USA, three letters, one word. Together as a whole, the word “USA” commands a great deal of respect and honor for many. The “land of the free”. The place where dreams can become a reality. The USA, the place we call home.
This July, the USA Field Hockey team earned the honor of hosting the Pan American Cup at the Spooky Nook Sports, Lancaster, PA, also known as “The Home of USA Field Hockey”. The Pan American Cup, an international field hockey tournament for men and women, began in 2000 as a men’s-only event. A year later, the tournament was opened to both men’s and women’s teams. Each tournament, the winning teams earn automatic spots in the Field Hockey World Cup. For the seventeen years of the Pan Am Games, field hockey teams from around the world have come out to compete.
On July 5, 2017, the USA Field Hockey Team played their first game of the 2017 Pan American Cup against the Mexican Field Hockey Team. After a phenomenal performance in Johannesburg, South Africa a week earlier, the USA Field Hockey earned a #4 international ranking. The Pan American Cup was another opportunity for USA to show what they are made of. The game was set to start at seven o’clock. USA and Mexico were warming-up, preparing for the match. After both national anthems played, it was game time. With their starting line-up fielded, USA was ready to go. USA started out strong with great intensity.
“USA athletes are inspiring; they are living proof of what your dreams can become. USA, three letters, one word. A place where your dreams can become your reality.”
Only four minutes into the game, the team had earned their first penalty corner. About ten seconds later, Kat Sharkey (#24) sent a strong shot into the back of the cage, making the score 1-0. Both Melissa Gonzalez (#5) and Erin Matson (#1), agreed that Sharkey’s goal was one of the most defining moments of the game. “Alleviating some of the pressure with her first goal on the corner — I think it’s always good when you’re able to be up on the board,” stated Gonzalez.
USA continued to have strong momentum and pressure on Mexico’s defense, earning their second penalty corner in the ninth minute of play. As the whistle began the corner, a strong shot was saved by the Mexican goalie, Jesus Castillo. Luckily, USA’s Ali Froede (#20) received the rebound and slammed it into the back of the cage. The score was now 2-0, with about eight minutes remaining in the first quarter.
Beginning the second quarter, team USA again came out with strong momentum and intensity. USA goalkeeper, Alesha Widdall stated, “I think that we play a style that is ‘do your job, no matter who it is.’ So we very much focus on ourselves, so if we were to play the same team, if we played another team, it’s going to be the same thing: do your job, all the time, at every moment.”
About two minutes in, Team USA gained another penalty corner. With a strong pass, Sharkey sent a hard shot to the back of the cage, making it her second goal of the match. With the score 3-0 in favor of USA, the Mexican team picked up their intensity. They fired strong transfers across the field and sent the ball into their circle, but fell short of the opportunity to capitalize. With about ten minutes remaining on the clock, USA earned four more penalty corners, but were unable to further their score. At half time, the score remained 3-0, giving team USA time to talk about their plan for the rest of the game. “We focus on the same things and just playing to our strengths and playing our game,” stated Matson.
Just as before, USA started out strong, quickly building on their momentum. The team gained possession, and carried the ball into Mexico’s circle in under a minute. After finding a Mexican defender’s foot, Katelyn Ginolfi (#23) earned a penalty corner for Team USA. With a sweep from Michelle Vittese (#9), Jill Witmer (#10) received the ball and sent it into the net, improving the score to 4-0. About three minutes later, Sharkey carried the ball into Mexico’s circle and ultimately earned a hat trick, making the score 5-0. Throughout the rest of the quarter, USA dominated the play, but were unable to score.
As the whistle blew to begin the final quarter, USA started out strong, once again. They quickly applied pressure upon Mexico’s defense. While USA gained four corners, they did not have any results. During this time, Mexico was able to earn their first penalty corner of the match. Although Mexico’s corner was strong, Ginolfi quickly recovered the ball, before Mexico had the chance to shoot. With the clock expiring, USA had earned their final penalty corner of the game. With a strong shot, Froede scored her second goal of the match. As the whistle blew, the final score was 6-0, making it a strong win and opening for Team USA in the 2017 Women’s Pan American Cup.
To have been given the opportunity to watch the USA Field Hockey team at the 2017 Pan American Cup is incredibly humbling. Just to watch Team USA play was an incredible experience. The game was very offensively based for USA but throughout the entire game, the defense was always involved in the play. USA moves as an entire unit on the field. Through the use of strong, wide passes and communication, Team USA is able to remain composed and controlled on the field. They make smart and calculated passes and they utilize their defense. Just being able to watch these athletes play — let alone work with the Pan Am staff and report on the story — was an amazing experience, full of learning opportunities.
I started playing field hockey in the fifth grade and ever since, I have looked up to the women who compete for the USA Field Hockey program. These women are my role models; they are what American athletes represent: determination and dedication. The USA is a place where one’s dreams can become reality.
Matson is a prime example of that. Matson is a high school senior, seventeen years old, and plays with the USA Field Hockey Team. She has made her dream become her reality. When asked about the factor that drives her most to be a better athlete, Matson responded, “I think seeing the older girls on the team. Seeing how great they’ve done, how much they can do, and just striving to be like them…they’re a big part of how I’ve been playing and how I grew up, looking to get to my dream.” USA athletes are inspiring; they are living proof of what your dreams can become. USA, three letters, one word. A place where your dreams can become your reality.
Lippe, of Sparks, Md., is sixteen years old and a rising junior goalkeeper at Hereford High School. The team captured the Maryland State Championship the last two seasons. Lippe is also a member of TNT Field Hockey Club, which advanced to the 2016 USA Field Hockey National Club Championship.
photo credit: Yan Huckendubler, Pan America Hockey Federation
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