By Tyler Poslosky | BSU at the Games
In the weeks leading up to the 2012 London Games, Team USA field hockey head coach Lee Bodimeade was confident in his team’s ability to come away with a medal.
“We learned a lot of lessons out of Beijing,” Bodimeade said. “We missed an opportunity to really challenge the top teams in the world. I thought we were [just] happy to go to the Olympics rather than be successful.”
Unfortunately, the U.S.’s play in London has been identical to what took place in 2008.
On Saturday night in a must-win game, New Zealand eliminated the U.S. from medaling with a 3-2 victory under the lights of Riverbank Arena.
The loss destroyed what could’ve been the U.S.’s first podium finish in nearly three decades.
“We trained for four years to maximize our achievements at the Olympic Games and we know that [the] result has put us short of our goals,” Bodimeade said. “The scenario today was that one team was headed forward in the tournament and the other team is going to really struggle. It is devastating for us.”
Clarissa Eshui’s goal in the waning minutes of the match put New Zealand ahead 3-2, eliminating the U.S. while keeping the Black Sticks alive for a potential spot in the semi-finals.
“We came into this game knowing we needed to get three points to keep going in the tournament and tonight we fell short and didn’t execute at the key moments,” captain Lauren Crandall said.
Penalty corners proved to be the difference in the match. New Zealand scored its first of three goals just over minute into the match.
The U.S. fought back to knot the game at 1-1 when Paige Selenski got the assist on Katie O’Donnell’s goal.
But the momentum quickly shifted to New Zealand after being awarded a penalty immediately following the U.S.’s goal.
New Zealand capitalized once more. Kayla Sharland’s shot changed directions multiple times before trickling past U.S. goalkeeper Amy Swensen.
The U.S. attempted to challenge the play, but it was denied and the goal was upheld, giving New Zealand a 2-1 lead.
With two minutes remaining in the first half, the U.S. was awarded a penalty corner.
This time, the team came through. Claire Laubach’s shot deflected off the New Zealand goalkeeper and a defender prior to going into the net. The equalizing goal was Laubach’s first of the tournament and gave the U.S. the momentum going into halftime.
New Zealand came out strong in the second half, applying constant pressure on the U.S. defenders and Swensen.
“We were able to defend really well,” Bodimeade said. “When we applied pressure, I thought we may have been able to get a [goal]. But when you are facing a side as good as New Zealand…If you don’t take chances, the game slips away.”
Swensen kept the U.S. in the game with multiple saves in the second half. With the clock working against the Americans, Bodimeade pulled Swensen for an extra player.
The U.S. created a handful of scoring opportunities with the extra player, but couldn’t even the match or force a draw.
New Zealand came away with three points, improving to 3-0-1 in the preliminary rounds.
Team USA will play its final match of the tournament against South Africa Monday at 10:45 a.m.
“The goal now is the same goal that we had when we came into this tournament, which is to win one game at a time,” Crandall said. “I think taking that attitude into South Africa is what we really need to focus on. This is one that hurts, but we still need to come out in the next game and play or best.”
Tyler Poslosky is a senior journalism news major at Ball State University covering sports for BSU at the Games. Follow Tyler and the BSU team at @tylerposlosky, @bsuatthegames andwww.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.