RIO DE JANEIRO – That Team USA will go home without an Olympic medal in women’s field hockey is nothing new, as that’s been the case every year since their bronze medal in 1984.
What is new is that despite the disappointment of their quarterfinals loss to Germany on Monday, the program can feel confident that a turnaround of its fortunes is thoroughly underway.
The U.S. dropped a 2-1 decision to the Germans, ending their Rio Olympics run after a 4-1-0 record in pool play put the team on the national sports radar. The Americans knocked off powerhouses Australia and Argentina earlier in the tournament.
Against Germany (2-2-1 in pool play), they fell behind early on Marie Mavers’ goal in the eighth minute, and then fell behind by two goals when Lisa Altenburg tallied in the 14th minute. Katelyn Falgowski scored in the 57th minute to bring the Americans back within a goal, but they couldn’t manage another shot before time expired.
Team USA’s impressive pool play came four years after they finished last in the London Games. Since then, they changed coaches, moved their base of operations from California to Pennsylvania and moved into the top 10 teams ranked internationally.
They entered the tournament knowing they had a chance to make an impression on young American players, and to help keep field hockey in the conversation as an Olympic sport after it had been on the chopping block before the Rio Games.
“The shop window [for the sport] is the women’s national team. And any young player that aspires to play at any higher level can be inspired by these ladies,” said head coach Craig Parnham. “It’s important for our program that we do well. It’s important for the future of the sport in America. We want to hook more players on the game.”
They may have earned an interesting new fan back in the U.S during their Rio run: Mark Lazarus, chairman of the NBC Sports Group.
“I have really enjoyed watching the women’s field hockey coverage. It’s a lot faster and more skill than people realize, and maybe I say that because I was an ice hockey player,” he told Sports Illustrated. “But I have enjoyed watching the U.S. women’s team. The sport is fast. I don’t remember watching it when I was young, and this has been pretty interesting.”
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