Black Sticks lose heartbreaker in shootout
Meek performances right when it counts is now more than coincidence for the New Zealand women's hockey team, it's a nasty and a hard to break habit.
After being shocked by England overnight, the Black Sticks are today mourning the loss of a chance to play for Commonwealth Games gold and preparing for a face-saving bronze medal game against South Africa.
New Zealand and England finished regulation time locked at 1-1 though that flattered the Kiwis.
As meek as they were in the first 70 minutes, they were worse in the shootout as nerves clearly took over.
Captain Kayla Whitelock scored first before Anita Punt, Katie Glynn then Stacey Michelsen all missed their shots with uncharacteristic poor attempts.
Kiwi goalie Sally Rutherford saved one of the English shots, but that wasn't enough to save her side.
Coach Mark Hager was at a loss to explain what he called a "skittish and standoffish" performance against an English side that in June finished a lowly 11th at the World Cup.
Whitelock and Glynn both echoed his sentiments as their crestfallen team-mates left the Glasgow National Hockey Centre turf.
"I'm pretty gutted to be honest, we all are," said Glynn whose clever 69th minute deflection forced the shootout.
"We dominated that game. We let ourselves down. The ball movement wasn't great and we held on to it too long."
As the Kiwis trudged off the turf with disbelief and heartbreak pasted over their faces, Whitelock was livid her side had let the occasion get to them. Again.
"Gutted. Disappointed," she said bluntly.
"We didn't come out and play like we normally do and that's the most frustrating part. We were timid."
Hager was equally disappointed and was lost for an explanation.
"When you've only got three or four players who played well out of the 16, that doesn't help."
Even from early on the match it wasn't the Kiwis' day.
They dominated most of the first half and had a generous helping of possession, but couldn't score.
Then England scored against the run of play through Lily Owsley. The Kiwi heads dropped as thoughts of recent costly slip-ups would have surely come flooding back.
They then tried to do to much individually and were guilty of trying to chase the game rather than continuing what had been working throughout the tournament.
"Apart from the last five minutes when we decided to move the ball quickly and combined," Hager said.
"We made silly decisions and were very poor entering the attacking third. Whether the players got overawed by the occasion, I'm not sure."
This is far from the first time the women's team have slipped-up when the pressure is on.
They lost the final of the last Commonwealth Games - to Australia - on strokes and were beaten in the bronze medal match by a Great Britain side featuring most of the current England team. After setting high goals for June's World Cup, they also cost themselves spot in the semifinals when they were poor and were upset against Korea.
New Zealand now meet South Africa in the bronze medal match after they were thumped 7-1 by Australia.
England 1 (Lily Owsley) New Zealand 1 (Katie Glynn). HT: 1-0. England win 3-1 in shootout