Kolojejchick, USA field hockey fought to the end for opening victory

By Paul Sokoloski - [email protected] | August 7th, 2016 7:15 pm

They walked into an electric atmosphere right at the start.

They were up against the No. 2 team in the world.

They finished dead last in the previous Summer Olympic games and were a heavy underdog during their debut in this year’s Rio Games.

None of that mattered to Kelsey Kolojejchick and the rest of Team USA.

“We are fighters,” Kolojejchick, a former Wyoming Seminary star from Larksville, said through an email. “And we will continue to fight one game at a time.

“No matter who we are up against.”

They were up against it in the opener.

After taking a 2-0 lead into the fourth quarter against No. 2 Argentina, the United States suddenly saw its lead slip to a single goal with more than three minutes remaining.

Plenty of time for Argentina to mount a late-game comeback?

Not if Kolojejchick got the ball on her stick.

And she did, dribbling away the final seconds of the game in Argentina’s far corner to close out a stirring 2-1 opening-game victory that quickly put the United States into the conversation for its first Olympic women’s field hockey medal.

“I knew there wasn’t much time left,” wrote Kolojejchick, who kept the ball in the Argentina end for about seven seconds until time expired. “So I had to do my best to protect the ball and get it as far down their half as possible so they wouldn’t have any opportunity to try and tie the game.

“I just knew I couldn’t let them take the ball away from me.”

That seemed to be the mindset of her current USA and former Wyoming Seminary teammate Kat Sharkey. The Moosic native also ran a few seconds off the clock during the final minute with a nifty move and sharp stickwork that kept the ball away from Argentina’s hungry defenders and far away from danger.

Kolojejchick, with a propensity to excel at multiple positions for Team USA, started the game at midfield while Sharkey played extensively as a forward and former Dallas standout Paige Selenski — a veteran of the 2012 London Games — served as an alternate.

Meanwhile, Katie Reinprecht and Michelle Kasold scored second-half goals for the United States to break a scoreless halftime tie.

That was enough to overcome Delfina Merino’s tally for Argentina with 3:27 remaining. Some clock-eating stick-handling by Sharkey and Kolojejchick at the end did the trick as well as a desire from the No. 5 USA team to not only beat one of the best, but become one of the best in the Olympic field.

“I am not surprised we won,” Kolojejchick wrote. “We have a great rivalry with this (Argentina) team. I knew it would be a challenge to come out with a win against a great team, but we have confidence and belief in ourselves.”

And the USA women’s field hockey players vow to carry that into their second game in the B Pool against Australia at 9 a.m. Monday.

“I’m proud to be a part of this team,” Kolojejchick wrote, “that just won’t stop.”

Former Wyoming Seminary star Kelsey Kolojejchick (left), scoring here vs. India last month, helped finish off Argentina in Saturday’s Olympic opener.
https://www.timesleader.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/web1_kelseykolojejchick02-3.jpgFormer Wyoming Seminary star Kelsey Kolojejchick (left), scoring here vs. India last month, helped finish off Argentina in Saturday’s Olympic opener. Pete G. Wilcox file photo | Times Leader

By Paul Sokoloski

[email protected]

Reach Paul Sokoloski at 570-991-6392 or on Twitter @TLPaulSokoloski