The USA Women Junior All Americans have had a day to digest their 25-15 loss against Canada, the opening match at the U20 Nations Cup in England. The box score suggests that Canada owned the third quarter, and that was the turning point for the match, but field captain Elizabeth Cairns lent some more insight.
“The fact that Canada got the last points of the first half gave them a little bit of momentum going into the second half,” Cairns said. “We were slow starting the second half, and maybe too slow to recognize it.
“But Canada did a really great job capitalizing on our mistakes, especially when we were on defense. We’d have several great phases, we’d make a mistake, and then Canada did a good job recognizing it and exposing it. It was our first time playing together as a team, so obviously there are areas where we can improve.”
The USA played a lot of defense yesterday, which is telling in and of itself, but the WJAAs did pressure Canada when the ball was out of their hands.
“Scrums were one of our biggest advantages,” Cairns explained. “Our forwards did a great job, and we were really happy with those. We maybe didn’t use it to the best of our advantage, but that was the biggest mismatch in the game. Our lineouts were executed well, too. We have to work on defense, like I said, but we recognized it as a weakness after that game and it’s something we need to fix.”
There were some issues around the breakdown, too, as Canada was able to slow down the Americans’ ball and prevent a fast-attacking offense.
“We had a session with the ref today and she was talking about the breakdowns specifically,” Cairns said. “Obviously there are breakdowns that get messy, but overall she was very pleased with how we were playing.
“Canada was very quick and they’re strong at the breakdown,” Cairns continued. “We were able to match them though. We recognized at halftime that we would like quicker ball, so we changed that when we needed it – getting back to our principles, putting in as many as we needed, just staying disciplined at the breakdown.”
That didn’t necessarily translate into points, as Canada pulled away to 25-10 until Meya Bizer scored late in the game. But Cairns was satisfied with how the team reacted during the lead-chase, staying calm and problem-solving on the fly. It also helped to have three capped Eagles on the field.
“It’s really helpful to have people with experience and with that comes leadership on the field,” Cairns said of Bizer, Hope Rogers and Anne Peterson. “They have a higher level of comfort with the system we use in the national pool, so obviously, it’s beneficial to have that on the field.”
The USA has three more games to go, so while the Canada result was disappointing, it’s really just a starting point for improvement and contrast. The real tests lie in the games ahead and whether the squad can execute the adjustments needed for future success.
“The mood is great,” Cairns said of her team. “We’re really getting to know each other, becoming better friends everyday. The more our relationships build off the field, the better we mesh on the field. We’re really excited to play another game, get back out there and continue to compete.”