MANHEIM – Kat Sharkey said a dominant effort while facing a physical opponent was just what the U.S. women’s field hockey team needed before leaving the comforts of Pennsylvania for the challenges ahead in the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games.
The United States routed Canada, 5-0, Tuesday in front of an overflow crowd at Spooky Nook Sports in Lancaster County before leaving its training headquarters behind for a trip to Houston first on the way to Brazil.
The U.S. Olympic team, which features two regulars and an alternate from the Wyoming Valley Conference, put on a show, scoring its last three goals off penalty corners that it earned by constantly putting pressure on the overmatched Canadian team.
“I think it was really important for us to put together a good performance given that it was our last showing in the United States before we head to Rio,” said Sharkey, a forward from Moosic, who played at Wyoming Seminary and Princeton University. “I thought we had a really good performance. We were connected and we were able to finish our opportunities.
“I think we’re only going to take this performance and build on it as we head to Rio.”
The United States went 2-1 in the Rio Send-Off Series. It split with India, its opponent in an Aug. 11 pool play game. The United States overwhelmed Canada, the world’s 15th-ranked team, which did not qualify for the 12-team field in Brazil.
Canada did, however, bring a feisty approach to Tuesday’s exhibition.
“I think there’s a lot of rivalry and competitiveness with Canada,” said Sharkey, who joins former Wyoming Seminary teammate Kelsey Kolejejchick from Larksville in the starting lineup for most U.S. games. “They’re a strong team and it did get physical at times on both ends, but I think that was good preparation for Rio.”
Dallas graduate Paige Selenski, a 2012 Olympian, is an alternate. Selenski will take over if any of the 15 field players on the roster become injured and cannot continue in the tournament.
Selenski has come back from surgery late last year to repair a serious upper-leg injury.
Sharkey had a brief injury scare when she suffered a broken ankle July 1, 2015, requiring surgery and forcing her to miss the Pan American Games where the United States clinched its Olympic berth by earning the gold medal. Exactly one year after suffering the injury, and long after she had returned from rehabilitation, Sharkey celebrated the official announcement that she would be making her first Olympics appearance.
The United States, currently fifth in the World, its highest ranking ever, will open Saturday against Argentina, its top American rival.
Sharkey scored a goal in a 2-0 win over Great Britain when the United States finished third at the Champions Trophy, its last tournament competition, in June in Europe. She also had a goal in the 3-2 win over India in the Send-Off Series, starting the scoring in that game before setting up Kolojejchick, who ultimately scored the game-winning goal on her own rebound.
“I think we’ve always had a connection on the field,” Sharkey said of the chance to continue playing with her state championship high school teammate. “She knows my tendencies and I know hers. We can find each other with the ball. With passes, we can anticipate what the other is going to do.
“It’s definitely nice to have that connection with someone on the field, but I think overall our team has been playing together for so many years now that the entire team is connected similarly.”
Reach the Sunday Dispatch newsroom at 570-655-1418 or by email at [email protected]