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July 7, 2015 — … and what that portends for the U.S. field hockey team

In the ultimate ICYMI (in case you missed it), the U.S. women’s softball team managed a 6-1 win in the championship final of the 10th World Cup of women’s softball in Irvine, Calif.  last Sunday.

This means that the United States currently holds the world cups in softball, women’s lacrosse, and women’s soccer, and currently holds the FIBA world championship in women’s basketball.

It kind of reminds you of what the women’s sports landscape was a decade and a half ago, when the United States held just about all women’s team sport championships.

The lone holdout then, as now, is field hockey. The Americans, despite playing the sport longer as an organized entity than any of the other sports (the first women’s national team was organized in 1920), have not had a history of success until recently.

The last few years, the Applebees have moved up in the rankings, making the Final Four in the FIH World Cup last year. More important, I think, was the fact that the U.S. women won its first major world-level trophy in their 94-year history when it won the Champions Challenge last year.

Starting this week, the U.S. women’s senior national field hockey team is looking to do something else that it hasn’t done before: defend its title in the Pan American Games. Four years ago in Guadalajara, the Americans took advantage of a quick start and good defense to take down the then-world champion Argentina in the Pan American Games final.

Many of the same players remain from that team four years ago. But with experience in the FIH World Cup last year, as well as the sting of disappointment from finishing fifth in the World League semifinals, is fueling the team.

You see, the fifth-place finish in the World League has placed the team third in line for qualification for the Olympics, and there is a mathematical possibility that the States may miss out on Rio. But the Applebees can avoid all of that uncertainty if they win the Pan American Games.

It should be an interesting women’s tournament because the only two teams who have ever won golds in the history of the Pan American Games are coming into Toronto 2015 wounded. Argentina comes into the tournament without talisman Carla Rebecchi, and the United States will be without attacker Kat Sharkey.

But I think what is going to be the key adjustment to victory in this tournament will be who the United States puts into the goal cage. In the FIH World League semifinals in Valencia, it was noticeable how different the team played with different players in the pads. Alesha Widdall played the final two games in the classification round for the United States and won both giving up an average of one goal a game. Jackie (Kintzer) Briggs, who was so brilliant in the World Cup and in the 2011 Pan American Games, went 2-2-1 in five matches with a 1.60 goals-against average.

It will be interesting to learn the team news before the first game Monday against Uruguay.

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2 Comments»

  Brendan wrote @

What happened to Kat Sharkey? Hoping for a safe recovery.

  Al Mattei wrote @

A lower-body injury.


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