MELBOURNE, Australia – November 11, 2017 – Facing off against the FIH Hero World Ranked No. 1 women’s team, the No. 7 U.S. Women’s National Team knew they had to take care of each possession and defend strongly to limit chances for The Netherlands at the International Festival of Hockey (IFOH). The Dutch’s quick ball movement deemed unmatchable for USA as The Netherlands went on to win 6-1. The victory placed the Dutch in the IFOH gold medal match moving the USWNT into the third-place game.
Putting on immense pressure from the start, The Netherlands tested the USWNT’s defense early and collected turnovers in the middle of the field that they punished forward. The first scoring opportunity for The Netherlands came in the 6th minute as the ball crossed the goalmouth with no attacker home. A minute later a good passing combination between Dutch strikers finished with a hard sweep on goal but Alesha Widdall (Whitney Point, N.Y.) came out, to make the save. Widdall was tested further with a few more shots before Laurien Leurink stole the ball in the middle of the field, took it deep and swept it into the roof of the net giving The Netherlands a 1-0 lead.
The attacking pressure continued from The Netherlands in the second quarter as unforced turnovers by USA gave their opponents positive possession. The Dutch earned a penalty corner in the 19th minute that Ireen van den Assem successfully converted to take the 2-0 lead. USA grabbed their first shot of the match three minutes later but The Netherlands, with poise, took control to the other end challenging USA’s defense. Kelly Jonker tallied another goal for the Dutch in the 28th minute after working hard to beat two USA defenders. Fighting back, USA earned a penalty corner a minute later where Kathleen Sharkey’s (Moosic, Pa.) hard strike was deflected in by inserter Caitlin Van Sickle (Wilmington, Del.) to cut the goal margin. The halftime score stood at USA 1, The Netherlands 3.
Eager to narrow the goal gap, USA came out with a strong press on The Netherlands’ defense. Each USA circle penetration was met by a Dutch defender who dispossessed the play. For both teams, a lot of ball continued to be played through the midfield but it was the Dutch who managed majority of the momentum. A near chance came for The Netherlands when a shot dinged off the post, but staying persistent a midfield pickup finished with another goal by Leurink. Two minutes following, The Netherlands’ van den Assem powerfully executed a penalty corner to make it USA 1, The Netherlands 5. Glimmers of hope came for USA in the remaining minutes of the third quarter, but they struggled to successfully break into their attacking circle.
The opening minute of the fourth quarter saw Widdall make two impressive glove saves that lead to a Dutch penalty corner. Uncharacteristic marking by USA led to another Dutch goal coming from a low backhand by Frederique Matla. USA remained on the defensive side for a period of time, as Widdall absorbed more Dutch shots. USA fought until the end working it into their attacking circle but were unable to translate the effort.
A precursor of what is to come at the FIH Sentinel Homes Hockey World League Final, USA and The Netherlands are in the same pool and will face each other the second day of competition.
The U.S. Women’s National Team will play in the bronze medal match today, Saturday, November 11 at 9:15 p.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