In the final game of their New Zealand leg of the FIH Hockey Pro League, the No. 16 U.S. Women’s National Team took on hosts the No. 9 Black Sticks. Entering the final quarter down 2-1, the determined United Eagles saw a goal get turned away as they ultimately fell 4-1. The score line doesn’t reflect the closeness of the contest as New Zealand converted on an open net on their way to victory.
“Overall there have been plenty of positives from these games and we have defended well at times and produced some good attacking phases,” said David Passmore, USWNT Head Coach. “We mustn’t forget our young average age and low number of caps relative to the other teams and the growth potential is evident but we need to be smarter at key moments.”
“We bring a slightly different group to Hobart and play four matches against two of the world’s best three teams will provide a new challenge especially with two blocks of back-to-back matches. It will be interesting to see our growth since we played Argentina since we played them in December last.”
The opening minutes saw possession played between the attacking ends. In the 5th minute, New Zealand changed the score line on a well-executed penalty corner goal from Megan Hull when she swept it off the post. USA responded and gathered a few circle entries and were rewarded in the 9th minute when they earned a penalty corner. The first attempt hit a Black Stick foot, and on the second, Amanda Golini (Randolph, N.J.) saw her shot go too high. Continuing on the front foot, the United Eagles had a close chance when Beth Yeager (Greenwich, Conn.) got it ahead to Sanne Caarls (Nieuw-Vennep, Netherlands) whose touch forced New Zealand goalkeeper Brooke Roberts to dive out of the goal. The quarter closed with New Zealand holding a goal advantage.
The United Eagles were persistent and started to positively build attack through great midfield passing. After defending a New Zealand penalty corner, USA worked it into their offensive end through Golini. On the right baseline, she passed it to Leah Crouse (Virginia Beach, Va.) who controlled it on the reverse and flicked it into the net for the equalizer, 1-1. New Zealand referred the goal claiming Crouse was backing in, but they were incorrect and lost their referral. The frame played out even as they went into the halftime break deadlocked.
Three minutes into the third quarter, New Zealand regained the lead after capitalizing on a tight angle shot by Olivia Shannon. The United Eagles reacted and earned two penalty corner chances, and on the second, Ashley Hoffman (Mohnton, Pa.) sent it down for a deflection but Roberts made the stop. USA saw a close chance when Ashley Sessa (Schwenksville, Pa.) threated to Emma DeBerdine (Millersville, Pa.) in the circle whose shot was deflected away by a New Zealand defender. Bing was tested a few more times in the frame, including two more penalty corner opportunities, as the score stood at 2-1.
The final fifteen was action packed. USA thought they had evened the game after a turnover by New Zealand allowed Olivia Bent-Cole (Philadelphia, Pa.) to receive the ball in the circle and rip a backhand into the net, but the official referred the goal. After review, it was determined that Bent-Cole struck it with the back of her stick resulting in no goal. This was followed by New Zealand converting after an unfortunate touch by USA landed with Hannah Cotter open in front of the goal. On the restart, Bing was removed from the game and two minutes later in the 57th minute, New Zealand added a fourth through Hull on an open net penalty corner. The Black Sticks held on for the 4-1 win.
Following the game, New Zealand’s Rose Tynan was named Player of the Match.
USA has a 5-day break as they travel to Hobart, Australia for their second mini-tournament of the FIH Hockey Pro League. There they will take on No. 2 Argentina and No.3 Australia, each in two games, on Wednesday, March 1; Thursday, March 2; Saturday, March 4 and Sunday, March 5.