TopOfTheCircle.com

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July 24, 2015 — USA 2, Argentina 1

TORONTO — The U.S. senior women’s field hockey team, just five weeks ago, left their World League quarterfinal match against Argentina a disheveled, defeated, and despondent lot. The squad had no answers against their Pan American Hockey Federation rivals in a game they needed in order to gain safe passage to the Rio Olympics, losing 3-0.

But even after fighting all the way back to fifth place in the Valencia semifinal and witnessing circumstances conspire to qualify the team to Rio next year even before the opening whistle tonight at the University of Toronto, the Applebees had their sights set on defending the Pan American Games title.

The U.S. got goals from Michelle Vittese and Katie Reinprecht in a six-minute span in the third quarter and held on for dear life for a 2-1 win, giving the Americans their second consecutive Pan American Games title.

Vittese, as is her wont, was the talisman in this game. She set up Reinprecht from the second-goal area on the right wing on a 34th-minute penalty corner. After sitting out two minutes with a green card, she charged back onto the pitch, scoring a penalty corner goal on a powerful sweep from the top of the circle in the 40th.

Argentina was able to pull one back in the final five minutes through Florencia Habif’s dragflick, but the U.S., on balance, was able to keep a dangerous Argentina attack line at bay for most of the contest. 

Jackie Briggs, just like four years ago, made the saves she needed to make against Argentina’s dangerous corner attack unit and allowed a defense led by Lauren Crandall, Rachel Dawson, Kaitlyn Falgowski, Melissa Gonzalez, and Stephanie Fee to make the necessary plays in front of her.

The result once again stamps the U.S. as a credible medal contender next summer in Rio de Janeiro, having knocked off the third-ranked team in the world. The rewards are not likely to be given in terms of rankings points because the Americans are not in the eight-team World League final this year.

But the rewards in terms of confidence and the knowledge of how to beat a top-level team in a high-stakes hockey match are immeasurable.

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