Aug. 26, 2004
U.S. center Ellen Estes (Novato, CA/Stanford) had three goals in another late-game scare, but the U.S. women ended their 2004 Olympic run with a trip to the medal podium, winning bronze with a 6-5 win over Australia at the Olympic Aquatic Centre Main Pool on Thursday (August 26). UCLA players Natalie Golda, Amber Stachowski, and Robin Beauregard each scored and contributed half of the team's goals. Estes' third goal of the game ended a three-goal run by the Aussies that had tied the game 5-5 with 5:30 left in the game. With 2:30 on the clock, Team USA snatched back the lead on Estes' 6-on-5 score from two meters off a pass from Robin Beauregard (Huntington Beach, CA/UCLA/New York AC). The stifling defense that had helped Team USA to a 4-0 halftime lead kicked back in from there, and one last save by U.S. goalie Jackie Frank (Long Beach, CA/Stanford/Golden West) did the trick. "I was just thinking about what I could do to help the team," Estes said of her three-goal performance. "I was trying to perform in my role, which is to score out of set or on 6-on-5s. It was basically me trying to do everything possible to make sure we won the game." The bronze-medal game was a rematch of the 2000 Olympic final, when Australia won 4-3 on a last-second goal to leave the U.S women with silver. In this year's gold-medal game, host Greece took on world No. 2 Italy in another tight contest. In overtime, the lead changed hands twice, and Italy ended up with the game-winner from Melania Grego to claim gold with a 10-9 decision. In the bronze-medal game, both the U.S. women and the Aussies started out with poor passes on their first possessions, but a few saves from Frank helped make up for a pair of 6-on-5 failures by Team USA. Neither team was able to get to the back of the net by the end of the first quarter, leaving it scoreless for the second. Natalie Golda (Fullerton, CA/UCLA/New York AC) ended the slump for the U.S. women to kick off the second frame, slamming home a 6-on-5 score to make it 1-0. Estes boosted her squad up 2-0 on a score off the counterattack. Her powerful strike tipped off an Aussie defender's fingers and into the back of the cage with 4:02 left in the half. Team USA's defense continued to stifle the Aussies. And its offense seemed to find its groove as well. Beauregard unleashed one of her meanest skip shot that drilled by Australian goalie Jemma Brownlow, and the U.S. women were up 3-0. Ericka Lorenz put up a field block against and Aussie power play next, and their next shot sailed high to keep Australia 0-for-2 on players advantages. That fed right into the U.S. counterattack, and a nearside skip from Amber Stachowski (Rancho Santa Margarita, CA/UCLA) pumped the score to 4-0 USA. U.S. captain Heather Moody (Green River, WY/San Diego State/New York AC) -- after working hard at two meters on offense -- slammed down a defensive block against Australia late in the second quarter to help hold the Aussies scoreless in the half. "The nice thing about our team is you have to pick our poison," Estes said. "If they're going to drop back on us (at center), our outside shooters are going to be open. And today they were harder outside and we were wide open on the post a lot. It was our chance to show that we were threats." On its third 6-on-5 chance of the game, Australia called timeout to try to organize itself against the stubborn U.S. defense. Time ran out on the Aussies, but Elise Norwood managed to score from the top with the teams even. That made it 4-1 at 5:35 in the third. Beauregard nabbed a steal at two meters on Australia's next trip down. Team USA couldn't score on that possession, but Estes made quick work of the next pass into her at set, ripping in a backhand for a 5-1 lead. Australia answered when Kate Gythner scored off a nice crossing pass, and then Belinda Brooks scored Australia's first 6-on-5 to pull within two at 5-3 with 2:25 left in the period. Moody earned Team USA one last 6-on-5 opportunity in the frame, and U.S. coach Guy Baker called a timeout to get his troops organized with 18 seconds left, but Estes couldn't control the pass into two meters before the buzzer sounded. Joanne Fox then made it three straight scores for Australia when her shot from the perimeter deflected off Frank's hands to the bar and then floated across the line, and it was a one-goal game with 6:28 left to play. Brooks tied it up a minute later with another score from the top that was tipped just enough by a U.S. defender. Now locked up 5-5, Team USA was under the gun. The USA's next player advantage also passed it by, and the next was stopped by Brownlow. The their third 6-on-5 opportunity of the quarter, the U.S. women made good. Beauregard hit Estes at two meters, and she blazed in the go-ahead score for her third goal of the game. The score was then 6-5 USA with 2:20 on the clock. Another power play followed for Team USA, but Golda's shot careened off the bar and out of bounds. Australia was next to call timeout with 1:12 remaining. In the final minute, Beauregard picked up the pass into two meters for a U.S. steal, putting Team USA on the attack with 38 seconds left. Australia had the last chance, but Mel Rippon's shot was sucked in by Frank, and the U.S. women had bronze.