DEN BOSCH, Netherlands – At the HC’s-Hertogenbosch in The Netherlands, the No. 15 U.S. Women’s National Team took on No. 6 Belgium in their first meeting of the FIH Hockey Pro League. Scoreless after the first quarter, the Red Panthers used a strong scoring performance in the final period to claim a 5-0 win.
Belgium had the better of the start of the first quarter, earning two penalty corners and a few threats on goal. The first came in the 2nd minute when Abi Raye got it on the left baseline and her push on goal was saved by USA goalkeeper Kelsey Bing (Houston, Texas). Two minutes later a reverse deflection was stopped by a diving Bing. Midway through the frame the Red Panthers earned both their penalty corners, and the first was not cleanly trapped and on the second, Brooke DeBerdine (Millersville, Pa.) deflected it away on the fly. USA turned the momentum in the final minutes seeing a few chances of their own go unanswered. Maddie Zimmer (Hershey, Pa.) read an intercept well and used it to drive the circle as her backhand shot was deflected over the goal. Moments later, Danielle Grega (Kingston, Pa.) took a free hit quick and earned USA a penalty corner. The sweep by Ally Hammel (Duxbury, Mass.) earned USA another but on the second set piece, with 5 seconds remaining, there was a backstick on the trap closing the quarter scoreless.
Action picked up for both teams in the second quarter. Bing was tested off the restart with a hard shot by Charlotte Englebert. On the resuming play, Zimmer and Grega used a combination in the right corner to earn USA a penalty corner and following, Erin Matson (Chadds Ford, Pa.) had a close chance when she one time shot it at close range, but it was saved by Belgium goalkeeper Aisling D’Hooghe. The Red Panthers saw a penalty corner go unconverted and a shot drilled into Bing. It looked like the match was heading into the break deadlocked but with 1:20 to go, Belgium capitalized when Louise Versavel spun and sent it into the net. That didn’t hinder USA as they responded by earning a series of penalty corners where the final play was saved twice off the line by post player Stephanie Vanden Borre, first the sweep by Hammel and then the rebound by shot Megan Rodgers (San Diego, Calif.).
To start the second half, USA brought goalkeeper Kealsie Robles (Seaford, Va.) into the game and she was tested in the open minutes. Belgium started with a hard shot, then a diving attempt and had a sequence of penalty corners that were defended well, especially by the brave running of DeBerdine. The Red Panthers’ set piece persistence paid off in the 39th minute, and off their fourth attempt, they doubled their lead when Versavel buried a drag into the corner to make it 2-0. The last 5 minutes saw USA with some forward progress but they failed to string together the final pass.
The fourth quarter was all Belgium as they added another three goals to their lead, with two coming in the 48th minute and the other in the 56th minute. The first came off an up field pass that Pauline Leclef hit and it was touched out of the air by Raye. Next, Vanden Borre sent it into the net off a penalty corner and lastly Raye collected a rebound goal on a penalty corner. Trailing, USA continued to fight to gather positive attack. The only good look for the red, white and blue came in the 50th minute when Ashley Sessa (Schwenksville, Pa.) cut back and ripped a backhand shot that was saved by D’Hooghe.
Following the game, Belgium’s Louise Versavel was named Player of the Match.
"We put together a couple of nice passes, here and there, and we had a couple of nice plays but there is definitely some things we need to work on," said Jillian Wolgemuth (Mount Joy, Pa.), following the game. "Belgium did a good job of exploiting some of our weakness is in the second half and we just need to close up some things."
In less than 24 hours, the U.S. Women’s National Team will return to action to take on No. 6 Belgium in their second and final FIH Hockey Pro League game at 5:00 a.m. ET. For more information, visit the FIH Hockey Pro League Event Page.
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