July 30, 2013 – The U.S. Under-21 National Team rounds out pool play with two wins and a loss at the ERGO Hockey Junior World Cup in Mönchengladbach by defeating Ghana 6-0. After three games of intense play, the U.S. has earned their position in the quarterfinals alongside fellow Pool A opponent the Netherlands, where USA will face Argentina and Netherlands are up against South Africa.
“Tournaments always have two halves,” said Steve Jennings U.S. U-21 National Team head coach. “We’re really excited we got through the first portion of the Junior World Cup this well but now we have to produce to get to where we really want to go. We’re excited to be in the top half of the bracket and look forward to getting the best results coming through.”
Building upon pinpoint precision passing combinations that lead to their attack circle, Team USA was able to capitalize on three corners in the first half against Ghana. Within the first nine minutes of play Nikki Parsley (Milford, Del.) was able to find the back of the net. Fellow teammates Marie-Elena Bolles (Phoenixville, Pa.) and Aileen Johnson (Oceanport, N.J.) followed suit by placing the ball past Ghana keeper Joana Adjei in the 14th and 16th minute marks.
The second-half whistle blew and the U.S. continued to lead a fortified front line to Ghana’s cage. The red, white and blue were able to maintain controlled ball play around the circle, acting with poise and patience to illuminate open pockets in Ghana’s defense. Georgia Holland (Stony Brook, N.Y.) lit up the scoreboard in the 55th minute off of a corner and the scoring frenzy continued for Team USA into the final minutes of the match with USA captain Laura Gebhart (Mount Joy, Pa.) and Emily Wold (Freehold, N.J.) securing two goals in the 67th and 68th minutes of play. This is Ghana’s first appearance at the Cup.
“Ghana was a really hard working team so we emphasized on thinking one pass ahead of the play,” said Johnson. “We used the inside and width well and really focused on those one-touch passes. Our big thing was getting better with each game and I think we have been. The growth of the team at this tournament has been huge.”
Pool play began on a strong note when USA rose above Korea, one of the most decorated teams at the Women’s Junior World Cup, having participated in all editions of the tournament since its creation and finishing on top in 2001 and 2005.Team USA rallied at halftime, breaking a 1-1 score to finish the game 4-1. The following day USA competed in a hard-fought match against the Netherlands, a squad with equally noteworthy accomplishments having been crowned Junior World Cup Champions in 1997 and in 2009. Although the U.S. held up a fierce battle for the entirety of the game, the Netherlands were able to capitalize on key moments turning in a match sheet of five goals compared to Team USA’s one.
“We’ve been trying to grow throughout the tournament and put out a better result after better result,” said Jennings. “I think the players had a lot of confidence after the first match against Korea and we got a lot of positive comments for how we played against the Netherlands.”
The quarterfinals will be played on Thursday, August 1, the semi-finals on August 2 and the gold and bronze medal match on August 4. Team USA’s next match-up is dependent on how the other pools conclude their last game today.