TACARIGUA, Trinidad – April 7, 2016 – With more than a prized first place title up for grabs at the Junior Women's Pan American Championship, nine teams from around the world continue to bring their best to the pitch for event gold and an automatic berth to 2016 Junior Women's World Cup in Chile. Today, the U.S. U-21 Women’s National Team took another step closer toward a championship medal while also solidifying their selection to the World Cup. With their 5-0 win over Chile in the Semifinal round, Team USA became a contender for the World Cup by becoming one of the top-two finishers of the Junior Pan American Championship. The red, white and blue will enter Pan American Championship finals against Argentina on Saturday.
Accumulating a total of 40 tournament goals to date and only conceding one lone goal, Team USA took the pitch looking to keep their undefeated event streak alive. Despite Chile's strong counter attack against USA, our defenders held composure to come up with the ball and dish play to Margaux Paolino (Villanova, Pa.) who, with some stick skills in the right hand side of the pitch, grabbed USA's first penalty corner. USA's initial penalty corner attempt was broken, but they were rewarded with a long corner in the opening minutes of play. As a result, USA's Tara Vittese (Cherry Hill, N.J.) tested Chile's backfield with a straight drive to cage that glided inches away from the goal post.
Together as a unit USA continued to press high, forcing Chile at the midfield line to be extra cautious with their passing to keep play away from the eager sticks of the USA. All of Team USA's hard work from pressing paid off in the 17th minute when off of an interception, a great passing combination from Vittese to Gab Major (Royersford, Pa.) on the baseline led to Paolino who locked in the team's first goal. The score became USA 1, Chile 0. Continuing with an attacking mentality, Laura Hurff (Newark, Del.) with an interception found Vittese who launched a hard shot on cage that went just wide of the post. On the opposite end of the pitch, Chile earned their first penalty corner of the match in the 19th minute. USA's keeper Kelsey Bing (Houston, Texas) absorbed the direct shot to let Vittese sweep the ball out of danger and transition the ball to the offensive end of the field.
In the 22nd minute of play, Erin Matson (Chadds Ford, Pa.) notched the team's second goal of the game from a penalty corner. Matson sent a clean insert to Ashley Hoffman (Mohnton, Pa.) who sent the ball back to baseline where Matson redirected the ball into the net to create a new score of USA 2, Chile 0. The first half came to a close with a score of USA 2, Chile 0.
From the starting line, Chile sprinted into their attacking end to earn their second penalty corner of the match but was unable to convert. Play transitioned to the USA's offensive circle where a sharp pass split Chile's defender and goalkeeper to locate Julianna Tornetta (Plymouth Meeting, Pa.) who just missed the cage on a redirection. In the 41st minute, J. Tornetta received the ball again to tip a pass to Lauren Moyer (York, Pa.) who sent a hard shot into the back of the cage to make it USA 3, Chile 0. In the 43rd minute, Team USA lit up the scoreboard again with a precisely placed drag flick courtesy of Hoffman to transform the goal count to USA 4, Chile 0.
Without a lull in play, Nicole Woods (Beverly, Mass.) developed a 1v1 situation with Chile's goalkeeper. Woods launched a drive on target, but the shot hit the post. Staying persistent, Paolino snagged a ball from a Chilean offender in USA's defensive end. She was able to propel a leading pass to Vittese who anticipated the forward movement to then connect the ball to Major. The quick passing created an numbers up attack in the attacking circle but Chile's defense cut off the aggressive forward action. In the later stages of the game, Chile earned back-to-back penalty corners but USA's keeper Bing denied entry past the goal line. In the 64th minute, Matson capitalized on a Chilean defender's error, set herself up for a crisp backhanded shot and delivered the ball to the goal turning the score USA 5, Chile 0. As the match minutes began to expire, signaling the end of the Semifinals, USA's defense kept calm under Chilean pressure with poise, taking care of the ball in critical areas of the pitch. The game closed USA 5, Chile 0.
USA will enter the final against an undefeated Argentina Saturday April 9 at 4 p.m. EST to crown a tournament victor. Follow usafieldhockey.com for more tournament updates and watch the final live by clicking here. #UN1TED