USA women's field hockey beats Japan, advances
RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) So much for the slow starts by the U.S. women's field hockey team.
Melissa Gonzalez scored on a penalty corner 22 seconds into the team's match against Japan, and Katie Bam scored the first of her three goals four minutes later. The Americans went on to rout Japan 6-1 in the Pool B contest Wednesday to earn a slot in the quarterfinals.
In their first two matches at the Olympics, the Americans struggled early before finishing strong to beat Argentina and Australia. This time, they avoided a sluggish start on a rainy, dreary evening with temperatures in the mid-60s.
''That was definitely a newer experience for us,'' Bam said. ''We've been working on that. Today, we just got up there real fast, managed to get a corner. That gives you a bit of a confidence booster to continue to propel putting goals away.''
The Americans improved to 3-0 at the Olympics and leapfrogged Britain for the top spot in the pool by moving ahead in goal differential. The United States is plus seven, while the Brits are plus five. Britain defeated Argentina 3-2 earlier in the day to remain unbeaten.
''Really important game for us tonight,'' USA coach Craig Parnham said. ''Japan were a very, very difficult team. I thought we did a really good job and a professional job, of picking up another three points. And the plus-five goal difference is really helpful when we're in pool play.''
The fifth-ranked Americans had no problem finding motivation to do their best against No. 2 Argentina and No. 3 Australia. Beating No. 10 Japan was a different type of challenge.
''Games like this are statement games for us,'' Bam said. ''It's easy to step up and play the people that are ranked higher than you. It's hard to step up and bury a team like we just did that's ranked lower than you.''
Katie Reinprecht scored late in the second period to make it 3-0 at halftime. Jill Witmer scored for the United States in the third period, and Bam scored twice in the fourth.
Japan fell to 0-2-1.
The United States will face India on Thursday, then close pool play with a showdown against Britain on Saturday. Bam said the Americans won't get ahead of themselves.
''While there's possibilities and our goal is to medal, our focus is each game, every game, to finish that particular game,'' Bam said.
Follow Cliff Brunt on Twitter (at)CliffBruntAP .