In front of the biggest crowd —and with the nicest weather — of the FIH Pro League season, the U.S. women’s field hockey team played arguably its best game of the year.
Team USA scored first, to the delight of the sold-out crowd at Spooky Nook Sports, and kept the intensity going on Saturday night. Unfortunately for the home team, FIH No. 5 Germany scored twice in the third quarter and held off a late U.S. rally for a 3-2 victory in the final game of the season.
“It was definitely our focus, just coming out strong, bringing the energy and starting on the front foot,” U.S. captain Kat Sharkey said. “We were pressuring them all over the field and really coming at them, so I’m really proud of that.
“I do think we grew and learned (over the season),” she continued, “and I think tonight we were able to show that we have progressed a lot as a team, we have come really far.”
The U.S. came out with an aggressive attack from the opening whistle, pushing the ball into the circle where Donegal’s Mackenzie Allessie earned the game’s first corner just one minute into the match. Sharkey’s straight shot deflected off the goalie’s pads and out of play, but No. 12 Team USA continued to pressure as the second quarter started with the game still scoreless.
Allessie again found herself with the ball in the opening minute, this time on a pass ahead from Erin Matson. Near the cage with a defender closing in, Allessie fired a quick shot that hit off the outside of the goal.
The Americans made sure their next attempt counted.
Allessie worked around a defender in the 19th minute and made her way to the right post. With Sonntag coming out to defend, Allessie flipped a backhand pass across the front of the cage, where Grega pushed the ball over the goal line for her team-high fourth goal of the season.
The lead lasted for only one minute, though, as Hanna Granitzki fired from the top of the circle and lifted the ball over an outstretched Kelsey Bing in goal.
Germany took control in the third quarter, peppering Bing with shots until Franzisca Hauke hauled in her own rebound and fired into the goal in the 34th minute to give Die Danas a lead they would never relinquish.
Germany added what proved to be the game-winning tally with just under seven minutes left in the third quarter. Taking the insert on the team’s fourth corner of the night, Rebecca Grote sent a drag flick into the backboard.
Despite now being down by two, Team USA seemed to use the goal as added motivation. The Americans earned a corner with 51 seconds left on the clock. and Ashley Hoffman’s drag flick pulled them within one and sent the crowd into chants of “U-S-A.”
The fourth quarter saw chances for both teams, but Bing held off the Germans with a pair of diving saves. On the other side of the field, Team USA earned three consecutive corners, but could not capitalized. Ali Froede and Warwick graduate Alyssa Manley both had their shots saved before the final attempt was blocked
The crowd rose to its feet as Team USA sped down the field in the final seconds, but the horn would sound before they could break through Germany’s defense.
“I think for us to come out and put everything we’ve done in the Pro League — I actually had to do very little coaching today technically, because they were just doing it themselves,” U.S. coach Janneke Schopman said. “They were organizing themselves and that’s just great to see because, in the end, I want them to play their own game.”
“Sometimes we have to be a bit more patient, but, all in all, I can't really complain,” she continued. “I think we were able to pin them in their own 25 for quite a bit of time and for big parts of the game, what we were doing was really good.”