Japan took advantage of one of its limited scoring opportunities to edge the USA Field Hockey women, 1-0, in Game 4 of the five-game series at the Univ. of Maryland.

Japan’s Chie Akutsu gave the visitors the only goal they would need when she brought the ball down the right side and chipped a ball up and over USA keeper Amy Tran in the 31st minute to provide the game’s only score.

The USA once again dominated possession, but was kept scoreless in a frustrating first half that saw the team unable to capitalize on five penalty corner opportunities.

“I thought we played really well,” said U.S. coach Lee Bodimeade. “But that’s the difference in the game. We had an advantage in the number of penalty corners and circle penetrations, but we’re not getting the payoff. Our girls need to believe that we’re a good hockey team and when we have that much of an advantage in possession, we should win these types of games.”

After Akutsu gave Japan a halftime lead, both teams picked up the tempo in the second half, with neither squad able to capitalize on scoring opportunities. U.S. keeper Tran kept the USA within striking distance with a diving stick save of a penalty corner shot with 13 minutes left in the game, but the USA could not manufacture the equalizer with two penalty corner chances with five minutes remaining.

The USA had one final penalty corner opportunity in the final minute of play, but Tiffany Snow’s shot was saved by keeper Ikuko Okamura to preserve the victory for Japan.

As in the first three games of the series, Bodimeade continued to experiment with lineup combinations and the opportunity to provide international experience for some of the squad’s younger players. The match marked the first international appearance for the USA’s Katie Evans (Newtown Square, Pa.) while the series also marked the international debut of Jesse Gey (Green Lane, Pa.) and  Natalie Martirosian (Richmond, Va.).

“These have been some hard-fought games and we’ve been trying to get the whole unit working together on the field,” said the USA’s Carrie Lingo, a veteran of 120 international matches on the team’s multiple player combinations. “Once we get kinks worked out, we’ll be going full throttle.”

With the win, Japan leads the series with a 2-1-1 advantage.

Japan 1, USA 0
JPN: Chie Akutsu (FG, 31:00)

USA Starters:  Angie Loy (Loysville, Pa.), Kelly Doton (Greenfield, Mass.), Rachel Dawson (New Berlin, N.J.), Tiffany Snow (Escondido, Calif.), Dana Sensenig (Denver, Pa.), Carrie Lingo (Rehoboth Beach, Del.),  Dina Rizzo (Walpole, Mass.), Kayla Bashore (Shoemakersville, Pa.), Caroline Nichols (Virginia Beach, Va.), Lauren Crandall (Doyelstown, Pa.), Amy Tran (Grantville, Pa.)
Reserves: Natalie Martirosian (Richmond, Va.), Jesse Gey (Green Lane, Pa.), Lauren Powley (Mountaintop, Pa.), Katie Evans (Newtown Square, Pa.), Katelyn Falgowski (Landenberg, Pa.)
Head Coach: Lee Bodimeade

Japan Starters: Ikuko Okamura (GK), Mayumi Ono, Chie Kimura, Rika Komazawa, Miyuki Nakagawa , Yukari Yamamoto, Tomomi Komori, Misaki Ozawa,  Mika IIMura, Chinami Kozakura, Chie Akutsu
Reserves: Hikari Suwa, Hazuki Yuda, Kana Nomura, Yuka Yoshikawa, Ayumi Ueno
DNP: Akiko Ota,  Ai Murakami
Head Coach: Seung Jin Yoo

Source: USA Field Hockey