LONDON, England - July 29, 2018 - It was now or never. The U.S. Women’s National Team walked on the pitch for their final pool game of the Vitality Women’s Hockey World Cup at the Lee Valley Hockey and Tennis Centre and knew they had one job to do - win to advance in the tournament. After scoring first, USA was put under a lot of pressure until India found the equalizer one minute into the third quarter to bring the game to a 1-1 draw and end their World Cup campaign.
“They are a great team,” said Michelle Vittese, USWNT midfielder. “They are very feisty and collapse on you the second you are in the circle. They did that to us and we struggled.”
It was India who earned possession early in the game and kept it for the opening minutes. Once settled USA started to generate forward movement, working the ball into the midfield and finding open spaces down the outsides of the field. As control was shared between the teams, it was India who earned the first penalty corner of the game in the 7th minute. USA’s goalkeeper Jackie Briggs (Robesonia, Pa.) made the block and earned USA a free hit. Moments later, USA worked it to the other end and Kathleen Sharkey (Moosic, Pa.) showed her speed as she ran the ball down to the baseline. This sparked some USA offense as moments later, Sharkey tried a backhand which was deflected off an India defender. Just after Erin Matson (Chadds Ford, Pa.) with a forehand chance but it again was deflected away. The third attempt did it as Margaux Paolino (Villanova, Pa.) followed up on a close-range scramble to give USA a 1-0 lead. India continued to threaten in the closing minutes, with three penalty corners in a row, but Briggs and the USA defensive unit withstood the pressure.
At the start of the second quarter USA threatened forward quickly. Sharkey picked up a deep intercept, passed it off to Paolino who earned a penalty corner. Unsuccessful off the chance, India took control the other way and earned their own penalty corner. Play was shared for a period before USA used good ball movement to grab some circle penetrations, with no results. A close chance came when M. Vittese used quick skills to get in the circle as India’s goalkeeper Savita went down. The ball got stuck under Savita, earning USA another penalty corner. Pressure remained for USA in the final seconds as they earned yet another penalty corner, but the score stood at 1-0 for the red, white and blue.
India wasted no time coming out of halftime, earning themselves a penalty corner within the first 46 seconds. Captain Rani’s straight shot found the back of the goal for the equalizer to make it 1-1. USA didn’t sit back and a minute later Sharkey attempted a backhand that was defended well. Play went back-and-forth as the rising anticipation for the next goal continued. USA had one final look on goal off a backhand shot from Tara Vittese (Cherry Hill, N.J.) before the horn sounded.
With the game 1-1 heading into the final quarter, taking care of the ball was going to be key. India attacked quickly and earned themselves a penalty corner, but Briggs made the save. As time ticked down USA struggled to breakthrough India’s defense. With three minutes left on the clock, USA really stepped up their game as they searched for any positive outcome. A heart stopping chance came for USA with seconds on the clock but the final score stood at 1-1.
At the conclusion of the match, USA’s Sharkey earned the Vitality Player of the Match award.
“To be a great team, you need to be consistent,” added Melissa Gonzalez, USWNT Captain. “You can’t rely on one quarter, it has to be throughout. It starts with the goalkeeper and works through all lines.”
The U.S. Women's National Team would like to thank their families, friends and fans who have been part of the journey.
For more information regarding the Vitality Hockey Women’s World Cup, including full schedule, results, roster, live stream information, news and more, check out the official event program by clicking here. #Gr1tForGlory