FIH Pro League Season Concludes with USWNT’s Narrow Loss to Belgium

by USA Field Hockey

Images Taken by World Sport Pics & FIH

42 photos

ANTWERP, Belgium – In the concluding match of the 2022-23 FIH Hockey Pro League season, the No. 16 U.S. Women’s National Team rematched host No. 4 Belgium at Sportcentrum Wilrijkse Plein-Antwerp. The United Eagles left it all out on the field, but could not find what they needed to secure a win and their place in next year’s FIH Hockey Pro League, as they fell to Belgium 1-0.


“I think we’re all really disappointed,” said USWNT captain Ashley Hoffman (Mohnton, Pa.) following the game. “We had a lot of belief in the beginning of this game and I think we kept that the entire game – we never thought that we couldn’t do it. But now that time is up, we’re really disappointed.”


“This [Pro League] was a really good opportunity for us to play top level hockey.”


Early into the first quarter, USA’s goalkeeper Kelsey Bing (Houston, Texas) was tested, making a save on an uncontested shot from the Belgium attack. In response, USA looked to make moves up the field, with Ashley Sessa (Schwenksville, Pa.) intercepting a ball in the midfield but unable to get past the Belgium defense. A dangerous cross in the circle at the 10-minute mark left USA’s defense looking open, but there was no one was there to receive it. It was anyone’s game as the first quarter winded down, the score tied with no goals for either side.


Just a minute into the next frame, USA earned a penalty corner when the Belgium goalkeeper cleared the ball into their defender’s foot. The play for USA was a slip right to Jillian Wolgemuth (Mount Joy, Pa.) who sent the ball over the endline. Not long after, Belgium won their own penalty corner off a USA foot in the circle. Meredith Sholder (Fleetwood, Pa.) stood strong for the USA defense, blocking the initial shot, but Belgium earned another penalty corner when the second shot bounced dangerously off a defender’s stick. It was Sholder again who blocked the first shot, but Belgium’s relentless attack earned a third consecutive penalty corner. The ball eventually went over the endline, giving the USA defense a free hit coming out. Their relief was short-lived, as a minute later at the 22-minute mark Belgium found the breakthrough they needed. A ball sent across the circle from Justine Rasir was tapped in by Astrid Bonami, who was waiting at the right post to put Belgium up 1-0. USA was intense on the counter, increasing their pressure and pushing into their attacking circle. Less than a minute to go in the half, Abigail Tamer (Dexter, Mich.) earned a penalty corner for USA. It was Hoffman on the straight drag flick, which was saved by Belgium’s goalkeeper to keep the score 1-0 in Belgium’s favor going into halftime.


It was Belgium who started out on the attack to begin the third quarter. After putting on pressure, the Red Panthers earned another penalty corner – a drag flick from the top that was saved by Bing. Twice in succession, the use of video referral helped USA out of a tough spot in their defensive circle and gave them a free hit coming out. The United Eagles tried to carry some forward momentum into their attacking end but were unable to break the Belgium defense. At 37-minutes in, Belgium almost had another ball in off the post, but quick reflexes from Alexandra Hammel (Duxbury, Mass.) allowed her to stop and send the ball out. Sessa and the USA offensive line pushed up, but with no opportunities on goal materializing. The third quarter came to a close with Belgium still leading 1-0.


To start the final quarter, Kealsie Robles (Seaford, Va.) replaced Bing in goal for USA. The United Eagles pressed up high on the Red Panthers, trying to force a turnover. A few minutes into the frame, Robles was forced to make a save on an uncontested shot from the Belgium attack. Switching possession, USA was up the field and Sanne Caarls (Nieuw-Vennep, Netherlands) was able to earn a penalty corner. The initial shot was blocked and although USA pushed hard to keep the ball in the circle, it was cleared out by the Belgium defense. USA didn’t stop trying, as Sessa and Cassie Sumfest (Lewisburg, Pa.) worked together in the circle to put the ball in the net. The goal was immediately referred by Belgium, then taken back with a free hit awarded to Belgium for a foul on one of their defenders during the play. USA had one more big push when Caarls drove the ball baseline into the pads of the Belgium goalkeeper, who cleared it out. As Belgium settled into their possession, USA pulled goalkeeper Robles in order to put an extra field player on the pitch. The efforts were fruitless, as the final buzzer sounded to signal the end of the match, giving Belgium a 1-0 victory and ending the FIH Hockey Pro League 2022-23 season.


Following the game, Belgium’s Vanessa Blockmans was named Player of the Match.


With the loss, the U.S. Women’s National Team will finish the 2022-23 FIH Hockey Pro League season with a record of 3-13, including two shootout wins. In this fourth season, the FIH implemented for the first time the promotion of the relegation principle, where the team that finished last in the standings would be relegated and replaced with the 2022 FIH Hockey Nations Cup Champion for the 2023-24 edition. The USWNT may re-enter FIH Hockey Pro League by winning the 2023 FIH Hockey Nations Cup, which they will be eligible to participate in.

Some highlights of the season for the USWNT include defeating No. 2 Australia in shootouts after a 0-0 draw in regulation back in March. The United Eagles also recently started off with a 2-0 lead over No. 1 The Netherlands, only to fall 3-2 after the Oranje pushed ahead in the final quarter of play.

Next up, the USWNT will have several months of training for their upcoming international matches this fall.


For more information regarding the FIH Hockey Pro League, visit the event page.


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