The Canadian Women’s National Field Hockey Team finished second at Women’s World League 2 after a shootout loss (1-1 / 5-4 SO) in the tournament final Sunday in Dublin, Ireland.
The game, not surprisingly, began with Ireland taking advantage of home field, feeding off the energy of the crowd and owning a lot of possession early.
In the second minute, Canada was called for deliberate back stick, which resulted in an Irish penalty corner. The corner was fed into the left post to Kathryn Mullan, who put the ball through the goal mouth, but Canada took over possession on the goal line and cleared.
Ireland’s second best chance of the first half came on a Nicola Evans solo dash down the left side, when she stopped up for a shot at the top of the circle. The heavy hit was palmed away by Canadian keeper Kaitlyn Williams.
Canada settled in well after that, controlling the midfield and slowly pushing back. The play stayed level through the end of the first quarter ends with the teams tied nil-nil.
In the second quarter, Canada began to mount the offensive as strong play in the midfield from Natalie Sourisseau began to push the Irish defense back.
Their first good chance came after Abigail Raye made a nice flip along the right line, fed the ball to the top of the circle where it was heavily played into the middle and Alex Thicke deflected it on goal. Irish keeper Emma Gray was in perfect position, however, to turn the redirect aside.
Canada’s best chance of the first half was in the dying seconds of the first half.
Brienne Stairs and Stephanie Norlander found themselves on a 2-on-1 off the counter. Stairs played the ball to Norlander who was charged by Gray, resulting in a penalty corner. The drag flick was put wide and the half ended scoreless.
The second half began like the first did, with Ireland earning penalty corner in the first minute after a strong challenge in the circle. A heavy hit from Cliodhna Sargent was quicked out my Williams, but Evans was quick on the rebound and put it by the Canadian keeper to give Ireland the 1-0 lead in the thirty-first minute.
Minutes later, Canada’s went back on the front foot, once again thanks to Sourisseau who navigated her way through the circle and earned a penalty corner for Canada.
On the ensuing corner, the ball was played to Holly Stewart who, while sliding on her knees into the back post, deflected it past Gray for Canada’s first goal and to tie the game at one in the thirty-seventh minute.
The pace of the game picked up after the first two goals, as both teams wanted the go-ahead goal with time dwindling.
Ireland had the best chance to take the lead before the third quarter was over when, on a penalty corner, Williams had to make a lunging save to her right to stop the quick shot from the side of the net.
With less than a minute to go, the team’s exchanged penalty corners. A goal from either side would have surely been the winning tally, but on the Irish end keeper Emma Gray made a strong save, and on the Canadian side Canada defended well to earn a free out.
For the second straight match, with the game still tied 1-1 after sixty minutes, the game went to a penalty shootout.
Ireland took an early lead scoring the only goal in the first round. Both teams scored in the second and third rounds, before Brienne Stairs scored and Williams forced the Irish shooter wide in the fourth round to level the score.
In the fifth and final round, Abigail Raye was stopped by Gray and Aine Connery made good on her opportunity to win the match and to crown Ireland champions of World League Round 2.
With their top two finishes, both Canada and Ireland advance to World League Round 3, or the World League 3 Semifinals, in Valencia, Spain in June. The top three finishers from each of the World League Semifinals will advance to the 2016 Olympic Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Canada’s Kaitlyn Williams took home honours as the tournament’s top goalkeeper, while Hannah Haughn earned the acolade as the tournament’s best young player.