STRATFORD CITY, London – June 26, 2016 – With the women’s Champions Trophy 2016 bronze medal within arm’s reach, the U.S. Women’s National Team brought tremendous spirit and fight to their pitch performance against Australia. The end result dubbed the red, white and blue contest winners, with a 1-0 shootout tally; after a draw of 2-2 in regulation time.
Setting the stage early on in the tournament, the two squads encountered each other in the first game of pool play and drew 2-2. Ready to rewrite the script, USA applied their deft skill set and never-say-die American mindset against 3rd World Ranked Australia.
The opening minutes of the match were locked between the 25 yard lines as both national teams settled into the match. Finding entry into their attack circle first, USA fed the ball with through passes in hopes of a final connection to the backboard. Australia quickly grabbed hold of the ball to transition play down field. Kelsey Kolojejchick (Larksville, Pa.) displayed deft defensive skill to guide an incoming Australian forward from the center of the pitch in USA's backfield and stole the ball. Continuing to imply their presence in the offensive end, an Australian attacker wound up to crush the ball from the left baseline, but a perfectly placed stick from Katelyn Falgowski (Landenburg, Pa.) denied the attempt. In the 8th minute, Australia’s aggressive front line was rewarded with their first penalty corner of the match. The flick cruised past the right goal post. Still at zeroes, Australia created a goalmouth scramble but USA keeper Jackie Briggs (Robsenonia, Pa.) remained a solid wall, clearing the shot away.
Moving into their goal scoring territory, USA continued to test Australia’s defense with a quick succession of rapid-fire hits. Australia’s goalie responded in keeping USA scoreless. In the 15th minute, a drive from the top, right portion of the opposition’s attack circle proved successful as Mariah William‘s strike hit the mesh to create a new score of USA 0, Australia 1.
A persistent Australia came full force into their attacking end with an unfinished crossed ball and a shot that went wide of the left goal post. In the 17th minute, Australia earned their second penalty corner of the match with the initial hit from the top going out of bounds. Possession transferred to the USA, where Kolojejchick slid a pass to Kat Sharkey (Moosic, Pa.) who bashed the ball with a reverse strike. Australia’s keeper was quick to react to defend the cage. In the 27th minute, with stick-to-stick passing, Emily Wold (Freehold, N.J.) and Melissa Gonzalez (Mohegan Lake, N.Y.) maneuvered past Australian midfielders and into USA's attack circle to earn a penalty corner. Michelle Kasold's (Chapel Hill, N.C.) straight sweep was halted by Australia’s defense. The halftime report stood USA down by one goal.
Australia was quick off the starting line and into their attacking circle. In the 34th minute Australia’s Grace Stewart with a straight fast hit nailed the lower left inside panel of the goal changing the score USA 0, Australia 2. The red, white & blue earn back-to-back corners in the 39th minute, after showing true muscle and fight with Michelle Vittese (Cherry Hill, N.J.) charging into USA's attack 25 and getting the ball to the stroke. A deceptive pass to just left of the top of the circle gave Kasold the ball for a shot. But Australia was able to contain the hit. In the 42nd minute of play, off of the penalty corner, a rocket hit from the top of the circle was tipped by Katie Bam's (Blue Bell, Pa.) stick and over the goal line to change the score USA 1, Australia 2. Team USA generated powerful and undeniable attacks, racking up penalty corner chances and getting shots off that tested Australia’s backfield. In the 57th minute, the USA nabbed an equalizer when Falgowski slipped a ball to the left post. Bam dove onto the turf to redirect ball into the cage.
“Our first half was a little slower than we wanted,” said Bam. “When things kept falling in Australia’s favor, we kept our foot on the gas pedal to turn things around. We did an incredible job in the third and fourth quarter. I am so proud of us. I am so proud of this team."
To determine a winner, the teams entered a round of shootouts. The combination of Briggs' unwavering on-point reactions defending the cage and Gonzalez’s goal created a 1-0 score for the USA to win bronze.
Another special feature to this afternoon's game was Wold's landmark achievement of tallying 50 international caps as a Team USA athlete.
Team USA's second game of the event was recorded as a 1-4 loss to Argentina. The following match against 1st FIH World Ranked Holland resulted in another loss with a score of 1-4. The next matchup proved a 2-0 victory over host nation Great Britain. In the final match of pool play, Team USA drew 1-1 verses New Zealand.
“It has been a good week for us,” said Craig Parnham, USWNT Head Coach. “There have been some good experiences to learn from. As we reflect back it’s going to bode well for the coming weeks as we prepare for Rio. It’s good to come across the finish line with a win at the end of the tournament.”