U.S. Field Hockey Team Out of Medal Contention at Olympics After Loss
The U.S. field hockey team — with seven returning Olympians (including three from UNC) — expected to medal at these 2012 London Olympics. Those dreams died Saturday as undefeated New Zealand stopped the Americans 3-2.
The U.S., with only three points in pool play, needed to defeat New Zealand and then South Africa on Monday to have a chance at being one of the top two teams in its pool to reach the medal round.
Despite coming back to tie it at 2-2, the U.S. could not overcome giving up six penalty corner shots. New Zealand scored on three of those penalty chances against goalkeeper Amy Tran Swensen ’02, considered the best goalie in the world.
Swensen had a very busy day against the aggressive New Zealanders but was able to stop every shot from the field — only the penalty shots got through. The winning shot, with only six minutes to play, ricocheted off Swensen’s left leg pad and landed just inside the bottom right corner of the goal.
The loss was no worse than a tie for the Americans because anything less than a win would eliminate the U.S. from any chance of advancing to the semifinals. Swensen’s stellar goal play kept the U.S. in the match, giving the Americans a chance to tie it at 2-2.
A Swensen stick save with 13 minutes left kept it tied. A minute later, UNC’s Katelyn Falgowski ’11 used superb ball control in a tight situation in front of Swensen to get the Americans out of more trouble. But the U.S. could not mount any counterattack on offense.
New Zealand appeared to score at the 10:20 mark but the official checked the replay and discovered that the goal came on a deflection above the shoulder, which is illegal.
Still the United States couldn’t take advantage of the break. With the U.S. playing shorthanded after a yellow card, a New Zealand pass banged off U.S. captain Lauren Crandall’s foot in the scoring area, giving New Zealand the corner penalty shot that won the game.
A desperate U.S. team pulled Swensen from the game with five minutes left to insert an additional attacker. At the four-minute mark New Zealand picked up a yellow card and had to play the rest of the game shorthanded. Even with the resulting 11-on-9 attack, the Americans never really got close to tying the score, much less getting the additional goal needed to win.
The Americans, which also feature UNC’s Rachel Dawson ’07, play their final game Monday at 5:45 a.m. (EDT) against South Africa.
Gold Medal Swimmer Coached by Tar Heel
Fifteen-year-old Katie Ledecky, coached by former UNC swimmer Yuri Suguiyama ’05, won the women’s 800-meter freestyle event at the Olympics on Friday night. And she swam it in style by breaking the oldest American swimming record (23 years) of her idol, Janet Evans. She finished the race in 8:14:63.
Ledecky, from Virginia, is the youngest member of the entire U.S. Olympic team.
Suguiyama had been concerned that Ledecky started too fast in the preliminary race, but she started fast in this one, too, and led all but the first few seconds.
Suguiyama still holds Carolina records in the 1,000-yard and 1,650-yard freestyle events.
— Clifton Barnes ’82