STRATFORD CITY, London – June 18, 2016 – The U.S. Women’s National Team is familiar with the event’s location, which echo memories and headlines from the past. Back in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park for the first time since the London 2012 Olympic Games, Team USA is on the road to redemption and upward trajectory since the event. At the opening day of the women’s Hockey Champions Trophy 2016 the red, white and blue’s pitch performance recorded a draw against 3rd World Ranked Australia with a score of 2 – 2.
Australia broke into their attacking end first, but a solid effort from Rachel Dawson (Berlin, N.J.) halted the early advance from the center of the defensive circle. Australia kept a steady presence in their offensive end for the initial portion of the first quarter as USA keeper Jackie Briggs (Robesonia, Pa.) had multiple saves that kept the score at a deadlock of zeroes.
Channeling energy into their offensive end, Michelle Vittese (Cherry Hill, N.J.) slipped the ball to Kelsey Kolojejchick (Larksville, Pa.) who rattled the outside of the goal board with a hard strike. Play moved from end line to end line until in the 13th minute, at close range near the stroke mark, Australia's Kathryn Slattery was able to hit the backboard. But with tenacity, the USA turned game flow to the opposite end of the pitch. In the 19th minute, USA nabbed an equalizer with a crowd-pleasing play that brought everyone to their feet. In front of the cage, Jill Witmer (Lancaster, Pa.) slammed a shot that ricocheted hard off the crossbar and fell directly back into Witmer's possession for her to redirect the action into the goal. The score changed USA 1, Australia 1.
The ball zoomed from end line to end line as both teams tried to maintain ball control. A breakaway opportunity from a flurry of quick passes at the top of USA's attack circle permitted Vittese the ability to fire off a backhanded shot, testing Australia's defense. Sprinting down to the other side of the pitch, USA’s defenders remained steadfast against Australia’s back-to-back penalty corners that closed out the first half.
"Australia came out strong at the start of the game and we were a bit apprehensive, a little nervy even," said Craig Parnham, U.S. Women's National Team Head Coach. "It's the first time we've been in this tournament for many years. In the second quarter we settled down pretty well. We showed a degree of resilience which was required today. We did well to manage a draw which was credit to our defensive quality."
To start the second half, in the 33rd minute, Australia’s Grace Stewart flung shot the ball high and hard into the net from a tight angle from the left side of the baseline to change the score USA 1, Australia 2. Australia's attacking tempo didn't falter. On a penalty corner opportunity, Australia ripped a drag flick from the top of the circle, but Briggs' quick reaction didn't allow goal entry. Building upon each quarter with mental resilience and tactical know how, USA's forward line continued to pound Australia's backfield with pressure when in the 47th minute Caitlin Van Sickle (Wilmington, Del.) bridged the goal gap by launching a straight shot outside of the Australian keeper's reach. Now with a even score of 2-2, tensions rose and intensity only heightened. USA defenders encountered immense pressure courtesy of Australia's sharp shooting skills; which they successfully endured. In the final minutes of the match, Australia earned four penalty corners but Briggs’ rapid reaction cleared goal attempts while Kolojejchick's stick denied another initial shot in the lineup. The final match report noted a final score of USA 2, Australia 2.
"Our ability to absorb pressure for an extended period of time which in today's instance really includes our phenomenal corner unit and defenders is a testament to our team's resilience," said Vittese. "I'm looking forward to the rest of the tournament and showing everyone what we're capable of. There were moments of it today, but we have a lot more to give."
Another exciting addition to today's match was the special career landmark achieved by Vittese, who earned her 150th cap.
The USA will play again Sunday, June 19 at 7:00 a.m. EST against Argentina.
Live streaming for the 2016 Champions Trophy event is available at a cost through the FIH’s broadcasting partner Willow TV which can be viewed through various platforms in the United States. Follow @USAFieldHockey on Twitter and visit usafieldhockey.com for live updates, match reports and off-field moments with Team USA. #UN1TED