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May 27, 2017 — USA vs. Ireland: what we’ve learned

The U.S. senior women’s field hockey team, on the cusp of trying to qualify for its first World League Final as well and hosting the 2017 Pan Am Cup, trotted out a very new and inexperienced lineup for a three-game Test series against Ireland at Spooky Nook last week.

From watching the video and noticing a couple of other things about the States’ lineups the last three games, here are a few things we should be taking away from this tournament:

  1. The back foot. The United States fell into a counterattacking style of play, rather than the “first tackle, first foul, first shot, first goal” ethic that has marked their play for most of the last decade. It therefore took a while for the States to get going in a couple of their games.
  2. Back to “square one” on corners. The retirement of Lauren Crandall and Rachel Dawson means the loss of two of the States’ primary dragflick options. The U.S. tried straight strikes from Melissa Gonzalez, Ashley Hoffman, and Kat Sharkey as well as different options on pass plays. Julia Reinprecht’s retirement meant the loss of an excellent corner flyer, but Gonzalez was able to fill that role admirably.
  3. The young Americans. Six players made their international debuts in the first game of the series. Add to that the players who debuted during the Hawke’s Bay Tournament earlier in the spring, and this is truly a team in transition.
  4. With arrivals come departures. USA Field Hockey has announced a number of player retirements over the last few months. But other departures have been quieter, such as the first-person story by Paige Selenski and the move of Kelsey Kolojejchick to Syracuse’s coaching staff.
  5. And then there are departures. If you look at the revised U.S. women’s national team roster as updated April 27th, there is one name missing, and her number reassigned to another player. And that player is Katie Bam, the only American field hockey player to ever win an “Athlete of the Year” award from a major sports or media organization when she won the team-sport honor from the Women’s Sports Foundation. The last we saw of her, she went down injured from a severe foul tackle from a German player in the Olympic quarterfinals nearly a year ago. In the unsentimental and unforgiving world of international sport, even the great ones have an end to their careers. I’m hoping I’m reading too much into the roster change.
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