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BHUBANESWAR, India – November 2, 2019 – All or nothing. A ticket to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games was on the line. The No. 13 U.S. Women’s National Team knew they had to do everything possible to come back from a four-goal advantage produced by No. 9 India in the previous FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifier. USA tallied four goals in the first half to even the aggregate score but India capitalized on a USA yellow card to add one back as the red, white and blue’s Olympic qualification dream was dashed in a heartbreaking 4-1 match.
“I’m devastated,” said Janneke Schopman, USWNT Head Coach. “I thought we played really, really well today and we just weren’t lucky. In the end phase the yellow card was harsh and it changed the game for us, but that’s hockey. I am very proud of them, as no one gave us a shot after yesterday.”
A change in the game plan paid off for USA as they came out strong and produced three penalty corners in the first 5 minutes. On the third one earned, USA converted when Kathleen Sharkey’s (Moosic, Pa.) straight shot was tipped in out of the air by a sliding Amanda Magadan (Randolph, N.J.) off the right post. The red, white and blue did not allow India to break into their circle as they continued to press on offensively. One minute before the quarter ended, USA extended the lead after a good passing combination through Margaux Paolino (Villanova, Pa.), Erin Matson (Chadds Ford, Pa.), Sharkey and Alyssa Manley (Lititz, Pa.), with the play finished by Sharkey who tucked it into the right corner.
At the start of the second frame, USA maintained their tight defense and solid marking to limit India’s chances. In the 20th minute, Manley fought through a tough tackle to keep the ball alive and passed it to Sharkey. She turned and passed it right to Danielle Grega (Kingston, Pa.) who pushed it to the far post where Alyssa Parker (Woodbine, Md.) was there to finish into the roof of the net to make it 3-0. Two minutes following, India earned back-to-back penalty corners where the first drag attempt by Gurjit Kaur was saved by USA goalkeeper Kelsey Bing (Houston, Texas) and the second went wide. Remaining on the front foot, USA continued to attack as a series of three cards, one for USA and two for India, were issued for hitting the ball away after the whistle. USA capitalized on the third, a 5-minute yellow to Navneet Kaur, when Caitlin Van Sickle (Wilmington, Del.) found Magadan in the circle who turned and drilled a shot off the back foot to even the aggregate score at 5-5 and extend the lead to 4-0. The red, white and blue continued to press on as the half ended.
India started the third quarter an athlete down as USA tried to maintain their offensive threat searching for the aggregate go-ahead goal. For a period of time, both sides struggled to produce any offense. At around the 43rd-minute mark, the Eves started to break through USA’s press and earned a penalty corner but was unsuccessful. The quarter closed with USA leading 4-0.
The final quarter saw India more on the front foot producing some offensive opportunities. In the 48th minute, Manley was issued a yellow card for also hitting the ball away after the whistle. India wasted no time taking advantage of the player-up situation and got the ball into the circle. Bing made the initial stop but USA’s defense panicked to clear as it went right to Rani who sent it into the net to make it 4-1. As the time ticked down, with India leading the aggregate score 6-5, USA tried to threaten but could not positively string passes together or break into their circle. A close chance came for the red, white and blue with 5 minutes remaining when Manley took it forward, passed to Matson and then got it back in the circle when her stick got tied up with an India defender. USA asked for a video referral but the officials noted that the first obstruction happened outside the circle and issued USA a free hit. On the resuming play, Linnea Gonzales (Bel Air, Md.) drove the baseline and seemed to have earned a penalty corner but that call was also reversed after India referred that the ball was dangerously brought into the air off a USA stick. USA kept pressing forward but their unbelievable performance fell heartbreakingly short after winning the match 4-1, but losing the aggregate 6-5.
Following the conclusion of the game, USA goalkeeper Kelsey Bing was named Player of the Match.
“When you go into a game where you have to at least score four goals, the plan was to put pressure on India knowing that they probably wanted to delay the game,” comment Schopman in the post-game press conference. “I was very happy on how they played, I thought we played it well and put them on the back foot.”
“We scored some good circle attack so at halftime we had the conversation that we knew we had to come out of the gates a little bit differently in the third quarter and that happened,” continued Schopman. “India is an experienced, good team. I felt like we were able to get through that period and create some opportunities but in the fourth quarter it went away from us when we were content and that killed us.”
A reminder of how the two-match system works:
The winners will be determined as follows: teams will be ranked according to the number of points each has accumulated in both matches (for each match, 3 points are awarded to the winner, 1 point to each team in the event of a draw and 0 point to the loser). If there is equality among the two teams, then the teams will be ranked according to their respective goal difference. If the equality remains, a shoot-out competition will be played to establish the winner.
Next, the U.S. Women’s National Team will have a period of time off before they start preparations for the 2020 FIH Pro League season. USA is set to take on The Netherlands in their first weekend of competition at the end of January.
For more information about the FIH Olympic Qualifier, visit the official event page by clicking here. #RoadToTokyo #Tokyo2020 #GiftofHockey