U-21 USWNT Kicks Off FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup with Win Over Japan

27 photos

SANTIAGO, Chile – In their first match of the 2023 FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup, the No. 5 U.S. U-21 Women’s National Team opened up pool play with a battle against No. 15 Japan. Off two back-to-back goals from Charly Bruder (Malvern, Pa.) in the second quarter, the Junior Eagles secured a 2-1 victory.

“One of the greatest challenges that we have in front of us is not being together since having a full training block in June and playing together in July at Senior Nexus,” said Tracey Paul, U-21 USWNT Head Coach. “It’s a big challenge getting them back focused on who we are and what we do, independent from what they do within their college programs. We saw today they have done a great job letting go of the college season, getting back into being Junior Eagles, and embodying our core values.”

“Looking forward, they will need to use what they did well today as a platform of confidence and extract the lessons from this game because there’s definitely work that needs to be done before we face England tomorrow.”

Japan held possession for a majority of the first few minutes, until USA finally pushed through and earned a penalty corner at the 5-minute mark. Bruder stepped up to take the hit, but Japan’s goalkeeper made a nice stop on the straight shot. After that brief moment, Japan was back on the offensive, this time earning their own set piece with 6:30 remaining in the first frame. The straight shot was deflected wide to give USA a reprieve. Japan tested the USA defense for much of the remainder of the quarter, earning their second penalty corner with just two minutes left. Ai Hiramitsu converted with a straight shot from the top, giving Japan a 1-0 lead at the end of the first quarter.

USA upped the pressure in the second frame, finally stepping up on Japan's defense. Bruder received the ball in the circle and expertly executed a reverse shot into the cage at the 20-minute mark, tying the score at 1-1. Just a minute later, Bruder was fouled carrying outside the circle and it was upgraded to a USA penalty corner. Jans Croon (Manhattan Beach, Calif.) tried a sweep from the top that was deflected out by Japan.

Not even a minute after USA’s first goal, Bruder took a shot that hit the post and bounced into the goal after coming off the back of Japan's goalkeeper. That goal in the 21st minute gave USA the 2-1 lead and would be the ultimate game winner.

Trying to find the equalizer, Japan threatened and earned a penalty corner in the 23rd minute. This time, the Junior Eagles' defensive line stood strong to clear it wide. Japan was quick to earn another set piece, which deflected off a USA defender. After sustained attack from Japan, an intercept in the backfield from Katie Dixon (Cary, N.C.) finally allowed USA to get up and over the 50-yard line. Now more of a back and forth match, Mia Abello (Houston, Texas) drove up the right side, but Japan eventually earned the 16-yard hit. An exciting first half of play ended with USA leading, 2-1.

Both teams settled into the second half, with spectators seeing some more back and forth play for the first several minutes. Japan earned a penalty corner 5 minutes into the third quarter, then immediately earned another – both with no result. The third frame was quiet, with most play taking place in the middle of the field. A promising aerial from Croon reached Abby Tamer (Dexter, Mich.) who found Ryleigh Heck (Ocean City, N.J.). She tried to get some offense going for USA, but much like the rest of the quarter, neither team was able to create attacking opportunities. The score remained unchanged, staying 2-1 in favor of the Junior Eagles.

Japan was alert and ready with pressure in the fourth quarter, looking to even the score line. A big step up and interception from Josie Hollamon (Delmar, Del.) broke up Japan’s offensive pressure. Hollamon sent the ball up to Olivia Bent-Cole (Philadelphia, Pa.), who earned a USA penalty corner with 10 minutes remaining. USA captain Lauren Wadas (Annville, Pa.) took the shot, but it was blocked twice by Japan’s defense. Working hard to get the ball back, Wadas earned USA another set piece just 2 minutes later. Tamer took the shot from the top but it was blocked, while she followed up with another nice attempt that was also stopped.

Tensions rose slightly as Japan kept looking to find the equalizer, pushing hard into USA’s circle. With a stellar steal in the backfield with 4 minutes remaining, Bent-Cole sent the ball up the field, which escaped the stick of Bruder and went over the endline. A few clutch saves from goalkeeper Annabel Skubisz (Houston, Texas) kept Japan out of the cage for the remainder of the match. USA defended well to claim the 2-1 win over Japan.

Next up, the Junior Eagles will continue pool play tomorrow, December 1, with a match against No. 4 England at 4:30 p.m. ET. This match, and all others, will be live streamed on Watch.Hockey.

For all information about FIH Hockey Women's Junior World Cup, check out the event page.

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