A fast start and strong defensive play had the U.S. women's field hockey eyeing a big win in its opening game of the FIH Pro League Saturday afternoon.
Donegal senior Mackenzie Allessie scored 14 minutes into play and Team USA carried a 2-0 lead into the fourth quarter, but Argentina would not be shutout. Tying the game on a goal and an assist from Carla Rebecchi, Las Leonas went on to claim a 3-1 shootout victory in Cordoba, Argentina.
FIH No. 4 Argentina immediately brought pressure, but could only manage one shot in the first five minutes of the game — and Rebecchi's backhander bounced wide of the cage.
On the other end, former Penn Manor Comet Jill Funk dribbled down to the baseline and passed into the circle, but couldn't find a U.S. stick. Minutes later, Allessie got her first look at the cage, but the shot went wide.
Argentina earned the game's first corner, but Julia Young was there to block Rebecchi with 2:34 left in the first quarter. This time, Team USA capitalized, with Allessie netting a rebound in her third game with the national team.
Coming across the 25-yard-line, Funk flipped the ball to Linnea Gonzales, who fired a backhander toward the cage. Argentine goalie Belen Succi made the stop, but the rebound bounced out to Allessie. The 17-year-old gathered the ball, working around defender, and swept it under the diving goalie and into the backboard.
Argentina again tested the defense to open the second, but it would be No. 12 Team USA adding to the scoreboard.
With six minutes on the clock, Amanda Magadan sent the ball ahead to Funk. Before reaching the left baseline, the striker slid the ball across to a streaking Lauren Moyer, who was unmarked coming into the circle.
Saturday’s match marked Moyer’s 50th international cap.
Argentina earned a pair of corners to close the half, but Magadan blocked a hard hit and goalie Kealsie Robles saved the second before Warwick graduate Alyssa Manley cleared the ball.
Las Leonas came out firing in the third, sending a shot wide and having another blocked before Delfina Merino fired just over the crossbar. Nicole Woods broke up another attempt on defense for the U.S., diving to knock the ball out of the circle.
There was no slowing the attack in the fourth quarter, however, as Argentina needed just 27 seconds to end the shutout. Rebecchi swiped the ball from a defender and took off toward the goal, pulling Robles out of the cage and firing into the empty net.
The equalizer came five minutes later on Argentina's fifth, as Merino deflected in Rebecchi's drag flick.
The score stayed tied after the first round of the shootout after tallys from Merino and U.S. captain Kat Sharkey. Silvina d'Elia then threaded a shot under the diving Robles to give Argentina the lead before Gonzales had her shot called back for using the back of the stick.
Time played a factor in the next two attempts as both Rebecchi and Manley missed their first shots, but were able to grab the rebound. Their second looks went into the back of the net, but were ruled to have crossed the goal line after time expired.
Lucina von der Heyde sank an open look on Argentina's fourth attempt, while Succi stopped Woods, reaching her stick out to knock away the ball and seal the win and two points in the standings. The draw earned Team USA, which currently sits fifth out of nine teams, one point.
The U.S. will be back in action on Saturday, Feb. 16, hosting FIH No. 1 the Netherlands at Wake Forest's Kentner Stadium at 7 p.m. Team USA will get its second chance against Argentina on Sunday, May 12 at Spooky Nook at 6 p.m.