Indoor USWNT Close Out FIH Indoor Hockey World Cup with Highest Finish, Win Over Kazakhstan
by USA Field Hockey
Images Taken by World Sport Pics
PRETORIA, South Africa – The No. 14 U.S. Women’s National Indoor Team closed out their 2023 FIH Indoor Hockey World Cup campaign with a win over No. 11 Kazakhstan and secured their highest finish ever at the event. USA jumped to a two-goal lead after the first quarter and never looked back, and even withstood a full second half where Kazakhstan opted to pull their goalkeeper, for the 5-1 final.
On their first attacking play in the opening minute Kazakhstan earned a penalty corner and scored but the officials overturned the outcome as the ball never came outside the circle. The early pressure didn’t trouble USA as they quickly worked their way into their end. The red, white and blue jumped to a 2-0 lead after scoring two within a 2-minute span. The first came in the 5th minute when Annie McDonough (Kennett Square, Pa.) started it from the back and passed ahead to Opal Sparling (Chester Springs, Pa.) who found Hannah Miller (Malvern, Pa.) for the goal. Next, following an unsuccessful penalty corner, a quick free hit got to Miller who passed it off to Sydney Mandato (Telford, Pa.) on the left to make it 2-0. The quarter closed with Miller adding three more looks but to no avail.
The first 5 minutes of the second quarter saw possession held primarily between the circles before USA extended their lead. Off a penalty corner, Reese D’Ariano (West Chester, Pa.) sent a well-placed drag in to make it 3-0. Kazakhstan started to apply more offensive pressure and responded in the 18th minute to cut the margin off a set piece of their own through Alina Bissirova. The 3-1 score stood going into the break.
USA started the third quarter an athlete down after Miller received a 2-minute yellow card at the end of the half. Kazakhstan opted to pull their goalkeeper at the start which benefited them as they produced four quick circle penetrations testing USA’s defense. The red, white and blue shifted tactics and sat in a deep press to absorb the attack, which also helped produce a handful of looks on the open net. The well-structured press paid off as it led to D’Ariano driving into the circle and get a shot off that hit a Kazakhstan foot giving USA a penalty stroke. McDonough stepped up and converted to make it 4-1. Their opponents didn’t let up and earned a succession of three penalty corners in a row to close the frame, as USA goalkeeper Elizabeth Tamburro (Phoenixville, Pa.) denied all chances.
Still with no goalkeeper in net, Kazakhstan remained in control looking to break through USA’s well-organized defense. Although their opponents continued to threaten, USA remained composed and took advantage of good one-two touch passing out of the back to extend the lead when Sparling adding her name to the scoresheet in the 35th minute. USA held the 5-1 advantage for the remainder of the game, withstanding Kazakhstan’s extra player for another 10 minutes and not allowing a goal in the second half despite, on their way to claim 9th place.
Following the game, USA’s Hannah Miller was named Player of the Match.
The 9th place finish is the Indoor USWNT’s highest at the FIH Indoor Hockey World Cup. At the 2018 edition they fell to Namibia in a shootout in the 9th/10th place game.
The young Indoor USWNT squad made continued improvement throughout the event. On the opening day, they were defeated by No. 9 Australia, 4-2, after being tied at the half. Progress was shown in their second game against No. 8 Austria, where they fought back to even the game but an unlucky penalty corner goal by their opponents ended 2-1. Next they tied hosts, No. 14 South Africa, 2-2, before defeating New Zealand, 9-0, in a high scoring match. In their final pool game, an unfortunate last minute goal by No. 2 Netherlands gave them the edge over USA for the 3-2 score.
For more information regarding the FIH Indoor Hockey World Cup, visit the event page.
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