Luke DeCock

Kasold, U.S. field hockey off to perfect start — DeCock

The USA’s Michelle Kasold (left) vies for the ball against Argentina’s Maria Pilar Campoy in action at the FIH Women’s Champions Trophy in London on Sunday June 19, 2016.
The USA’s Michelle Kasold (left) vies for the ball against Argentina’s Maria Pilar Campoy in action at the FIH Women’s Champions Trophy in London on Sunday June 19, 2016. AP

The U.S. field hockey team came into the Olympics with high expectations and bearing the weight of 32 medal-less years. After beating what were thought to be the two best teams in the Americans' group, now they are the best team in their group.

Coming off a 2-1 upset of Pan Am rival Argentina, the No. 2 team in the world rankings, on Saturday, the fifth-ranked United States followed that with a 2-1 upset of third-ranked Australia on Monday, moving to 2-0-0 in Group B. After Australia had two players sent off, the United States gave up a late goal on a counterattack to make things interesting, but held on for the win.

So far, it's hard to imagine anything going any better for the Americans than it has. What figured to be the two toughest games of the group are in the books as wins. Up next: No. 10 Japan on Wednesday, India on Thursday and No. 7 England on Saturday. The United States will be favored to win all three.

“Yeah, it's great, it puts us in a good place, but there's more work to be done,” said former UNC player Rachel Dawson. “I think we're just focused on the task at hand. Today was a fun game, though. We're just going to keep going.”

East Chapel Hill product Michelle Kasold scored one of the two U.S. goals in Saturday's win. She knew she had deflected the ball in right away and had no idea that it was initially given to someone else before being correctly credited to her. Two days later, she was still buzzing about it.

“Oh my gosh, my teammates thought I was about to cry because I was so excited,” Kasold said. “It's just pure joy. Everything happened so fast. I can't explain. I just reacted and it went in. It's exciting, but in the end, I'm just glad I could play a part for my team that they needed me to play in that moment.”

Because of the U.S. schedule, Kasold and the field hockey team didn't get to attend the Opening Ceremony on Friday, staying back in the village instead with the other athletes competing Saturday before having their own little goodbye party for those going to the ceremonies.

“We had fun dressing up anyway and taking pictures,” Kasold said. “Right before they left, the USA team walked away, they had to do a loop in the village, so when they left we went to take pictures with the big rings, and we were walking they came back so we made a tunnel and we were cheering. So we did USA chants and gave high fives and had some fun that way for ourselves.”

Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, ldecock@newsobserver.com, @LukeDeCock

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