U-18 USWNT Concludes Europe Tour
by USA Field Hockey
IMAGES TAKEN BY MAX FULHAM PHOTOGRAPHY & WOLFRAM KELLER
ROTTERDAM, The Netherlands – Last week, the U.S. U-18 Women’s National Team returned from their Europe Tour, closing out the trip in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. After seeing a promising start to the tour, the team finished strong with a 4-1 victory over Hockey Club Rotterdam.
The U.S. U-18 Women’s National Team finished their Europe Tour with another two top-level games. Wednesday, April 5 was a practice day for USA, before traveling again to play a match in Germany on Thursday. On Friday, between gamedays, the team went to Amsterdam and visited the Euro Hockey League (EHL). The team watched top level club hockey and witnessed an exciting game between Den Bosch and SCHC that finished in shootouts. Saturday was the U-18 USWNT's final match, and USA finished on a high note with a victory in the Netherlands.
“I’m proud of the team of how they progressed throughout this intense week,” said U-18 USWNT Head Coach Ralph Boersma. “Despite having to drive almost 1,000 miles for our games, their energy and attitude was amazing. Playing four top teams in Europe has given us experiences and lessons that we can now build on going forward.”
Game 1: USA 3 - 3 NED
The red, white and blue opened the scoring less than 40 seconds into the match after an intercept in the midfield by Molly Nye (Weston, Mass.) that led to a penalty corner. On the ensuing set piece, Mia Schoenbeck (Lagrange, Ky.) scored a well-executed drag flick, with assists from Maci Bradford (Delmar, Del.) and Anne Marie Krebs (Louisville, Ky.).
Heading into the second quarter tied 1-1, USA capitalized on an early opportunity, once again scoring in the first minute of play. An aerial by Schoenbeck effectively broke The Netherlands’ high press and was received nicely off a well-timed lead by Ella Gaitan (Belvidere, N.J.). Gaitan demonstrated a high level of skill and composure on the ball, eliminating the goalkeeper to push USA ahead 2-1 on the scoreboard. The Oranje equalized on a penalty stroke that was awarded after an aerial broke the last line of the USA defense.
Heading into the fourth quarter of a back and forth contest, Gaitan once again scored a goal in the run of play to put USA ahead 3-2. The Netherlands responded with an increased level of intensity, scoring an equalizer and earning a penalty corner, with their sights set on taking the lead for the first time in the match. The Oranje executed a quality set-piece that saw Rachael Whitehead (Hockssin, Del.) make a defensive save to keep The Netherlands off the board.
With time winding down, Nye jumped up into the attack from the midfield to earn USA a penalty corner in the final minute of play. Off the chance, The Netherlands' penalty corner defense stood tough and prevented USA’s push to take the lead.
Throughout the match, goalkeepers Aby Deverka (Houston, Texas) and Alyssa Klebasko (Odenton, Md.) each showed poise under pressure in holding a dynamic Netherlands' attack at bay. Their ability to maintain a calm presence resulted in USA withstanding the ebbs and flows of the Oranje attack at key moments in the match.
“A really encouraging start to our tour,” said Ralph Boersma, U-18 USWNT Head Coach, after the match. “The team competed hard from start to finish. We gained valuable experience and video that will make us better tomorrow. We want to be more consistent throughout the entire game and never drop below a certain level and standard.”
Game 2: USA 3 - 4 BEL
Coming off a draw the previous day, the U-18 USWNT looked to build on their momentum as they traveled to Royal Beerschot Hockey Club in Antwerp, Belgium to play the Belgium U-18 Women’s National Team. The high energy from both sides made for a hotly contested matchup.
The first quarter was scoreless, with limited chances for both sides. USA gained two penalty corner opportunities, but good defensive skill from Belgium’s goalkeeper prevented the team getting on the board. A hard shot from Schoenbeck looked promising but glanced just wide of the cage. Belgium started the second quarter strong which resulted in multiple circle entries for the Red Panthers. An outlet error by USA led to a huge chance that Belgium was able to capitalize on, scoring off the rebound. USA was not able to create much attacking momentum in the remainder of the second frame and went into halftime down 1-0.
