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Paris 2024 Bound: USWNT Come from Behind to Beat Japan in FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifier Semifinal

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RANCHI, India – With a spot in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games on the line, the No. 12 U.S. Women’s National Team put out an inspiring performance against No. 9 Japan at the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifier Ranchi 2024 Semifinal in Ranchi, India. The United Eagles triumphantly rallied back with two goals in the fourth quarter to secure a 2-1 win and ticket to the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

It was a tight contest from the start between the U.S. Women’s National Team and Japan. Japan opened on the front foot, earning a penalty corner just 2 minutes into the contest, but USA took control for the remainder of the quarter. After USA goalkeeper Kelsey Bing (Houston, Texas) made the stop on the set piece, the United Eagles quick advanced up the right side. Sanne Caarls (Nieuw-Vennep, Netherlands) got it in the corner but was unable to turn it for a circle entry. In the 11th minute, Ashley Sessa (Schwenksville, Pa.) picked off a Japan defensive transfer and earned USA a penalty corner. After the initial set piece hit a Japan foot, the second chance saw Japan goalkeeper Eika Nakamura make the save. Moments later, Sessa sent a shot over the goal as the frame closed scoreless.

Similar to the start, Japan earned a set piece at the start of the second before USA settled into rhythm. Amanda Golini (Randolph, N.J.) produced a good drive and tested Nakamura on the left baseline. The pressure continued as both Caarls and Leah Crouse (Virginia Beach, Va.) entered the same way, but each were stopped by Nakamura. With four minutes remaining, Japan earned a penalty corner, but good post play by Ally Hammel (Duxbury, Mass.) shut down the opportunity. With a minute to go, Japan was issued a green card and 25 seconds later Ashley Hoffman (Mohnton, Pa.) earned one as well to even out the advantage.

Japan tried to generate attack at the start of the third, but solid defense by USA didn’t allow them to cleanly enter the circle. The United Eagles took control and forced Japan to pack everyone in their defensive half. In the 35th minute, Beth Yeager (Greenwich, Conn.) had her forehand shot saved by Nakamura. Three minutes later, Japan earned a penalty corner and Amiru Shimada scored on the second chance after Kelsey Bing (Houston, Texas) made the initial save. The quarter closed with Japan leading 1-0.

One minute into the final frame, Japan earned a set of penalty corners. Bing made back-to-back saves on the first set piece, but Japan couldn't trap it cleanly on the second. The quick USA attack got it down the left side, but Abby Tamer (Dexter, Mich.) was stopped in the corner. In the 52nd minute, Golini drove down the middle and earned USA a penalty corner, after being tackled hard outside the circle and earning the upgrade. On the chance, Hoffman equalized to bring it to 1-1.

Seconds after the restart, Japan was issued a 5-minute yellow giving USA an athlete-up advantage. The United Eagles made the most of it and found the go-ahead goal two minutes later on a penalty corner. The initial drag by Hoffman was stopped, but Tamer was there to send in a hard shot on the rebound. With 2 minutes to go Japan pulled their goalkeeper, and Hoffman earned USA another attacking penalty corner with one minute to go. The attempt was cleared, and Tamer kept the ball in the left corner to help drive the clock down. The match concluded with USA taking a 2-1 victory, sealing their ticket to the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

Today’s match marked a career milestone as Jillian Wolgemuth (Mount Joy, Pa) played in her 50th international match for Team USA.

Following the game, Ashley Sessa (Schwenksville, Pa.) was named Player of the Match.

The USA will play No. 5 Germany in the final on Friday, January 19 at 9 a.m. ET. Fans can watch it live on CBS Sports Network or pay-per-view on Watch.Hockey.

For more information regarding the FIH Hockey Olympic Qualifier Ranchi 2024, visit the event page.

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