After having an early goal waved off, the U.S. women's field hockey team fell behind on Friday and couldn't close the gap in New Zealand.
The host Black Sticks scored in each of the first three quarters and held Team USA to just three shots in the game en route to a 3-1 FIH Pro League victory at Nga Puna Wai Hockey Stadium in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Ali Campbell converted a penalty stroke for the U.S. in the third quarter, but New Zealand already led the game 3-0 at that point on goals from Olivia Merry, Olivia Shannon and Rose Keddell, who was named Player of the Match.
"Our motto kind of is defend to attack and we need to do a better job of that," U.S. captain Ashley Hoffman told the FIH after the game. "I think we fought harder than we have so far and we're making progress every game, its just keeping that counterattack so we can keep the ball in their 25 that we need to work on."
After being outscored 21-3 in the first three games of the season, Team USA appeared to have its first lead three minutes into the game.
Linnea Gonzales pushed the ball ahead to Taylor West, who fired a backhander over charging New Zealand goalie Grace O'Hanlon. The ball hit the turf and bounced over the goal line, but New Zealand used its referral and the goal was waved off for coming off the back of the stick.
From there, No. 14 Team USA spent most of the game back on defense.
U.S. goalie Kealsie Robles turned away two Gemma McCaw backhanders before No. 7 New Zealand earned the game's first corner. Merry's strike sent the ball crashing into the backboard for her league-high fifth goal of the season and a 1-0 lead with 2:29 left on the clock.
The Black Sticks turned another penalty corner into a goal six minutes into the second quarter.
Megan Hull took the shot off the insert, but Robles was there for the save. The ball bounced off the goalies pads and up into the crossbar, ricocheting out to Shannon, who swatted it into the back of the net.
New Zealand missed wide on two more corners to send the game into halftime before finding the back of the net three minutes into the third period, with Keddell's reverse making it a 3-0 game.
Team USA struggled to get the ball to the other end of the field, finally getting a look at the cage in the final two minutes of the quarter.
Gonzales showcased her stick skills, weaving through the defense and earning a penalty stroke. Campbell took the shot, calmly lifting the ball into the top of the net to end the shutout.
The ball moved more freely across the field in the fourth corner, but Team USA couldn't capitalize. Robles held New Zealand off the scoreboard, stopping a breakaway, absorbing a shot from Stacey Michelson and finally making a late save, diving backward to deny an open McCaw on the goal line.
With the win, New Zealand moves up to third place in the league standings, having accumulated seven points in five game. The U.S. remains in last place with zero points.
The teams will meet for the second game of the series Saturday at 9 p.m. Eastern. The game will be streamed online by Bleacher Report Live.