POTCHEFSTROOM, South Africa – In the 5th-8th placement game of FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup, taking place at North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa, the U.S. U-21 Women’s National Team took on Pan American opponent, Argentina. Trailing just 1-0 at halftime, a determined USA was unable to capitalize on their opportunities and kept the game close until the Las Leonas extended their lead to 2-0 with 10 minutes to go for the win.
"Playing against a side like [Argentina] can only make us better long term and it was an exceptional opportunity for us again today to grow," said Tracey Paul, U-21 USWNT Head Coach, following the game. "We battled out there and I am really proud of our young women for that."
It took a period for USA to settle in as Argentina opened the match with a few circle penetrations. About halfway through, the red, white and blue broke into their attacking end and got in the circle through quick passing from Charlotte De Vries (Malvern, Pa.) and Lauren Wadas (Annville, Pa.) but were unable to get a shot off. With three minutes to go, Argentina had a spell of chances testing USA goalkeeper Annabel Skubisz (Houston, Texas) and an unfortunate clear was sent into a USA defender which led to a penalty corner for Las Leonas. Off the chance, the straight hit by Valentina Raposo went too high into the net leaving the first quarter scoreless.
USA switched up tactics and put a high press on Argentina to start the second frame. The immediate pressure paid off and in the 18th minute when Josie Varney (Smithfield, Maine) came up with the ball and got it to De Vries who got off a low angle backhand that was saved by the toe of Argentina goalkeeper Lourdes Perez. Argentina resumed control and in the 22nd minute capitalized on their second penalty corner when Juliana Guggini sent a straight drag into the net. USA had a few more forward drives, but double turnovers and unclean receptions led to no outcomes as they went into the break trailing 1-0.
At the start of the third quarter, USA strung together a sequence of good passes but were unable to produce a circle entry. Argentina found themselves on a few fast breaks, but USA always had more defenders back and came up with the clean tackles. In the 35th minute, Caroline Ramsey (Morristown, N.J.) was issued a green card for a hard breakdown foul and on the resuming play, Argentina earned a penalty corner. Skubisz denied the chance as USA closed out the period with two good looks. One when De Vries receive an overhead and sent a cross ball through the circle that went just behind the running support and with seconds remaining De Vries sent another long ball cross field to Sessa who tries to thread a low backhand toward Hope Rose (Dauphin, Pa.) but it was defended well.
USA started the fourth quarter an athlete down as Wadas was issued a 5-minute yellow card at the close of the previous frame. Although at a disadvantage, a determined USA side earned their first penalty corner in the 48th minute after Ashley Sessa (Schwenksville, Pa.) was taken to the turf just outside the circle. Unsuccessful on the chance, USA remained on the front foot before a loss of possession in the 51st minute led to a quick counterattack goal for Argentina. Down the right side, Las Leonas used speed to break through and find Victoria Manuele who sends a backhand into the net to extend the lead to 2-0. With nothing to lose and four minutes to go, USA pulled goalkeeper Skubisz opting for the extra field player. Moments later, Argentina almost exploited the situation, but the backhand shot hit the outside of the open goal. With time ticking down, USA continued to push forward but were unable to find an opening as they fell 2-0.
Following the game, Argentina’s Juliana Guggini was named Player of the Match.
USA will now face South Africa on Tuesday, April 12 at 3:00 a.m. ET in the 7th-8th place game.
For more information regarding the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World, visit the event page.
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