U-21 USWNT Complete a Successful Training Weekend with a Win Over Duke University

Feb. 14, 2016, 8 p.m. (ET)

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – February 14, 2016 – The U-21 U.S. Women's National Team concluded their training camp weekend with a college scrimmage against Duke University. Team USA secured a win as a result of shootouts after finishing regulation time with a score of 2-2. 

"Today was a good game for us," said Janneke Schopman, U-21 USWNT Head Coach. "I think Duke came out to battle and contest. At the beginning of the match we struggled with that a bit, but we created a lot of good opportunities in the first half. Duke defended well and that was a good challenge. It's important that we continue to develop these scoring opportunities even if it doesn't always go our way."  

Team USA and Duke performed admirably as they maintained an impenetrable 25 yard stretch from both defensive ends. Combatting the harsh weather, a low of 14 degrees, the teams struggled to keep consistent possession in the midfield. The first circle entry, made by Team USA was blocked by Duke's Morgan Bitting with a fierce jab, clearing the ball to the 25 yard line, continuing the shuttle on a fast break toward the goal. USA athlete Kristy Bernatchez (Belgrade, Maine) broke the streak, catching a turnover with space enough to slide it over to USA's Linnea Gonzales (Bel Air, Md.) to be tipped to Julianna Tornetta (Plymouth Meeting, Pa.) into the circle drawing a corner at the 8th minute. The penalty corner attempt was unsuccessful. 

On the outlet, Duke's Stephanie Pezzuti slammed the ball into the midfield, to be interrupted by Lauren Moyer (York, Pa.). In USA's backfield, Bernatchez’s defense was consistently strong and steadfast against the quick starts provided by Duke, effectively creating space for the ball by slipping it back to Julia Young (Yorktown, Va.) to shift focus to the right side of the field. On the opposite end of play, combinations from USA's Tara Vittese (Cherry Hill, N.J.) and Tornetta were effective in gaining circle entries, however, awarded corners were scarce in this game. 

Duke was the first to score in the game, at the 20th minute on a corner. The insert fed to Alyssa Chillano who took no time to slam the ball directly into the USA goalie Jenny Rizzo (Hershey, Pa.). The rebound, however, was caught by Ainsley Gill who came in with a barrage of shots, the last drive was finally redirected by Meghan Norair into the mesh. Duke's Heather Morris and Norair were on a fast break to enter the circle, only to be immediately stopped by Bernatchez who is quick to recover and clear the ball. USA's Moyer then recovered a turnover and lobbed it to Tornetta to reposition for a second chance in the circle. With 5 minutes left in the first half, Ashley Hoffman (Mohnton, Pa.) took advantage of a stray ball in the midfield, feeding it to Margaux Paolino (Villanova, Pa.) who scored the first goal for Team USA turning the score USA 1, Duke 1. Running off of this energy, USA was quick to reenter their attack circle and score in quick succession with a clear shot taken before Duke’s defense could collapse on USA's Erin Matson (Chadds Ford, Pa.) to establish a halftime score USA 2, Duke 1.

The second half began with as much intensity as the first. Quick off of the midfield line, USA's Paolino earned the red, white and blue a corner. Paolino inserted the ball to Hoffman who recovered the ball from the keeper, launching it into the back of the net. Hoffman was outside of the circle so the chance did not translate into a goal. The first and only stroke of the game was awarded to Duke's Morris who repositioned herself on a fast break near the goal only to have USA’s defense swarm over her an instant later. The stroke resulted in a goal, the shot was sent straight into the lap of the keeper but slipped into the backboard to change the score 2-2. Looking to break the deadlock, Team USA's Young transitioned from the defensive end into the midfield, taking it all the way up to the circle to smash the ball just wide of the cage. In the last minute of the second half, with the ball on Duke’s defensive side, Duke's goalkeeper Sammi Steele stepped out enough to dive and deflect a hit, popping back up for another quick save, however, rewarding USA with a corner. The game ended with another strong Duke block as USA was quick to send rapid shots to cage. The final score in regulation time stood USA 2, Duke 2. Both teams opted for a shootout instead of overtime, where USA prevailed with 2 goals to Duke's one.  

"I just told the girls if we keep improving and moving forward like we are, then we'll be where we want to be come Junior Pan Ams and that's what these matches are all about," said Schopman. 

Although tomorrow's match against the University of North Carolina at 12 p.m. EST is canceled due to impending inclement weather, Team USA will continue will pick up play in March as they take on Old Dominion University and the University of North Carolina. 

Follow the U-21 USWNT’s journey as they prepare for the Junior Pan American Championship March 29 through April 10 in Trinidad & Tobago by following usafieldhockey.com