USA Takes Gold at 21st Maccabiah Games in Sudden Victory Shootout

by USA Field Hockey

Images Taken by Mark D. Phillips & Tammy Cheskis

17 photos

RAMAT GAN, Israel - Team USA defeated Argentina in a sudden victory shootout to bring home the gold medal at the 21st Maccabiah Games that took place July 12 to 26 in Jerusalem, Israel. This marked the first time that USA has taken the top position in the sport of field hockey at the third largest sporting event in the world often referred to as the "Jewish Olympics", with more than 10,000 athletes competing from 62 different countries. USA sent the largest delegation in history with over 1,300 competitors.


USA came out on top 6-5 in the shootout sending them into a raucous celebration on the field after one of the most exciting gold medal games witnessed. The victory was sweet revenge after Argentina pummeled the USA 5-0 in their first matchup on July 21, in the preliminaries.


The finals were a different story. During the first half, both teams played relentless defense and went in to halftime with no goals. Team USA came out of the break on the attack and Dylan Breier (Prospect, Ky.) scored the first goal in the 38th minute to take a 1-0 lead. Just three minutes later, Paige Forester (Glencoe, Ill.) gave USA a 2-0 lead. Argentina fought back, gaining a penalty corner with no time left in the third quarter. Las Leonas' Sofia Goldbeer knocked it home to cut the deficit to 2-1.


The fourth quarter was dominated by Argentina with penalty corner after penalty corner, and they came through with the game-tying goal in the 51st minute by Juliana Salun to force the match into overtime.


In 90º temperatures, USA and Argentina battled through two overtime periods, with neither team finding the net to close out the contest.


In the shootout, Julia Freedman (Greenwich, Conn.) scored the 6-5 goal, giving the USA the gold medal celebration.


“One of the most intense experiences in field hockey is having to go down to a shootout, and these girls kept their composure, we were family,” said Jess Foley, USA's Coach.


USA opened their quest for gold with a first game victory over Australia in the 21st Maccabiah games in Ramat Gan, Israel, with a 10-0 shutout onJuly 17. Sophie Freedman (Greenwich, Conn.) led the red, white and blue, scoring four goals. Teammates Breier, Forester, Becca Munoz (Weston, Mass.), Maya Geller (Yardley, Pa.), J. Freedman and Kelsi McDevitt (Gilbertsville, Pa.) each added a goal in the win.


On July 18, USA recorded their second shutout with a 3-0 win over the host country, Israel. S. Freedman scored her fifth goal of the Games, along with teammates Rose Weseley (Kingston, N.Y.) and Breier, her second goal of the event.


In their third match, USA fell behind The Netherlands 1-0, but the red, white and blue responded with four unanswered goals to win their third straight game, 3-1, and also guaranteeing a spot in the finals. The Netherlands came out strong, scoring in the first minutes of the game, but USA responded quickly, tying the match on a goal by S. Freedman, her sixth in three games. Teammates J. Freedman and Geller both added their second goal of the tournament.


In all the matches, USA were relentless, keeping the ball out of their defensive zone and limiting scoring opportunities for their opponents. Australia didn’t have any shots on goal, while Israel only managed two.


The 21st Maccabiah Games took place from July 12 to July 26, 2022. The Maccabiah takes place every four years in Israel - "the Jewish Olympics" as they are often referred, has grown to be the third largest sporting event in the world. This year, President Joe Biden attended the opening ceremonies on July 14, 2022, at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem. The live event featured an hour long march by the athletes and performances by some of Israel’s biggest stars in a nationwide broadcast.


It’s hard to wrap one’s head around it today. But at the end of the 19th century, Jews in Europe were officially barred from taking part in athletic competitions. As anti-Semitism raged in cities, towns and countrysides across the continent, Jewish people were forbidden membership in sports associations. While the hatred of Jews in some quarters has failed to subside in the present day, at the time, hate was built into the culture and even the law. One man decided to do something about it.


The visionary was named Yosef Yekutieli, a Russian Jew who immigrated with his family in 1909 to what then was known as the British Mandate of Palestine – today the state of Israel. Inspired by a booklet he obtained from the Stockholm 1912 Olympic Games naming the many Jews who participated in the games, and the medals they won, Yekutieli began his quest for official Jewish participation in international competitions.


And the Maccabiah Games, also known as the Jewish Olympic Games, were born.