Comeback Falls Short as U-21 USWNT End Junior World Cup Campaign to South Africa
by USA Field Hockey
IMAGES TAKEN BY WORLD SPORT PICS & FIH
POTCHEFSTROOM, South Africa – The U.S. U-21 Women’s National Team took on the host nation South Africa in the 7th-8th place match of the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World Cup, taking place at North-West University in Potchefstroom, South Africa. After finding themselves trailing 2-0 at halftime, USA’s late push fell short as they lost to South Africa, 3-2.
"Of course losing is disappointing, but finishing in the top-8 is an achievement for the team," said Tracey Paul, U-21 USWNT Head Coach, following the game. "Kudos to South Africa, they came out and played a really hard, tough competitive game today."
The first quarter started with both teams looking to settle nerves and get into a groove. South Africa earned a penalty corner in the 3rd minute, but the attempt was well defended by flyer Alia Marshall (Rehoboth Beach, Del.). Immediately following, USA had a close chance when Hope Rose (Dauphin, Pa.) put a high sweep on goal that was saved by South Africa goalkeeper Mishka Ellis. The host nation broke open the scoring in the 7th minute when Kayla de Waal send a cross ball to Bianca Wood, who got in front of her defender and fired in a quick shot. Seconds later, USA earned a penalty corner but were unable to convert. South Africa extended their lead in the 12th minute off a penalty corner when Jean-Leigh du Toit sent a drag high into the net. USA had a final minute threat when Rose had space, beat two South Africa defenders and pulled around Ellis but her shot went wide.
Now trailing, USA put South Africa under pressure and created more opportunities in the second period but were unable to find the back of the goal. Ashley Sessa (Schwenksville, Pa.) had a good look 3 minutes in when her backhand shot went over the goal. Following, Charlotte De Vries (Malvern, Pa.) created but was met by a stout South Africa defense and Leah Crouse (Virginia Beach, Va.) used aerial skill on the right baseline but was unable to produce an outcome. Another good chance came when Kathryn Peterson (San Diego, Calif.) drove forward and got it to Rose who got off a quick, turning shot that went just wide. South Africa earned a penalty corner in the 27th minute but another good first run by Marshall shut down the attempt.
South Africa came out firing in the third quarter, adding to their lead just 3 minutes in. A hard sweep on the baseline from Tamlyn Kock was tipped up and Mikkela Le Roux touched it in to make it 3-0. USA kept pushing and five minutes later restored the two-goal deficient when Josie Varney (Smithfield, Maine) went solo into the circle and converted on a low backhand. USA earned a penalty corner in the 41st minute but to no avail. The remaining minutes saw a theme of double turnovers and unforced errors limit either side from producing positive possession.
A determined USA showed intensity in the final frame. After South Africa had a few circle entries to start, and even a penalty corner denied, the red, white and blue got within one goal in the 51st minute. From the right corner, Sessa sent a cross that was deflected up and Abigail Tamer (Whitmore Lake, Mich.) used a diving one-hand, backhand to sweep it under South Africa goalkeeper Amelie Claasen. This sparked USA’s momentum has they continued to threaten and search for outcomes. USA pulled goalkeeper Skubisz opting for the extra field player with 3 minutes remaining, but South Africa held on, diminishing USA's comeback, for the 3-2 win.
Following the game, South Africa’s Edith Molikoe was named Player of the Match.
"[We take away] a lot of growth," commented Paul. "We have a lot of rising stars and giving them the opportunity to compete in a tournament like this and South Africa really put on a great tournament for us, and it was a fantastic experience."
Next, USA is set to travel to Dublin, Ireland for a 6-Nations Tournament from June 19 through 25.
For more information regarding the FIH Hockey Women’s Junior World, visit the event page.
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