Within a minute of the second half, an unfortunate turnover inside USA’s defensive circle led to an opportunity for Belgium, who brought the score up to 2-0. After some tactical changes, USA showed resilience and ramped up the tempo and pressure. This had an immediate effect and led to a well-executed penalty corner goal from Gaitan, with assists going to Madison Beach (Northbrook, Ill.) and Bradford. The Junior Eagles demonstrated a solid press and fast attacking transition hockey, leading to quality scoring opportunities in the second half. The USA press caused a Belgium turnover that led to Melea Weber (Macungie, Pa.) scoring an unassisted strike to tie the game at 2-2. After a quick attacking free hit, the hosts were able to regain the lead, 3-2, off a tip into goal from a through ball from outside the circle. A stroke call in favor of Belgium after another outlet turnover put USA two goals behind.
Once again, the USA showed grit and character and came back with another goal to make it 4-3 with 7 minutes to play. Gaitan won the ball with an interception and assisted Bradford who calmly put it in the goal. After pulling the goalkeeper, USA chased opportunities in an effort to earn the equalizer as time expired, but the final result saw Belgium take the match 4-3.
Game 3: USA 0 - 7 GER
On Thursday, April 6 the U-18 USWNT team traveled to Deutscher Sportklub in Dusseldorf, Germany to take on the reigning U-18 European Champions – the Germany U-18 National Team. Germany started the game off strong and capitalized on two early opportunities within the first three minutes, establishing a 2-0 lead. After that, USA settled into the match and regained their intensity and rhythm. This led to 45 minutes of back and forth play with opportunities and corners for each team. USA was just shy of a goal after Callie Rogers (Richmond, Va.) tipped the ball just past the post off a dragflick from Gaitan.
Despite USA holding Germany to 2-0 for a majority of the match, Germany found space on the counterattack and capitalized on multiple corners and chances to score four goals in the final ten minutes of the contest.
Game 4: USA 4 - 1 HCR
On Saturday, the red, white, and blue traveled to Hockey Club Rotterdam (HCR) for their fourth and final game against the current U-18 Netherlands National Champion. Inspired by watching the EHL match the night before and determined to apply all lessons learned during the week in this final game of the tour, the team took the field.
In what turned out to be a very exciting contest at Rotterdam stadium, USA earned the first penalty corner of the match. A dragflick from the top from Gaitan was saved by a Rotterdam defender. Later in the first quarter, USA earned another penalty corner that was tipped just wide by Maci Bradford (Delmar, Del.). The defense led by USA goalkeeper Deverka kept Rotterdam from a few big chances.
A battle of the midfield continued into the second quarter, with HCR earning their first penalty corner of the game. A solid defensive save by Whitehead cleared the ball out of the USA circle and almost led to a counter attack opportunity on the other side. A second Rotterdam corner was cleared by goalkeeper Klebasko, and the match went scoreless into halftime.
After changing formations to start the third quarter, USA picked up their momentum and penetrated the attacking circle multiple times, but with no result. Both teams defended strong inside their defensive 25, limiting offensive opportunities. Midway through the third quarter, Rotterdam earned their third penalty corner, where Krebs, flying for the USA defense, deflected the shot which was then cleared by Deverka.
After three scoreless quarters, the final 15 minutes ended up having all the scoring action. Within two minutes of play starting back up, USA earned a penalty corner which was cleared by the HCR goalkeeper. After another dangerous circle entry by the USA, Rotterdam got on the board first after winning a penalty stroke in the counterattack. The red, white, and blue responded to this goal by turning up their pressure and intensity. On a USA penalty corner, Schoenbeck gave a deceptive pass to Ava Moore (Southampton, N.J.) that was saved by the Rotterdam goalkeeper, but a rebound effort from Lilly Wojcik (Wayne Pa.) put the ball in the goal to tie the match 1-1.
The energy of this goal brought more momentum and another corner for USA. An insert by Nye was stopped by Sabrina McGroarty (Mickleton, N.J.) and finished with a hard clean hit from Schoenbeck, bringing USA up 2-1. Then, a strong baseline run along the righthand side led to a backhand shot from Beach, that was scored off the rebound by Maggie Kondrath (Downingtown, Pa.). USA finished the game in style with a quick counterattack that led to a stroke call. Kondrath calmly put the ball in the back of the net for a final score of 4-1.
“Despite the loss to Germany, I think we played our best hockey for a large part of that game. I’m glad we were able to finish strong against HC Rotterdam.” said U-18 USWNT Head Coach Ralph Boersma. “A huge thank you to the staff that came with us and the hosting countries and clubs this week. Them allowing us in their schedules and the wonderful hospitality shows that the hockey world is a special community.”
For more information regarding the U-18 USWNT Europe Tour, visit the event page.
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