MELBOURNE, Australia – November 8, 2017 – In the opening match of the 2017 International Festival of Hockey (IFOH), the now FIH Hero World Ranked No. 7 U.S. Women’s National Team faced No. 12 Japan. After splitting advantage in the first two quarters, the third and fourth saw promise but neither team scored in the contest to finish 0-0.
The USWNT came out providing a lot of hustle and pressure on Japan’s defensive unit, forcing them on their back foot early. It took a bit for both teams to gain control and get used to the pitch. A close chance came for USA in the 9th minute when Jill Witmer (Lancaster, Pa.) intercepted the ball, moved it forward with speed and got a hard shot off on goal. Japan’s Megumi Kageyama made the save and Loren Shealy (Charlotte, N.C.) gathered the rebound and sailed a backhand shot wide. In the last minute of the quarter, Japan’s Minami Shimizu worked possession deep into their attacking circle but USA’s goalkeeper Jackie Briggs (Robesonia, Pa.) was forced to make the save to keep it at a deadlock.
Quick off the second quarter starting whistle, Michelle Vittese (Cherry Hill, N.J.) went quickly, dumped a ball behind Japan’s defense to Anna Dessoye (Mountaintop, Pa.) who extended to send the ball across. Quick ball movement in the 20th minute lead to Japan’s first penalty corner that was dragged wide. USA continued to push the ball forward through the midfielders as they searched for open lanes but Japan’s defense shut down positive circle entries. In the final five minutes of the half Briggs was tested multiple times, once when a miss clear lead to a backhand shot and again when a shot sailed over the crossbar. A near chance came for Japan in the final minute of the quarter when Yuri Nagai received the ball right in front of Briggs but solid protection kept it at 0-0.
The beginning of the third quarter started static with a lot of play happening between the 25 yard lines. Possession started to open up 9 minutes in when USA had a close break after M. Vittese skillfully maneuvered forward and threading the ball into the circle where Erin McCrudden's (Yorktown Heights, N.Y.) cross went unanswered. Another chance came when Taylor West (Princess Anne, Md.) weaved through two Japan defenders and the ball ended up behind Japan’s goalkeeper but no result. Persistent, USA earned their first penalty corner in the 42nd minute. The unsuccessful attempt turned into a counter attack for Japan but Ali Froede (Burke, Va.) came up strong on defense.
Early on in the fourth quarter Japan stayed composed earning a few chances but Briggs was there to make the crucial saves. Continuing to absorb the pressure, USA’s defense dispossessed circle entry after circle entry before shifting control the other way. As the clock ticked down, USA put it into gear and charged forward searching for any circle outcome but the final drive fell short as the horn sounded with the score 0-0.
"We definitely showed growth from our first game versus Australia and were able to connect and create some good opportunities," said Janneke Schopman, USWNT Head Coach. "We were too inconsistent though and will focus on maintaining a higher level throughout the game against Australia tomorrow."
The U.S. Women’s National Team’s next game of IFOH is Thursday, November 9 at 3:30 a.m. ET against Australia. For more information about the 2017 International Festival of Hockey, including event schedule, results and live stream information, visit the IFOH Event Page by clicking here. #IFOH2017