LANCASTER, Pa. - January 13, 2016 - The U.S. U-21 Women's National Team finished the five-match test series against Great Britain's U-21 squad strong concluding the tournament with three victories, a tie and a close-scoring loss. Played at the Home of Hockey at Spooky Nook Sports in Lancaster, County, Pa., Team USA took the series as a growing and learning experience to compete against a highly world-ranked opponent where they could fine tune areas they have been working on in training camp weekends.
The third match of the test series started off with possession going back and forth between teams. Great Britain had strong midfield play and applied a lot of pressure on Team USA's backfield, but neither team was able to notch a goal in the first half.
Play opened up in the second half as Great Britain took the lead on a goal by Charlotte Daly in the opening minutes. Team USA responded quickly on a goal by Tara Vittese (Cherry Hill, N.J.). Urgency for the U-21 USWNT continued as the team's energy rose and they began pressing, passing and defending as a unit. Off a field goal, Margaux Paolino (Villanova, Pa.) broke the tied score and Catherine Caro (Martinsville, N.J.) put Team USA ahead on a tip off a penalty corner. Team USA played collectively to secure the 3-1 victory.
The U.S. U-21 Women's National Team was back in action the following day in a close contest.
In a reoccurring trend, the opening minutes of the game were high tempo between Team USA and Great Britain. Team USA got on the board first in the 3rd minute of the game on a goal by Erin Matson (Chadds Ford, Pa.) who eliminated a defender and scored a strong shot from the top of the penalty circle. Great Britain responded just 3 minutes later on a field goal by Meg Crowson. This didn't phase Team USA as they were quick to respond on that action 2 minutes after when Carrie Hanks (Niskayuna, N.Y.) capitalized on a penalty corner strike to make the score USA 2, Great Britain 1.
The middle of the game showed positive counter attacks for both teams, with Team USA's midfield and forwards working hard to match Great Britain's speed. Matson broke the back and forth battle in the 51st minute on a tip off a penalty corner. Great Britain didn't let up and continued to use their speed and strength until they capitalized on a field goal in the 60th minute by Erica Sanders.
Team USA worked to maintain their lead but gave up a penalty corner late in the game and Great Britain's Crowson capitalized on the opportunity making the score 3-3 in the final minute.
In the fifth and final match of the test series, the anticipation of the game to very competitive held true. Great Britain reacted off the starting whistle with speed and power as Alicia Caillard buried a strong finish in front of the cage in the 6th minute to give them the lead. Team USA bounced back creating multiple chances in the circle and after a back-and-forth possession sequence between Great Britain's goalkeeper and Linnea Gonzales (Bel Air, Md.), Amanda Magadan (Randolph, N.J.) jumped on a loose ball to notch the equalizer for Team USA.
Two minutes later, Great Britain earned a penalty corner and with clever corner execution tactics finished on a goal by Crowson to make the score USA 1, Great Britain 2. Just before the half in the 29th minute, Team USA had exceptional attacking chances down the right hand side of the field, and tied the score on a textbook cross from Gab Major (Royersford, Pa.) to Nicole Woods (Beverly, Mass.) who had a decisive tip into the upper part of the net.
In the second half, play continued to be very competitive as each team was patiently waiting to find the opportune moment. Team USA found that chance in the 46th minute on a furious backhand finish by Lauren Moyer (York, Pa.) to make the score USA 3, Great Britain 2. Three minutes, Great Britain's Crowson tied the score. Team USA held a competitive chip on their shoulders eager to find that go ahead goal. This opportunity came in the 52nd minute on a great personal effort baseline attack by Margaux Paolino (Villanova, Pa.) who found the back of the cage. Desperate to find the equalizer, Great Britain pulled their goalkeeper in the final minutes of play, but Team USA defended strong to secure the 4-3 victory.
"Playing a five-game series against Great Britain provided our team with the unique opportunity to play international games at a high level," said Janneke Schopman, U.S. U-21 Women's National Team Head Coach. "It was great to play a physically strong and fast team and being able to fine-tune our own style of play. Throughout the series we learned a lot of valuable lessons and it was great to see the girls grow every game. All games were very competitive and to come out with three wins and playing well for large periods of time shows that we are where we want to be in our preparation for the Junior Pan Ams."
The U-21 USWNT like to thank all fans who came to all the games, especially the big crowds on the weekends, and to those who donated!
The U.S. U-21 Women's National Team will meet again February 12-15 and March 11-13 in Chapel Hill, N.C. for training camps that will include scrimmages against college teams before heading to the Junior Pan American Championship March 29 through April 10 in Trinidad & Tobago.
Follow usafieldhockey.com for more information regarding the U.S. U-21 Women's National Team.