Two years ago, the United States women’s field hockey team couldn’t solve the 1-v-1 shootouts that were the new international mandate for tiebreakers in knockout games, losing 3-1 to Australia in the semifinals of the 2014 FIH World Cup.
In a rematch with Australia at the 2016 Champions’ Trophy in London, the States also had trouble on attack, as interim captain Melissa Gonzalez was the only one of the five U.S. attackers to score.
But Jackie Briggs, having yielded three to Australia in the shootout two years ago, was an absolute wall in the bronze-medal match at the Champions Trophy. Briggs withstood all five Hockeyroo attempts without conceding a goal, allowing the States to take a 1-0 shootout win after a 2-2 draw.
The American side had fallen behind 2-0 early in the second half, having conceded an extra-woman goal to Australia because of an inexplicable 10-minute yellow card handed out to Katie Bam for a tackle from behind in the 29th.
Bam, however, opened the United States account just three minutes after rejoining the game, then, with Australia’s Kristin Dwyer off the pitch for a yellow card, she scored again to bring the game to level terms in the 57th.
The bronze-medal match win represented the first time the United States had taken home a medal at the Champions Trophy since 1995.
The third-place points awarded for this championship ought to help the States in world rankings, and winning the bronze should automatically extend the U.S. an invitation to the final FIH Champions Trophy in 2018.
With five weeks before the Americans embark on the journey to Rio, the Americans should gain confidence not only from this result, but from the fact that Pan Am rivals Argentina won the tournament 2-1 against defending Olympic champion Holland.