The United States women’s field hockey team dominated the first week of the Pan American Games.
It is not necessary to repeat a performance that saw the United States score 17 goals without allowing any, but three more wins of any type would give the team the Pan Am title and a guaranteed berth in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.
Paige Selenski, a forward from Shavertown, scored two goals and assisted two others while Kelsey Kolojejchick, a midfielder from Larksville, scored a goal and helped set up several plays that led to goals.
While the offense was cranking out scoring opportunities, the defense was spotless through three pool games.
“We also have done a great job on the defensive end by keeping teams out of our defensive circle,” Kolojejchick said in an interview from Toronto, “but when they do find opportunities, we have been smart in our tackles and Jackie (Briggs) has made great saves as well.”
The United States returns to action Monday at 5 p.m. in a quarterfinal game against the Dominic Republic.
Monday’s winners advance to Wednesday’s semifinals, trying to land a spot in Friday’s championship game.
Argentina, the only team in the field ranked higher than the United States, was even more dominant in the other pool, winning all three games by a total of 26-0.
The pool games were strictly for quarterfinal seeding in the eight-team field.
“I don’t think it changed our game plan at all,” Kolojejchick said of not facing elimination until this week.
The United States was sharp from the start, defeating Uruguay, 5-0, July 13; Chile, 2-0, July 15; and Cuba, 12-0, July 17.
Kolojejchick scored the last goal of the Uruguay win.
The United States was advancing into the offensive end of the field when the ball went to Michelle Vittese on the left side while Kolojejchick worked her way up the right.
“The Uruguay team all ran to protect the left side of the field and Mich saw me open and just crossed it to me and I had time to just sweep the ball across the cage,” Kolojejchick said.
All the scoring in the Chile game took place in the first quarter.
Team captain Lauren Crandall slipped a ball through two defenders to spring Selenski for the second goal late in the quarter.
“I saw the ball on the open ground and I was able to put my swing on it,” Selenski said in a video interview posted on teamusa.org, the United States Olympic Committee’s website.
Playing close to home was an enjoyable experience for the team after finishing fifth in the World League Semifinals in June in Valencia, Spain.
“We love seeing the red, white and blue out there,” Selenski said. “It’s something that gives us energy and give us momentum going forward into the Games.
“It really pushes us along.”
Kolojejchick said the players met between the second and third game and discussed how good they can be as a team when they are “all switched on.”
The team was at its best in the last pool game, destroying Cuba, 12-0.
“I have never been a part of that high-scoring of a game at this international level,” Kolojejchick said.
Kolojejchick and Selenski helped get it started less than two minutes into the game.
Selenski received a pass from Kolojejchick and sent the ball toward the goal where Katie O’Donnell was able to deflect it into the cage.
“When we hit their 25-yard line, I saw Paige in good position holding wide and easily passed it to her,” said Kolojejchick, who had just completed a give-and-goal with Katelyn Falgowski while racing upfield. “(Paige) just beat a defender, dribbled into the circle and found OD for a simple tap-in goal.
“It’s a lot of fun when we have great connections like that and score on top of it.”
Selenski followed with the second goal, dodging two defenders and slipping the ball under the goalie, then assisted another score later in the game.
Kolojejchick drew the penalty corner that led to the fourth goal.
While Kolojejchick and Dallas graduate Selenski started all three games, the third Wyoming Valley Conference graduate who had been on the Pan Am Games roster was forced to sit out.
Kat Sharkey, a Wyoming Seminary teammate of Kolojejchick’s from Moosic, suffered a fractured ankle a week before the games. She had surgery and is planning on being back in the fall when she is healthy.
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