Come from Behind Win Earns USWNT PAC Bronze Medal

Images courtesy of Mark Palczewski

Aug. 13, 2017, 6:49 p.m. (ET)

LANCASTER, Pa. – August 13, 2017 – More than 1,600 fans gathered at Spook Nook Sports in Lancaster, Pa. to witness the bronze medal matchup of the 2017 women’s Pan American Cup between the U.S. Women’s National Team and northern foes Canada. Finishing in a draw in pool play, USA came from behind to tally a penalty corner goal to earn the 2-1 bronze victory.

“There was a huge difference in our performance from the first game versus this one,” said Janneke Schopman, USWNT Head Coach. “I think this one we dominated and it was very unfortunate to give up that one corner they scored on. It put us on our back foot but this team has shown time and time again they can fight.”

With a medal on the line, both teams hit the field determined to take care of every possession and make the most of every opportunity. Shots were shared early in the quarter as well as some circle entries but neither team could find a result. In the 10th minute, a close chance came for USA as Jill Witmer (Lancaster, Pa.)  dispossessed Canada’s backfield transfer and earned a penalty corner. Another chance would follow but similarly had no outcome. The quarter ended with action going back and forth.

Canada started out strong in the second quarter using short, rapid passing to work it down field but USA’s defense stood poised and shut down the threat. USA quickly attacked the other direction gathering a few chances of their own. Play alternated hands and continued until the 20th minute when USA was called for not being five yards away on a free hit resulting in a Canada penalty corner. Off the attempt, Karli Johanese’s low placed drag flick found the back of the goal to give Canada a 1-0 lead. Determined to add one of their own, USA immediately countered the other way. Circle entries were found and so was a penalty corner for USA but no result was found as the halftime score stood at USA 0, Canada 1.

USA started the third quarter applying pressure to Canada. A close chance came just a minute in when Nicole Woods (Beverly, Mass.) stole the ball from a Canada defender and headed toward goal. She dumped it off to Kat Sharkey (Moosic, Pa.) who had a diving attempt that dribbled over the end line. Just following, Sharkey ripped a backhand shot that dinged off the crossbar. Persistent, USA didn’t let up on the attack maintaining possession and earning multiple circle entries. A smart decision by USA to take a free hit inside the 25-yard line quickly translated into a penalty corner chance. In the 40th minute, Michelle Vittese (Cherry Hill, N.J.) found the equalizer off a sweep to make it 1-1. The quarter finished with USA in possession trying to break Canada’s compact defense.

With the final 15 minutes to determine the winner, willpower continued for both teams. The opening minutes saw shared possession before Canada earned a penalty corner. The attempt was blocked on the shot by flyer Melissa Gonzalez (Mohegan Lake, N.Y.) and cleared by USA’s defense. Moments later, Witmer used a crafty lift move to get inside the circle and earn a USA penalty corner. On the attempt, USA moved the ball around Canada’s static defense where Taylor West (Princess Anne, Md.) finished the play giving USA a 2-1 lead. The action continued to be packed as Canada opted to pull their goalkeeper for a kicking back with 3:35 remaining. USA stayed defensive sound holding off a determined Canada attack as the final score stood at USA 2, Canada 1.

“We created a lot of opportunities, a lot of good opportunities and unfortunate didn’t make it easy on ourselves today,” said Schopman, talking about the number of penalty corner chances and shots. "I am very proud of how we came out today and the crowd was super helpful as well. I am proud of how they kept fighting and pulled it out.”

A career milestone was reached in today’s contest as USA goalkeeper Alesha Widdall (Whitney Point, N.Y.) earned her 50th international cap wearing the red, white and blue.

The next major competition for the U.S. Women’s National Team is the FIH Hockey World League Final in Auckland, New Zealand from November 17-26, 2017. Continue to follow for all things related to field hockey in the United States.