October 7, 2012

U.S. Survives Aussie Challenge at Stars & Stripes

by Clare Lochary | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | Live Blog Replay

Team USA midfielder Kelly Berger scored the winner with 3:25 left in an 12-11 win over Australia on Sunday at US Lacrosse's Stars & Stripes event. The win came just one day after the U.S. routed its archrival, 16-3.
© Gani Pinero

PALO ALTO, Calif. – What a difference a day makes.

The U.S. women's national team eeked out a 12-11 win over Australia, coming back from a first-half deficit to defeat its archrivals Sunday in the marquee game of US Lacrosse Stars & Stripes weekend.

Midfielder Kelly Berger scored the game-winner on a free-position shot with 3:25 left, in a match that featured five ties and three lead changes at Stanford's Cagan Stadium. The game was a far cry from the Americans' 16-3 victory over the same opponent on Saturday, in which the Australians collapsed under Team USA's pressure defense.

Instead of a rout, the Americans needed a rally.

"They were hungrier. They were scrappier and won the 50-50 balls. There are a lot of positives to draw from the weekend, but we have to show up and play every day," U.S. coach Ricky Fried said.

Midfielder Sarah Bullard led the U.S. with three goals. Attacker Lindsey Munday added one goal and five assists.

Hannah Nielsen (1g, 1a) opened scoring for the Australians on a fast break, catching U.S. goalie Devon Wills way out of the net, to key a 4-1 run. The U.S. won the draw battle, nabbing 15 of 25 attempts, but Australia amassed several early possessions due to sharp work by goalie Elizabeth Hinkes (nine saves).

"I've never seen our defense play as well as they did today," Hinkes said. "The communication between them and me, that's what gets me pumped."

The American comeback began when Caitlyn McFadden ripped a bounce shot past Hinkes to kick off a four-goal run to give the U.S. its first lead of the day, 6-5, with 5:04 to play in the first half. Australia quickly answered with a beautiful give-and-go between Sarah Mollison (2a) and Marlee Paton (2g, 2a), but the U.S. responded with two quick goals to take an 8-6 halftime lead. Katrina Dowd (3g) scored twice on assists from Munday late in the first half, as the U.S. motion offense found its rhythm and started taking better shots.

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Australia regained the lead thanks to a three-goal run began with an uncharacteristic misstep by the U.S. team. A draw midway through the second half flew well clear of the circle, landing near American defender Gina Oliver. Oliver had trouble picking up what should have been a routine ground ball, and flicked it towards the goal where she thought keeper Megan Huether was waiting for the pass. But Huether had stepped out of the cage, and the ball dribbled into the net.

It was a rare slip-up for the disciplined U.S. team, and the Australians made them pay for it, using the momentum to take an 11-10 lead with 7:57 remaining.

American attacker Michelle Tumolo got the equalizer on a tricky high-to-low shot at 5:38, and then Berger gave the Americans the lead for good on her free position. Midfielder Katie Schwarzmann got the final draw control for the U.S., allowing them to maintain possession and the lead in the final minutes.

The game served as a preview for the 2013 Federation of International Lacrosse (FIL) Women's World Cup, where the U.S. will defend its gold medal from 2009 against Australia and other opponents. The game paints an imperfect picture of the two programs, though. Australia lacked star Jen Adams, who was being inducted into the University of Maryland Hall of Fame, and Darcy Justice-Allen, who injured her knee in yesterday's game versus the U.S. and did not play in today's loss. And both squads carried huge rosters and varied their line-ups tremendously, experimenting with personnel and scouting likely match-ups.

"Offensively, we really wanted to support each other today. Yesterday, we were hiding," Paton said of the Australians' 24-hour turnaround from cupcakes to contenders.

The two teams that will face each other next summer in Oshawa might look different than the ones that took the field at Stanford. But one thing is clear – the reigning champs can never get complacent.

USA 17, STANFORD 6
Attacker Shannon Smith scored five goals and two assists to lead the Americans against the host Cardinal. Midfielder Karri Ellen Johnson also scored five goals and added one assist. Smith and Johnson, formerly opponents at Northwestern and Maryland respectively, found some on-field chemistry together playing for Team USA. Smith assisted Johnson twice, and Johnson returned the favor once. Overall, eight different players scored for the U.S. team. Freshman Lucy Dikeou led Stanford with two goals. (Note: the U.S. players who played against the Cardinal did not play against Team Australia.)

Check back to LaxMagazine.com on Tuesday for photo galleries and video interviews from Stars & Stripes.


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