SANTIAGO, Chile – The final pool play match for Pool D in the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup was a thrilling one between the No. 5 U.S. U-21 Women’s National Team and No. 12 New Zealand. Needing a five-goal win to finish in the top half of their pool, the Junior Eagles just fell short with a 6-2 victory. Player of the Match Abby Tamer (Whitmore Lake, Mich.) tallied three goals in the high-scoring affair.
“I am really proud of how the Junior Eagles competed today.” said U-21 USWNT Head Coach Tracey Paul. “They knew going into the game they had to score goals and they did – in the end we just ran out of time and finished one goal short. Our second half against England, and their game against Japan today put us in a challenging position. This team has shown professionalism, the ability to make improvements from every game, and live our core values. We are focused forward and I have full confidence in our ability to secure top place in our bracket.”
With the pressure on for USA to notch a big win, the team started out with high energy. Kiersten Thomassey (New Albany, Ohio) made a steal in the middle and dribbled up through traffic, testing the New Zealand goalkeeper early on, who made the save. USA continued to put on pressure, and Ryleigh Heck (Ocean City, N.J.) stepped up in the press to make a great intercept and send the ball up to Hope Rose (Dauphin, Pa.). Rose received but sent it wide. On the counterattack, New Zealand looked for their first shot on goal – which was blocked by Rayne Wright (Bethlehem, Pa.). Wright was on the offensive just a few minutes later with a hard cross from the right that sailed by the goal with no one able to put it in. Shortly after, a reverse shot from Olivia Bent-Cole (Philadelphia, Pa.) was saved by the New Zealand goalkeeper. In the final few minutes of the quarter, New Zealand turned up their pressure, with a few shots blocked and cleared by Annable Skubisz (Houston, Texas). Between New Zealand possession, USA got back into their attacking circle briefly, where Thomassey spun and sent the ball towards cage, but was denied. The first quarter ended without a score.
The Junior Eagles came out strong as they had done in the previous quarter. Dani Mendez-Trendler (Reistertown, Md.) sent up a nice ball to Bent-Cole, whose one-on-one opportunity with the goalkeeper was shutdown. New Zealand countered quickly, pusing USA back into their defensive zone, but USA made their way out and up the field with nifty passing between Charly Bruder (Malvern, Pa.), Katie Dixon (Cary, N.C.), and Heck. A pass up into the circle from Lauren Wadas found the stick of Heck, but another chance was denied by the New Zealand goalkeeper. Then, the stalemate was finally broken at minute 23. Tamer sent a hard cross in from the right, which was collected calmly by Mendez-Trendler, who sent it into the back of the cage, giving USA a 1-0 lead.
New Zealand pushed back and earned a penalty corner two minutes later, but low sticks from the USA defense blocked the shot. USA regained possession for a bit, until New Zealand got another shot off that was defelcted wide. A follow-up shot soon after was saved by Skubisz. With time ticking down, New Zealand earned a penalty corner chance, which was shutdown by Skubisz and the USA defense. The Junior Eagles headed into halftime leading 1-0.
With one half remaining to lengthen their lead, the red, white, and blue needed to energize the attack. Mendez-Trendler utilized her aerial skills in the circle to get around the defense, sending the ball to Tamer who hit the ball up and in to put USA up 2-0. Keeping up the energy, Tamer shortly after sent a hard shot that banged off the post. With six minutes left in the quarter, Tamer again found herself in the circle – dribbling through traffic and sending a reverse shot wide. It was minute 40 when New Zealand pushed up and earned a set piece opportunity, which USA defended well. Another penalty corner call for New Zealand two minutes later was overturned off a crucial USA referral. The third frame ended with sustained pressure from New Zealand, but USA retaining their 2-0 lead.
The final quarter began with New Zealand stepping on the gas. After a few minutes of work on their defensive end, USA found themselves in their attacking circle once again, with a shot from Heck blocked. With just 13 minutes left, time was running out for the Junior Eagles, until a mistake in New Zealand’s backfield led to a huge steal from Tamer. Tamer dribbled and expertly lifted the ball past the goalkeeper, giving USA hope and a 3-0 lead. Play continued back and forth until the 54 minute mark when New Zeland got on the board, putting the score at 3-1. With time ticking down and desperation seeping in, both sides made the decision to pull their goalkeeper, making it a match between 22 field players. New Zealand earned a penalty corner with 3 minutes left, scoring on the straight shot to bring the score to 3-2.
Looking impossible for USA, Tamer stepped up to the pressure yet again and took a top corner backhand shot that put USA up 4-2 with two minutes remaining. Moments after play restarted at the half, USA won a penalty corner chance, which was converted on a straight shot on an empty net by Jans Croon (Manhattan Beach, Calif.). Now up 5-2, the red, white and blue needed two goals in two minutes to reach the goal differential they needed. Dribbling up the lefthand side, Tamer was fouled to earn USA a penalty stroke at the 59 minute mark. New Zealand substituted their goalkeeper back in, but to no avail, as Rose clinically found the back of the net. USA led 6-2 with just 60 seconds to play, but could not find the last goal needed as the final horn sounded.
Next, the Junior Eagles will begin crossovers with a match against the fourth-place team in Pool C, No. 18 Canada. The contest will take place on Tuesday, December 5 at 9:15 a.m. ET. This match and all others will be live streamed on watch.hockey.
For all information about #JWC2023, check out the event page.
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