This afternoon, the United States faced Israel in the Quarterfinals of the 2017 Rathbones Women’s Lacrosse World Cup. To get there, USA toppled Wales, 17-6, in the first round, while Israel needed overtime to work past Japan in the play-in game, 9-8.
To my delight, I saw more of Devon Wills, the US goalie, jumping out of the goal to create another tight double team. Sadly, it was only necessary in one circumstance, but as with Sunday, this goalie was very much a part of the game in more than one element. Not only did she save several shots, but she hopped out of the goal to provide an open passing outlet for her teammates several times.
Defense Wins Championships
We got to again witness the American team’s defensive domination through their pressuring the ball. It was utilized to shut down fast breaks, shots, clears, and other offensive elements. The pressure would then result in Israel turning over the ball into USA’s possession.
As with the game on Sunday between USA and Canada, it was extremely effective and beautifully executed. They even intercepted several passes, resulting in even more turnovers.
USA picked off at least 4 passes before the end of the first half; one was caught and passed to the other end of the field so quickly that the USA had scored a goal before I could even find the ball again!
Israel Fights Back
Israel noticed the American’s defensive pressure system early on. They worked to pass quickly up the field to evade the infamous US defense. Using this manner, Alison Curwin was able to tie the game when Israel had been trailing the US, 1-2. Playing in their first World Cup, Israel quickly showed themselves to be true competition.
This resulted in a very close game early on in the first half. I was biting my nails as I watched it play out. Both teams had to fight to get each point on the scoreboard, and were tied more than once. Israel was very smart and scrappy, and the USA had to step up their game.
Israel even brought forth some of their own defensive pressure. They were very professional in protecting their goal, and the USA had to spend several fast-paced moments chipping away at their defense before they could finally get a goal. Once they broke through for the first time, they were able to really rack up points on the scoreboard.
One offensive method I noticed today by the USA was a sort of fake on the goalie. The US would take the ball behind the net, trying to draw the goalie over, and then pass to a teammate in the 8 meter, giving her a completely open shot.
This baiting was cleverly played, and I was not surprised to see that it resulted in numerous US goals. It was a magnificent play, and I watched with awe as the ball sailed into the back of the net again and again.
From the very beginning of the game, the US was able to keep calm and collected (quite the opposite of my demeanor, and I was only watching!). Though the point values varied several times, and they held a tie with Israel at least twice, they didn’t lose their heads.
Half Head, Half Heart
The Americans continued to play smart and work as hard as they could. When Israel started to turn up the heat, the USA was right there with them and didn’t allow themselves to fall behind. They never let up; not when they were tied with Israel, not when they were leading the score by more than ten points. Their persistence pressuring the ball, as well as their constant movement, was key in winning today’s Quarterfinal.
Team USA won today’s game against Israel, 20-3, advancing onto the Semifinals. Even though the game was more challenging towards the start, the US scored even more than they did Sunday, while shutting out Israel in the second half.
Alex Aust and Kayla Treanor led the way with 4 goals, 2 assists each, while Taylor Cummings wasn’t far behind with a hat trick of her own. Ten total Americans found a way to beat goaltender Blaire Nathanson, while only Rachel Ozer and Alison Curwin had success on the opposite end.
It was an extraordinary game by both teams. A thoroughly amazing game to watch, I can’t wait for the Americans’ next match tomorrow afternoon against England.
I will continue to follow Team USA, as well as Israel, through the rest of the 2017 Rathbones Women’s Lacrosse World Cup. I highly recommend watching the rest of the games for free via BBC Sports or online through 247.tv. The host nation, England, gets a rematch with the US, after falling to the Americans, 18-1, in group play. Tomorrow’s Semifinal game starts at 1 pm Eastern, 6 pm Greenwich Mean Time.
Good luck to USA and Israel alike!