A champion emerged to be the best in the Western part of the globe as their dynasty in field hockey grew once more. Team USA held off a late surge from the powerful girls from Argentina to win the gold medal 2-1 at the Pan Am Games Friday. Katherine Reinprecht and Michelle Vittese were the heroes for the United States scoring six minutes apart to repeat as champions.
The rivalry between the U.S and Argentina women has been going on for the last 28 years with the South American nation in control for a majority of the finals they went on to win. Four years ago, that rivalry changed hands as Team USA pulled off a 4-2 win to take the gold breaking a six gold medal streak. With both nations back at the gold medal final for a sixth time, the American women would hope to keep the Argentines at bay once more.
Argentina made the first move in the game taking it right to the Americans who played defense for just the second time since the sport began. They had the Argentine all over the net trying to get their shot in to take the lead but the efforts of Jaclyn Briggs kept the game scoreless. After eight minutes of an all out shooting spree, Team USA made their response clear pushing the offense into the Argentina end.
Both teams were in the books for minutes with the ball, as it was becoming a tug of war on who would hold control while being the first to score. Several attempts from Argentina made their way into the U.S. zone but couldn’t break through the solid defense that prevented the scoring chances. The first quarter was in the record books with no clear leader on the field.
The second quarter saw the Americans countering on an Argentina pass across the field that had them trying to setup a play. Jill Witmer curled on the baseline trying to find the perfect deflection with Reinprecht but watched it bounce wide of the net. Kelsey Kolojejchick teamed up with Emily Wold but Argentine goalkeeper Belen Succi blocked the shot.
After dealing with the American push, they were suddenly awarded with a penalty corner that could be the key to ending the half in their favor. It would not come for them as Stefanie Fee stopped their advance just in time for the horn to sound ending the first half.
As the second half got underway, the Americans were fighting for possession winning it on a hard hit to Reinprecht gaining a penalty corner. After setting up for the shot, Reinprecht gets the final touch to score for Team USA in the 35th minute. The 1-0 lead became a huge statement for the Americans and plenty to worry about in the Argentine end.
They answered with a charge that ended with a dangerous cross from Agustina Albertarrio but watched it go wide of the goal by teammate Martina Cavallero. They pressed on as time continued to fall off the clock but unable to find the clear shot needed to tie the game.
The Americans gained back the ball to move play into the Argentine end as the forward line got into position to fire the ball away at Succi. After stopping three shots from Team USA, she was unable to block a shot from Vittese who scored on a rocketing sweep giving her team a 2-0 lead with 20 minutes left in regulation.
Team USA was on a roll with their hold of possession and taking the biggest lead they would gain over Argentina as they found themselves 15 minutes from pulling off a perfect run through the Pan Am Games. Argentina got into a huddle before the start of the fourth quarter knowing that they had to be the ones to put pressure on the score or risk a new group of girls to become legends of the sport.
Argentina made every attempt to win the ball and pulled off two great shots that caused a slight concern with the U.S contingency. They regrouped to play out the remaining minutes of the game before allowed their opponents an important corner shot. Their chance was blocked by the American defense but they gained another chance at it where they scored on a shot deflected by Florencia Habif with two minutes to go.
Tensions grew for Team USA, as they wanted more than ever to prevent a shootout for the gold. It would take two of the longest minutes to go by before the Americans could celebrate another hard fought victory over Argentina.