Canada, WVU alumnae win Olympic gold after PK thriller with Sweden

Gold and Blue Nation

Canada’s Jessie Fleming, right, celebrates scoring the opening goal from the penalty spot during a women’s semifinal soccer match against United States at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021, in Kashima, Japan. (AP Photo/Fernando Vergara)

When Canada Soccer hired Bev Priestman to head the country’s women’s national team, she said she and her team were aiming to “change the color” of their bronze medal from 2016. With the help of two West Virginia alumnae, Canada has done just that after defeating Sweden for the 2020 gold medal in a penalty shootout in Tokyo.

Former Mountaineers Ashley Lawrence and Kadeisha Buchanan were key players in the victory, which Canada squeezed out after a 1-1 draw through 120 minutes. While playing on the back line, the duo played crucial defense as much of the match was played in the Canadian defensive third. While wearing the captain’s armband after the substitution of starter Christine Sinclair, Buchanan made a match-saving clearance as stoppage time began to preserve the 1-1 scoreline.

The score remained 1-1 through both extra time period, with the duo still making significant impacts. After 30 more minutes of play, neither Sweden nor Canada could find the back of the net — forcing penalty kicks.

After six rounds, Canada took the shootout 3-2 — Lawrence was tapped as the second penalty taker, but she was one of the three misses. It didn’t matter, though, as goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe made a pair of saves to set up Julia Grosso’s game-winner.

The gold medal win wraps up a busy tournament for Lawrence and Buchanan, who started all six matches and combined to 1,190 out of 1,200 possible minutes. Lawrence notched an assist in the group stage, while both finished cleanly without either earning a booking.

The Canadian triumph is a massive improvement to their Olympic record after 2016, as well as a bit of poetic justice. The newest medal addition is the country’s first-ever first gold medal and its third Olympic medal all-time. Canada earned bronze at the 2016 Rio games after losing out on a chance at gold after falling to Sweden in the semi-finals.

Lawrence and Buchanan were key contributors to the 2016 bronze medal run as well. That time around, though, they returned to Morgantown for their final seasons in the Old Gold and Blue, helping the Mountaineers to their historic College Cup runner-up season.

Back at their alma mater, Nikki Izzo-Brown and the 2021 WVU women’s soccer squad were huddled together to catch the final.

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