New Zealand Remains Undefeated as Playoff Brackets Take Shape

PHOTO BY KAIT DEVIR

Goalie Sally Rutherford in the huddle for New Zealand. The 40-year-old is a two-time Olympian in field hockey.


TOWSON, Md. — Sally Rutherford saw the deflected ball trickle toward the goal line. That’s when her field hockey instincts kicked in.

With New Zealand clinging to a two-goal lead in the fourth quarter against Hong Kong, China in the fourth quarter, Rutherford lunged right and extended her stick all the way to the far pipe to make the save, preserving a 10-8 victory Monday in a World Lacrosse Women’s Championship Pool D finale at Towson University.

Unbeaten in pool play for the second straight world championship, New Zealand (4-0) clinched the No. 8 seed in the championship bracket and will play No. 9 seed Japan on Tuesday.

“It’s a big win for us,” Rutherford said. “We’re a homegrown team. We’ve got no imported players. They’re born and bred and started playing lacrosse in New Zealand.”







Rutherford’s roots are in field hockey. She represented New Zealand in the 2012 and 2016 Olympic Games.

This is her fourth world lacrosse championship, meanwhile. She was a field player in the 2005, 2009 and 2013 games and came back for this campaign as a goalie at age 40.

“You’re putting your body in front of the ball. You’re watching the ball. You have that goalie psyche,” Rutherford said. “The technical aspects are quite different.”

Rutherford’s technique looked rather flawless in the fourth quarter Monday. In addition to her sprawling last-minute stop, she made a free-position save on Charlotte Hartley and then stuffed Ka Hei Hui on a point-blank putback attempt.

Rutherford finished with seven saves, allowing just five goals in three quarters. Erin Jagger (two saves, three goals allowed) also saw time in goal for New Zealand. Keita Perry scored a game-high four goals and Briar Bertram had three goals and three draw controls to earn Player of the Match honors.

Hong Kong (2-2) will wait to see if it qualifies for the one at-large spot in the championship bracket. Michelle Yu (Dartmouth) scored four goals. Color Rutherford impressed.

“They might make it through as a third-place team,” Rutherford said. “I hope they do because they deserve it.”

With New Zealand assured of its playoff spot, Rutherford could not help but reflect on the last time she suited up in Maryland. She was a part of New Zealand’s inaugural team in 2005 when the world championship was in Annapolis. New Zealand finished last.

“It’s coming of age now,” Rutherford said. “We’re in the high schools. We’re getting high school athletes coming into lacrosse specifically rather than coming from different sports and trying lacrosse.”

With the exception of 2017, however, Rutherford has remained a constant — the last line of defense in two different sports.

“Some would say I’ve got a screw loose somewhere,” Rutherford said of being a goalie. “It can be tough, but it can also be incredibly rewarding.”

POOL WINNERS

New Zealand has joined Germany (Pool C), Japan (Pool E) and the Czech Republic (Pool F) as pool champions. The United States can clinch the Pool A championship with a victory over England tonight. Israel can clinch Pool B with a victory over the Netherlands this afternoon.

The complete Championship Bracket and Platinum Brackets schedules are being updated as the matchups become official.

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