The U.S. women's field hockey team led for more than 45 minutes Saturday morning, taking a one-goal advantage early in the first quarter on a shot from Danielle Grega.
That tally, however, proved not to be enough as No. 4 Australia rallied back in the fourth quarter, scoring two goals in six minutes to pick up a 2-1 FIH Pro League victory at the Sydney Olympic Park Hockey Centre.
The decision keeps the Hockeyroos in first place in the league standings with 14 points in six games. Team USA on the other hand, has yet to crack the win column, but holds one point in the league standings after playing to a 2-2 draw with Argentina in regulation. Las Leonas went on to win that game 3-1 in a shootout to pick up a bonus point.
While No. 12 Team USA cracked the scoreboard first on Saturday, it was Australia applying the early pressure.
The Hockeyroos earned their first of nine corners three minutes into the game, but U.S. goalie Jess Jecko made the diving save on Grace Stewart's drag flick. Jecko turned away another attempt in the seventh minute, before the U.S. was finally able to transition to the other end.
Quick passing got the ball up to Amanda Magadan just outside the 25-yard-line, where the midfielder slipped a pass to Grega on the right side. The midfielder, who was playing in just her sixth game with Team USA, weaved into the circle and, with her back to the cage, spun to her left and flipped the ball into the backboard with 8:10 left on the clock.
Other than a U.S. corner in the second quarter where Ali Froede's shot was blocked, the rest of the first half was all Australia. The Hockeyroos held an 11-2 lead in shots and a 4-1 advantage in corners, but couldn't crack Jecko and the U.S. defense.
Australia sent a deflection just wide of the cage in the first before Savannah Fitzpatrick sent a reverse toward the goal. Jecko again was there for the stop, while Julia Young came out to block the rebound. Taylor West blocked another Australian corner to open the second quarter, before Young helped turn away a pair of corners in the closing seconds of the half.
Team USA looked poised to double its lead on a corner in the opening 30 seconds of the third quarter, but Australian goalie Savannah Fitzpatrick stopped Froede's drag flick. Donegal's Mackenzie Allessie tried to scoop up the rebound, but Fitzpatrick again made the save.
Australia went on the attack again, but still couldn't get through the defense. Jecko made a stick save on a corner with just over nine minutes left in the quarter before Ashley Hoffman stopped another corner attempt in the final four minutes.
As well as the defense held up for the first three quarters, Australia would not be denied on its home turf.
It took just 20 seconds and two corners in the fourth quarter for Jodie Kenny to fire the equalizer over Jecko and into the top right corner of the net. The Hockeyroos found the winning goal six minutes later as Mariah Williams took the ball in the circle, turned and fired into the backboard.
“I don’t think anything went wrong, I think we just needed to clean up our defense a little bit and try to create a few more scoring opportunities," Jecko, who was named Player of the Match, told the FIH of the fourth quarter. "It was a great attack by Australia and they were putting a lot of pressure on us, so it is something for us to learn from."