USWNT Defeats Red Panthers in Thrilling FIH Pro League Shootout Victory at Home

Images Taken by Mark Palczewski & FIH/Getty Images

March 29, 2019, 10:08 p.m. (ET)

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LANCASTER, Pa. - March 29, 2019 - Field hockey returned to the Home of Hockey, Spooky Nook Sports in Lancaster, Pa., as the No. 12 U.S. Women’s National Team hosted No. 13 Belgium in their fifth FIH Pro League game. Just a few months removed from their previous meetings on the same turf, USA was hungry for a victory and points in front of the large home crowd. Down late in the contest, USA tied the game in the 50th minute before moving to a shootout at the end of regulation. In the fourth round of sudden victory shootout, Linnea Gonzales (Bel Air, Md.) fired a backhand shot into the goal to secure the red, white and blue's 5-4 victory and extra point.

"I think once we were able to get on the scoreboard we were able to play with a little more intensity," said Kathleen Sharkey (Moosic, Pa.), USWNT captain. "It was disappointing that we were able to start with that intensity, but I think that is a key lesson that we can take from this game. We need to come out with that fire and intensity from minute one."

Belgium quickly settled with the ball in the opening moments of the first quarter but could not break through the USA defensive line. In the 5th minute, Alix Gerniers put the Red Panthers on the board off a deflection in front of goalkeeper Kelsey Bing (Houston, Texas) for the 1-0 score. Belgium took over after the reset getting another try in the 6th minute, but Bing made a save off her glove and stick. Following the surge, USA was able to settle down offensively and in the 10th minute Lauren Moyer (York, Pa.) moved the ball into the circle before goalkeeper Aisling D’Hooghe cleared it high giving USA a penalty corner. With their first major chance of the match, USA misplayed the ball on the insert which Belgium quickly countered on. This lead to instant attack and a shot that Bing stretched for a save as the ball went wide of the goal. In the 13th minute, Bing was tested again as Belgium threaded the ball into the circle, making a stick save to force it away from goal. With time running short Danielle Grega (Kingston, Pa.) picked possession at midfield and passed it to captain Sharkey, who then fed it along to Gonzales but was intercepted by Belgium’s defense before the quarter came to a close.

The visiting team maintained control to open the second frame, entering the circle twice before USA settled and pressed forward. In the 20th minute, Erin Matson (Chadds Ford, Pa.) hit a hard shot on goal but was saved before Sharkey followed up with a shot that hit a Belgium defender’s foot. On the ensuing penalty corner Sharkey's straight shot was stopped by D’Hoogehe. Ali Froede (Burke, Va.) quickly picked up the rebound that was deflected wide. USA kept the pressure on in the 23rd minute as Sharkey sent a backhand shot toward goal but Belgium was there to counter on the deflection. Still pressing, USA entered the circle once more thanks to an intercept by Moyer who passed it to Grega for a shot on goal. Keeping the tempo going, Moyer followed up with a circle entry on the far side, from a pass by Gonzales, but her cross in front of the goal went untouched and rolled over the end. As halftime approached, Casey Umstead (Green Lane, Pa.) was given a yellow card, putting USA at a disadvantage that would be carried over into the second half.

In the third frame, the Red Panthers earned their first penalty corner of the game in the 33rd minute but goalkeeper Bing stood tall in net making a glove save on the attempt. USA quickly ran up field but had the ball intercepted at the 25 yard line. Belgium then put a pair of shots on goal but were stopped by Bing before a green card was issued to Grega in the 39th minute. Moments later Gerniers was issued a green card as the teams exchanged ball control around midfield. With the quarter winding down, USA charged down the far sideline. Caitlin Van Sickle (Wilmington, Del.) entered the circle and earned USA another penalty corner opportunity but could not convert. Another chance by the home team inside the circle was denied by an anticipating Red Panther defense before the quarter ended.

The final quarter started with Belgium getting a circle entry first on an attempt that was touched away by Van Sickle. Moments later USA set up for their fourth penalty corner of the game. On the insert, Van Sickle crossed it to a waiting Grega who deflected the ball into the net to tie the game in the 50th minute. Riding the momentum of the home crowd, USA followed up with another circle entry but was quickly shutdown by the Red Panther's defense. On Belgium's ensuing possession, Matson intercepted the ball at midfield and found Grega near the circle, but her shot went high above the net. On their next attempt, Belgium’s Anne-Sophie Weyns sent a hard shot just out of reach of Bing but still rolled wide of the goal. In the 58th minute, Belgium earned a penalty corner but USA asked for a video referral claiming it hit a Red Panther's foot. The call was reversed, giving possession USA but Belgium quickly intercepted the ball, entered the circle and earned a penalty corner. The drag attempt was stopped by Bing and Froede was there to clear the ball to Matson upfield. She found Gonzales who send a backhand toward goal that was saved. In the final minute, Belgium asked for a video referral of their own, which resulted in a free hit as time expired.

Heading to a shootout, per the FIH Pro League structure, each team earns one point for the tie but the winner of the shootout earns an additional point. Scoreless after the first round, Alyssa Manley (Lititz, Pa.) was next and although her initial shot was blocked by D'Hooghe, she recovered and found a wide open goal. Belgium’s Pauline Leclef tied the game seconds later before Moyer walked up for USA’s third try. The attempt was blocked but Moyer was awarded a penalty stroke on the play, which was then taken by Ashley Hoffman (Mohnton, Pa.) who scored to put USA up 2-1 after three rounds. Up next for the Red Panthers was Ambre Ballenghien who was denied by Bing. Paolino then scored on USA’s fourth attempt to make it 3-1, but Belgium’s Limauge quickly answered to make it 3-2. Matson was USA’s final shooter, who could not convert on an attempt that would have sealed the win for USA. Emma Puverez then tied the shootout as Belgium’s final shooter, beating Bing early and scoring before she could recover in front of the goal.

Heading into the sudden victory round of the shootout, Leclef hit a high backhand shot into the goal, putting the pressure on Manley to convert. She was able to beat D’Hooghe and score tying the score 4-4 after the first round. Next Limauge went up again for Belgium, who hit the outside of the goal. Moyer lined up for her second attempt for USA who could not get around a swift D’Hooghe as time expired. Back to Belgium, Versavel was able to hit the backboard but time had expired before the ball crossed the goal line. Matson had another potential winning attempt, but her shot went wide. In the fourth round of the sudden victory shootout, Ballenghien hit the outside of the goal as Gonzales' backend shot went in, giving USA a 5-4 win and a bonus point in front of an ecstatic home crowd.

Following the game, Bing was awarded Player of the Match for recording 17 saves and denying or forcing Belgium wide five times during the shootout.

"It was an honor to be named player of the match," commented Bing. "I'm very glad that we were able to pull out the win in shootouts. All of my saves came from help of our defensive unit. Their hard work allows me to make the easy save and do my role well."

 

The USWNT returns to the pitch on Sunday, March 31 against No. 2 Great Britain. For information, visit the FIH Pro League event page by clicking here.