U.S. draws twice versus Ireland

Published 11:09 pm Friday, March 25, 2011

Lakeland senior Kelsey Smither, pictured here during a postseason game this past season in Virginia Beach, is on the U.S. Under-21 National Team on a tour of Ireland and Germany this week. The U.S. tied Ireland, 2-2 in both matches, Monday and Tuesday in Dublin.

The United States Under-21 Field Hockey team started its European tour with a pair of 2-2 draws against Ireland in Dublin Monday and Tuesday.

Lakeland senior Kelsey Smither, who played on the U.S. under-17 team in 2010, is making her debut as an under-21 national team member on the five-match trip to Ireland and Germany.

The Americans faced an Irish team made up of some youth players and some senior national team players.

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Ireland greeted the U.S. with two goals in the first five minutes of Monday’s contest. The U.S. rallied with two goals in the second half; the tying goal came with about 10 minutes remaining and just after the U.S. survived playing shorthanded a player due to a yellow card.

“To be down two and then to persevere and play better hockey the rest of the way, is a tribute to the character of the kids in the program,” said U.S. head coach Ainslee Lamb.

“The exposure to international hockey and the physical aspects that come with it became a reality to the group and that is growth that we will benefit from moving forward,” Lamb said.

The U.S. had to come back again, but only from one goal down, in Tuesday’s 2-2 result. The Americans scored the tying goal with 16 minutes left.

The U.S. team practiced in College Park, Md. for two days before crossing the Atlantic. According to a blog on usafieldhockey.com by players Laura Gebhart, from Donegal High School of Mount Joy, Pa., and Rachel Jennings, of the University of Virginia, traveling from the States to London to Dublin took 15 hours.

Shortly after getting to their hotel in Dublin, the coaches sent the team for a jog at a nearby park, “which actually turned into our whole team just playing on the monkey bars, which was surprisingly difficult,” said the player-bloggers.

The U.S. team departed Dublin for Monchengladbach, Germany for matches Friday, Saturday and Sunday against the German U-21 team.