On a rain-filled evening at the Sompo Cup Four Nations Women’s Ibaraki International Tournament, the U.S. Women’s National Team looked to double up in the win column against FIH Hero World Ranked No. 14 Japan. Aggressive play by the host nation put USA on their back foot early in the match, as Japan went on to win 3-0.
Japan took control of the ball to open the game, and quickly stormed upfield. Captain Minami Shimizu entered the circle, passed the ball to Akiho Imao who tipped it in for the 0-1 lead just 14 seconds into the opening quarter. USA looked to shake off the early miscue, but momentum by Japan forced the red, white and blue to make quick decisions as they were pressed early and often on both sides of the field.
Kathleen Sharkey (Moosic, Pa.) set up the first scoring attempt for USA moments later, who passed over toCatherine Caro (Martinsville, N.J.) but the ball was just out of reach. On a second circle entry, Mary Beth Barham’s (Fairfax, Va.) shot hit a Japan defender foot, setting up USA’s first penalty corner of the game.
After two shots were denied by the host nation’s defense, USA earned a second penalty corner moments later in the 6th minute, but Japan goalkeeper Yuka Yoshikawa made the save to keep USA off the scoreboard. Back the other way, Japan set up for their first penalty corner in the 7th minute but was saved by USA goalkeeper Jess Jecko (Sauquoit, N.Y.).
Later in the quarter ,Sharkey fired a hard backhand shot in the 11th minute but was swatted away by Yoshikawa on a quick arm reaction. Japan countered in the final moments of the quarter as USA’s defense pushed back to deny circle entry. One final attempt in the quarter saw Shimizu break away from her defender for a wide open shot on goal, but Jecko was there to make the save as the opening frame concluded.
Japan showcased dominant ball control in the second quarter as they applied pressure on USA’s defense. While USA matched their opponent play-for-play early on, miscues on clear attempts near the midfield gave Japan more offensive opportunities throughout the half.
Sharkey broke the spell, running up the far side of the field but lost momentum just outside the circle against a waiting defensive unit. Japan turned upfield and in the 27th minute doubled up the score. An initial save by Jecko was deflected up above the goal, but Moeka Tsubouchi knocked the ball into the net to extend Japan’s lead.
USA broke free for two more offensive chances but were stopped as USA saw themselves down 0-2 at the half.
USA goalkeeper Kealsie Robles (Seaford, Va.) entered the second half for USA as Japan threatened in the early moments of the third quarter. In the 35th minute, Shimizu entered the circle but an anticipating Robles charged toward her to block the shot.
The ball then bounced to Mai Toriyama as Robles made her second save, which energized USA back the other way. The surge was short lived as Japan intercepted a pass near midfield, setting up a a counter attack that was halted quickly by USA’s defense. Moments later, USA set up for another penalty corner.
Taken by Anna Dessoye (Mountaintop, Pa.), the shot sailed wide of the near post. Back and forth play ensued as USA was more settled compared to the first half, which helped set up more offensive chances.Alyssa Manley (Lititz, Pa.) was able to thread a pass in front of the Japan goal later in the quarter but was broken up before a friendly stick could set up a tip in attempt.
USA was awarded another penalty corner seconds later, which was inserted by Caitlin Van Sickle (Wilmington, Del.) but it was blocked near the top of the circle by Japan. Kanan Mori responded for the host nation by penetrating the circle, but Robles was waiting to make the easy save, which was followed up by two more saves on two penalty corner chances by Japan.
In the 44th minute on Japan’s third penalty corner of the period, the ball was tipped into the top of the net by Shimizu in front of a stretched out Robles, putting USA at a 0-3 disadvantage.
The final period saw a more composed USA squad that was unable to generate many scoring setups. A penalty corner in the 54th minute nearly put USA on the board as Jill Funk (Lancaster, Pa.) just missed a tip in attempt as Japan forced the ball wide of the goal. Two more penalty corners in the final frame by USA saw similar results as the clock ticked away.
Today’s match saw Robles earn her first international cap playing in goal the entire second half for Team USA.
The U.S. Women’s National Team will face No. 3 Australia in their third game of the round robin tournament tomorrow, Friday, September 14 at 1 a.m. ET. In the first match today, Australia defeated No. 10 Korea 3-1 to take the lead in the tournament standings.