The USA Women's National Team will renew its growing rivalry with Japan when the USA hosts their Olympic-bound foes in a five game series, 7-13 October at the University of Maryland.

In one of international hockey's newest and most competitive rivalries, the two teams have met 16 times since 2000 including a 1-0 Japan win in the 5th/6th place game at the 2006 Samsung World Cup and an epic USA victory in penalty strokes in the 9th/10th place game at the 2002 World Cup.

"We always enjoy playing them," said the USA's Angie Loy on the team's rivalry with Japan. "It will be a tight series, but having the U.S. home crowd behind us gives us the extra boost. It is always great to see the red, white and blue in the stands."

While Japan has already qualified for the 2008 Olympic Games, the October series serves as a prelude to the USA women's build up for their Olympic Qualifying Tournament in April 2008. The USA will be assigned to one of three Olympic Qualifiers and will need to win the six-team tournament to earn a spot in Beijing.

Japan qualified for the Olympic Games as an Asia quota team following a second place finish at the 2006 Asia Games.

While the teams have a history of intense matches, the rivalry is also one of the sport's most amicable series.

"They are such a nice team and we get along with them really well," said the USA's Dina Rizzo, who will be returning to her college alma mater for the series. It's always a tough game and they are a very quick and skilled. It seems that like

every time we play them its a really close game or a tie."

The series marks a return of international hockey to the Maryland campus after last year's AstroTurf March on Madrid tournament featuring the USA, Argentina, the Netherlands and Australia.

"These international matches bring such hockey exposure to the Baltimore/D.C. area," said Missy Meharg, head coach of the two time defending NCAA champion Maryland Terrapins squad. "The opportunity to combine national team matches with NCAA games is critical as we strive to close the gap between the two."

Maryland will also host the NCAA I national semifinals and final, 16 and 18 November.

The games at Maryland mark a homecoming for USA team members Rizzo, Lauren Powley, Sara Silvetti and Keli Smith who played their college careers for the Terps.

"I am very excited to go back and play at Maryland," said Rizzo. "It was my home for five years and I have so many good memories and the field is gorgeous. I love it."

The USA women will also continue their Sun Safe Play initiative at the series in their efforts to educate young athletes on the prevention and detection of melanoma and skin cancer. Dedicated to the memory of former field hockey coach and USA team member Maria Whitehead and in partnership with the Melanoma International Foundation, Sun Safe Play encourages athletes to make sun smart and healthy decisions when playing and practicing in the sun.

Matches for the Japan series are scheduled for 7, 8, 10 7, 12 and 13 October at the Univ. of Maryland. Game time for the 7 October match is 16:00 with all other matches scheduled for 19:00 at the Univ. of Maryland Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex.

The USA's 7 and 12 October matches will be played as part of an NCAA/International doubleheader with the Univ. of Maryland taking on Boston University on 7 October (14:00) and Maryland vs. Old Dominion on 12 October (17:00).

Source: USA Field Hockey