USWNT Eyes Third Straight Pan American Games Gold Medal, Ticket to Tokyo

June 25, 2019, 2:45 p.m. (ET)
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. - June 24, 2019 - As the 2019 FIH Pro League concluded for the U.S. Women’s National Team their full focus has now shifted toward the next major competition in 2019. The Pan American Games are a month away as two weeks packed with inter-continental rivals will yield a ticket to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games for the squad that claims the gold medal in Lima, Peru. It’s familiar territory for USA, who come in to Lima as back-to-back champions of the Pan American region with a younger, and much different looking team. United, they are eying a three-peat in a historically friendly tournament and the simplest route to Tokyo.

Women’s field hockey was introduced in the 1987 Pan American Games in Indianapolis, Ind., the tenth edition of the event. Thirty-eight countries were represented across all sports, including the USWNT, who claimed the silver medal on home soil. Since then, USA has medaled in each edition of the Pan American Games, currently holding two gold, five silver and one bronze. Their first gold came in the 2011 Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, where after a 3-0 record in pool play, set USA up with Canada in the medal round. Claire Laubach (Washington Township, N.J.) led the red, white and blue's offense in that match-up, with additional goals by Michelle Cesan (Harding, N.J.) and Michelle Kasold (Chapel Hill, N.C.) to give USA a 4-2 victory. This set them up to face Argentina in the final. Early scores by Paige Selenski (Shavertown, Pa.) and Shannon Taylor (Midlothian, Va.) gave USA a 2-0 advantage before Las Leonas’ Maria Baarrionuevo got her team on the board before the half. Two more goals in the second half by Katie (O’Donnell) Bam (Blue Bell, Pa.) and Michelle Vittese (Cherry Hill, N.J.) secured USA’s first gold medal while breaking Argentina’s streak of Pan American titles at six. Throughout the tournament, USA allowed five goals while tallying 24.

These two teams would hold a rematch four years later in Toronto, Canada in the next edition of the Pan American Games. Before meeting in the gold medal match once again, USA powered through victories against Chile, Cuba and Uruguay allowing zero goals against in the process. The team’s dominant performance continued in the semifinals against Canada where USA prevailed 3-0, setting up a juggernaut final with Argentina, who had a similar performance to USA with zero goals allowed. In the gold medal match after a scoreless first half, USA gained the lead off penalty corner goals by Katie Reinprecht (Perkasie, Pa.) in the 34th minute and Vittese in the 40th. The score line remained the same until the 58th minute when Florencia Habif put Las Leonas on the board on a penalty corner opportunity. But with time short, it was USA who would once again stand atop the podium.

Fast forward to 2019 as both teams, as well as the entire Pan American region, has drastically changed in faces and skill set. Seven teams from Toronto are appearing once again on the women’s side of the field hockey tournament. Argentina, like USA, looks to get to Tokyo, which they could do in a number of ways, including reclaiming the gold medal from the USWNT. Before that scenario, Las Leonas continues their FIH Pro League journey as one of four final teams in the Grand Final in Amsterdam, The Netherlands this week. On the roster are nine athletes who played in Toronto and could be action in Peru as well. 

Don’t miss a moment of Pan American Games build up. Keep up to date with everything happening with the Pan American Games at usafiedhockey.com and by following the hashtag #AllEyesOnLima. For more information, check out the 2019 Pan American Games event page by clicking here.