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Aug. 4, 2016 — Olympic field hockey preview: United States

Today, we finish our Olympic field hockey preview by looking at Pool B participant United States:

USA
How they got here: Won Pan American Games
Key players when the U.S. has the ball: Michelle Vittese (m), Katie Bam, (f, inserter), Jill Witmer (f), Kat Sharkey (f)
Key players when the opponent has the ball: Lauren Crandall (d), Melissa Gonzalez (d/m), Rachel Dawson (d/m), Julia Reinprecht (d, corner flyer)

Outlook: The documented history of American women’s field hockey goes all the way back to 1901, and its national side dates back to 1920. It has taken decades for the team to go from little more than a social team that would tour and travel, eating dinner with foreign kings and princes. The current team is a high-performance side, taking a professional approach to everything, and is now capable of making the world’s top three.

The States have had some hard luck in its history. They could have been the miracle hockey team in Moscow had there not been a Western boycott. They may have been about two inches from playing for the gold medal at the 2014 FIH World Cup. And, fairly or not, the women’s field hockey team are compared to other American women’s team sports at an Olympics — most of which seem to win gold medals. 

And yet, this American side has been able to develop its own identity through a remarkable recent history. Before 2008, the United States had never won an FIH-sanctioned tournament with more than four participants. But the States, by virtue of winning the Kazan Olympic Qualifier, were able to gain confidence. The Applebees are the two-time Pan American Games champions, won their pool at the 2014 FIH World Cup, and they won their first major world-level trophy in 94 years when they won the FIH Champions’ Challenge two years ago.

The U.S. has all of the tools to compete: team speed, technical ability, good defense, good goalkeeping. The team has a puncher’s chance at making the gold-medal match if it can avoid Holland for as long as possible in the single-elimination bracket.

Think of this, however: the Applebees were able to win bronze just five weeks ago at the FIH Champions Trophy, without Crandall. the team captain, in the lineup with a broken foot. How good can this team be with her?

 

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