Battling USWNT Falls to New Zealand in FIH Hockey Pro League

Images Courtesy of FIH

Feb. 15, 2020, 1:05 a.m. (ET)

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CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand – February 15, 2020 – The pitch at the Nga Puna Wai Hockey Stadium in Christchurch, New Zealand played host to the No. 14 U.S. Women’s National Team in the first match of the FIH Hockey Pro League weekend against No. 7 New Zealand. USA started quick, having a goal denied, but it was the Black Sticks who made the most of their scoring chances on their way to defeat the red, white and blue, 1-3.

The opening minutes saw both teams work to find positive possession. In just the 4th minute, USA was denied a goal after a build-up down the right sideline went from Alyssa Parker (Woodbine, Md.) to Linnea Gonzales (Bel Air, Md.) who found an unmarked Taylor West (Princess Anne, Md.) in the circle. West turned and fired a backhand, but her goal was called back for hitting the backside of her stick. New Zealand found their flow and started to test USA’s defense. Subsequent threats from Gemma McCaw and Olivia Shannon were shut down by USA goalkeeper Kealsie Robles (Yorktown, Va.) and the defensive unit. In the 13th minute, Rose Keddell weaved between three USA players and earned the Black Sticks their first penalty corner. Off the chance, Olivia Merry buried a hard shot into the corner to make the score 0-1 and round out the quarter.

New Zealand continued their momentum from the first frame into the second continuing to have offensive threats. The Black Sticks’ consistent attack paid off and in the 22nd minute they extended their lead on a penalty corner goal. Although the straight sweep by Megan Hull deflected off Robles and hit the post, Shannon was there to put it in and make it 0-2. On the following play, USA nearly scored after getting it in front of New Zealand goalkeeper Grace O’Hanlon but couldn’t find a result. In the remaining minutes of the half, the hosts gathered two more penalty corner chances and shots from Hull, McCaw, Brooke Neal and Shannon but couldn’t add anymore to the scoreboard as USA trailed 0-2.

It took 3 minutes into the third quarter for the Black Sticks to add another tally on a backhand shot from Keddell that went over the shoulder of Robles. USA began to generate offensive runs, nearly finding possession deep in their attacking end but they were continually met by strong, solid sticks of New Zealand. A good sequence from Parker to Laura Hurff (Newark, Del.) sparked three long corners in a row but USA couldn’t find a positive circle entry. The red, white and blue continued to fight and in the 44th minute great individual stick skills from Gonzales in the circle earned USA a penalty stroke for a hard stick foul. Campbell calmly converted on the chance to bring the score to 1-3.

Getting on the scoreboard ignited USA’s attack as the fourth quarter saw them with more offensive possession. A good portion of the final minutes was end-to-end play with both sides sharing circle entries. As time ticked down, USA threatened with a few closing pushes but the score line remained 1-3.

Following the game, New Zealand’s Keddell was named Player of the Match for her goal and offensive presence throughout the match.

Also in today’s match, New Zealand wore black armbands to honor Brad Conza, who passed away on Sunday. Conza was the Black Sticks’ longtime strength and conditioning coach for more than ten years. There was a joint moment of silence prior to the start as all joined together to honor a man truly dedicated to his exceptional work with the athletes.

In less than 24 hours, the U.S. Women’s National Team will return to action to take on No. 7 New Zealand in their second game of their double-header weekend at 9 p.m. ET. For more information, check out the FIH Hockey Pro League event page by clicking here.

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