Goalkeeper Rachael Lynch was the Hockeyroos’ hero as she kept out three of the USA’s efforts in the shootout to propel her side into the World Cup final after a dramatic encounter which finished all square at the end of 70 minutes.
Lynch denied Katie O’Donnell, Paige Selenski, and Michelle Kasold, allowing Jodie Kenny the opportunity to beat Jackie Kintzer to make it 3-1 and secure the win, which the No7 duly did.
The game took a while to get going in the first half, with the importance of the encounter clearly weighing heavily on both sides. Lynch did well to beat out a reverse stick strike from Kasold on ten minutes as the USA started to take some control of the game. With two minutes to go before the break, the Hockeyroos took the lead, somewhat against the run of play. Kellie White engineered some space inside the D and shot across goal where the ball struck Lauren Crandall’s stick, deceiving the goalkeeper to make it 1-0 at the break.
The USA came out hard after the restart and were unlucky not to draw level. Rachel Dawson’s deflected penalty corner seemed to strike Kenny on the facemask, allowing Lynch to somehow scramble the rebound away to safety. At the other end Jane Claxton had a great chance to make it 2-0 but she could only sting the goalkeeper’s gloves with a shot from the right of the D. Craig Parnham’s side continued to press hard for an equaliser. Lynch saw off a penalty corner from Kasold but with 48 minutes gone it was all square. Kelsey Kolojejchick showed great determination in the D, robbing the defender and forcing the ball past Lynch from close range. Four minutes later the Hockeyroos took the lead once more. Anna Flanagan’s penalty corner deflected off a USA foot and deceived Kintzer in the goal once again, nestling in the corner for 2-1.
The USA would not lie down however. Their energy and pace going forwards continued to cause Australia problems and with the clock ticking down the edged closer to an equaliser. O’Donnell brought a good save out of Lynch and Michelle Vittesse shot narrowly wide but then with just two minutes remaining Kolojejchick produced a moment of magic, breaking from her own half, pulling out a splendid v-drag before scuffing her shot into the corner to make it 2-2 in dramatic fashion.
The game went to a shootout where Lynch really came to the fore. The Hockeyroos’ keeper produced some splendid stick work to see off O’Donnell and Selenski, with Kintzer saving from Madonna Blyth in between. White held her nerve to bury her chance to give the Aussies the lead but Kolojejchick scored at the second attempt to tie it up once more. Parker then netted for Australia and Lynch was at it again, saving from Kasold to allow Jodie Kenny to win the match and send the Hockeyroos to the final.
Edwina Bone, the Australia defender told The Top of the D afterwards:
“It’s unbelievable at the moment. It was always our aim to make the final and we’ve worked hard and gone through a lot of preparation. I wouldn’t say we deserve it more than anyone else as I know they all work hard but it hasn’t been easy and we’ve played some great teams and I’m delighted we’re there.”
“They’re a really hard working team and there isn’t a lot you can do to prepare for that except work hard yourselves. They were tough. They wouldn’t lie down and they’re quick, too. It was a nightmare! They do the basics really well and run at you all day long. Their speed and skills really stepped up and gave us a lot of trouble.”
Rachael Lynch, the hero of the hour added:
“We’ve practiced the 1v1 shootout a lot so I went in really confident and I really enjoyed it. We’d done plenty of preparation and research so I had an idea of what to do and fortunately it came off. I have confidence in the girls and I know we’ll score some, so if I can keep a few out I’m rapped! Whoever we play will be tough but it’s exciting and we’re looking forwards to it. “
Australia now wait and see whether they face the hosts, Holland or Argentina in the final.