April 02, 2017, 10:04 p.m. (ET)

USA Dominates Dominican Republic, On to The Medal Round

As the USA Women’s National Team (WNT) prepared to take on the impressive Dominican Republic team Saturday night, tension was in the air as it’s been a long time since a USA WNT has reached an important game in a tournament looking like they were truly competitive.  

The Dominican Republic team, as always, is a big, strong, and physical team.  They can be both intimidating and overwhelming.  Yet, on this Saturday night they proved no match for an American team whose defense was truly stellar.  Time and again the Dominicans challenged the Americans and were met quickly and physically at the point of attack.

The USA opened scoring with quick goals by Nicole Andersen, Julia Taylor, Jence Rhoads, Kathy Darling, and the gauntlet was thrown down to the Dominicans.  Being big, strong, and physical was not nearly enough as Team USA played a disciplined and stifling defense.  The Americans proved superior in both speed and quickness, demonstrating a true commitment to defense with remarkable lateral quickness and an extraordinary ability to get their hands on a significant number of Dominican shots.

The interior core of the USA defense, anchored by Sarah Gascon, Jennifer Fithian, Rhoads, and Andersen were supported by Shani Levinkind and Darling.  They were nearly impenetrable.  When the Dominicans tried to go over the top, blocks were commonplace.  On offense, veteran Ashley Van Ryn scored, quickly followed by freshman Ashley Butler’s four goals, as did Fithian and Levinkind, and the rout was on.   At halftime, the USA had fashioned an improbable 13-5 lead.

As the second half opened, there was the anticipation that the powerful Dominicans would claw their way back into the game.  A goal here and there closed the gap, but goals by Butler, Rhoads, Fithian, and Van Ryn kept the Americans comfortably in the lead.  

Once again, the American defense rose to the challenge and the suffocating pressure on the Dominicans took them completely out of their offensive game. When Liz Hartnett got hot in threw in three goals and Butler added three more of her own, the Americans served notice that this game would be theirs.  The scoring would end as Goalkeeper Sophie Fasold fired in an empty net goal with seconds left to punctuate the victory.  The USA would outscore the Dominican Republic 13-8 in the second half for an impressive 26-13 win. 

The only downside to the victory was Andersen being injured early in the second half.  She was wheeled off the court after a collision and treated courtside by USA Trainer Elaine Reiche.  Andersen is day to day.  Zoe Lombard was scratched for the second consecutive day,

The USA begins the tournament anew as the medal round games begin with a rematch against a strong Greenland team.  To qualify for the 2017 Pan Am Championships, the WNT must win one of their two remaining games.  Beating quality teams twice in the same tournament is always a severe test and the Americans have already beaten each of their three potential challengers in the medal round.

Today’s match begins at 5:30 PM (EST).  Although not livestreamed by tournament officials, there will be an effort to transmit the game thru Facebook live or YouTube.

Scoring- Butler (8), Rhoads (4), Darling (3), Hartnett (3), Fithian (2), Van Ryn (2), Andersen (1), Levinkind (1), Taylor (1), Fasold (1)