie, Pa.) and Stefanie Fee (Virginia Beach, Va.) overseen by goalkeeper Alesha Widdall (Whitney Point, N.Y.) withstood the high volume of Spain’s attack pressure with numerous double team, block tackles. During the early match minutes, Spain carried the ball into the circle with the tremendous opportunity of an open cage to transform the score but a fast thinking Crandall denied the chance with a defensive save.

Spain’s relentless offensive momentum proved fruitful when Beatriz Perez wound up from the top left portion of their attack circle to mark the backboard in the 15th minute. Two minutes into the second period, off their first penalty corner of the match, Crandall cranked a direct shot from the stick stop to goal where Katie Reinprecht (Perkasie, Pa.) tipped the ball past the Spain’s keeper Maria Lopez. A low flick courtesy of USA’s Dawson, from a corner, precisely struck the left post, threatening to change the halftime score of USA 1, ESP 1.

Offensive energy was transferred to the red, white and blue’s attacking end in the second half. USA’s Kat Sharkey (Moosic, Pa.) boldly took the entire right baseline with electric speed and minimal angle to hit the left goal board. The equalizer was broken in the 40th minute with a new score of USA 2, Spain 1. Continuing that surge, Team USA took multiple dives into that attack zone looking to strike again.  Melissa Gonzalez (Mohegan Lake, N.Y.) zipped a ball into the circle from the right side of the pitch to find the reverse stick of Michelle Vittese (Cherry Hill, N.J.) to redirect the pass into the goal in the 56th minute. The final match report stood USA 3, Spain 1.

“The fact that we finished fifth is important and we’ll look to see what happens as far as Olympic qualification goes," said Parnham. "We look forward to the Pan American Games following this event."

The start of the tournament began 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 tie. The squad fell to Ireland 0-2 and Pan American rivals Argentina 0-3. USA rose against Ireland 6-1. Continue to follow @USAFieldHockey on Twitter for all national team news as we continue our quest to the 2016 Olympic Games at the Pan American Games from July 10-26. #UN1TED